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Xeratos
2013-02-23, 01:34 PM
I originally posted this under homebrew, but upon reflection (and because I didn't get a single response), I decided that this should maybe be under "world-building." So I'm going to repost it here and hope to get some feedback.

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I wrote a one-shot campaign a little while back, and I felt like I really went over the top on the amount of detail I included for what was literally about a six or seven hour session. I like the world theme for it, and I thought I might do a bit more here, but I understand that my tastes don't always mean everyone else is going to think it's great, so I thought I'd ask for some feedback.

The world is set in an almost Victorian Era time period, though lacking the technology brought about by the invention of the steam engine. Religion plays a large part in society, and unlike the polytheistic structure employed by most tabletop rpgs, the majority of society believe in what is known as "The One True God," with only extremely rural areas still worshiping the spirits of nature (read: instead of clerics, they turn to druids for their religious learning). I suspect that, with its parallels to Christianity, this will be the most controversial aspect of the setting.

The standard fantasy races are notoriously absent as well, with humans, halfings, and half-elves making up the majority of what they call the civilized lands. Dwarves, full blooded elves, gnomes, orcs, and the rest still exist, but as a whole, they've been pushed into seclusion and anonymity by the proflicly reproducing humans.

Arcane magic is looked down on and distrusted by the church, which wields a great deal of influence. As such, wizards and sorcerers are often viewed with suspicion and bigotry in urban areas, and not tolerated at all in more rural settings. Being burned at the stake is a very real fear for the "witches" who live in the countryside.

The link below contains my notes for this session, which is about a small region known as Agart Reach that is being plagued with disappearances and undead. The region's violent past has got its townsfolk panicked, and the church sends for aid from afar.

For my session, the party consisted of a paladin, cleric (both obviously affiliated with each other, since there's only one religion), fighter, and sorcerer. The sorcerer plays an important role, and she is native to the area, but left due to the persecution of arcane casters there. If anyone else wanted to use these notes as a sort of module, the sorcerer could easily become an NPC that arrives with the party.

The monsters are all home-brew, and my players were kind enough to do some of the fights several times to test them out. We found some of them to be a bit overpowered, especially the blood spectre's health regeneration, and I've toned down their stats accordingly. I haven't had a chance to test their newly unimproved stats though, so I would especially love feedback on that. Keep in mind that these were designed only for combat use, so the stat blocks are partial and only contain what I considered to be combat useful information.

The Nightmare of Agart Reach (http://www.alabasterink.com/WP/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Agart-Reach-PDF.pdf)

Included in the pdf is the starting stats, gold, and restrictions I placed on character creation, with the idea that the challenges would be balanced against a party of that strength.

Things I'm looking for specific feedback on:

1. The world concept in general.
2. The balance of the monster's ability.
3. Overall flavor of the project (do you find the storyline to be interesting?)

Any and all comments are welcome, of course

Xeratos
2013-02-24, 01:31 PM
I wonder if maybe it's a lack of willingness to click on a link that results in getting no feedback, which I would really like. If so...

The Rules of Character Creation My Players Used:

Starting Level: 6
Starting Gold: 8000
Stats: Point Buy 26, stats cap at 16
Race Restrictions: All but Humans, Halflings, or Half Elves
Class Restrictions: Druid
Alignment Restrictions: Evil


Geography:

http://www.alabasterink.com/WP/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Agart-Reach-Map.png

Agart Reach is a land-locked peninsula, surrounded on three sides by mountains. A narrow pass in the northern wall of the mountains leads into ogre territory, and a minor trade route runs into the bottom of the area to the town of Agart. Two other towns, Mintoth to the northwest and Kildur to the north, form the centers of the region’s population. Centered in between the three towns is a forest known as the Black Tangle, which the locals believe to be cursed.

Coming out of the mountains and working its way south is a wide, swift running river. Lumbermen from Kildur use it to float logs harvested from the forests down towards the more heavily populated south end of Agart Reach. At the north end of the region is the ruined remains of Vantage Keep, which once stood to protect the humans from their ogre neighbors.
On the western edge of the reach is a series of stone quarries that cut everything from granite to marble. These quarries are approximately an hour’s travel from Mintoth, which is home to the quarrymen and miners of the region.

History of the Area:
40 years ago, in 417, the six ogre tribes in the mountains to the north banded together under the leadership of a powerful ogre chief named Brok-thul. They invaded Agart Reach, sacking Vantage Keep, slaying the noble family and its retainers, and destroying the structure. The ogres were repelled as they moved farther south by the Crown’s Army, who remained stationed in the area for several years before being recalled to the capital.

Almost 20 years after the first Ogre War, several miners from Kildur discovered gold in the northern mountains. Soon after, the quarries were abandoned as the entire town rushed north into ogre territory. The ogres took exception to this and banded together again to drive the humans back south. What followed was a brief, brutal, and bloody scuffle that ended with the humans expelled from ogre lands to return to their stone cutting.

About 2 years later, a human named Calvin Alaman was discovered practicing dark magics. He had sacrificed several village youths in Agart before he was caught and arrested. At his trial, presided over by Mayor Gregor Malkavich and Father Alexi Piatrov, Calvin was condemned as both a heretic and a demon worshipper, and sentenced to death by hanging from the neck.

Roughly 10 years after that, the capital sent a man named William Crownguard, the youngest son of Edward Crownguard, to oversee Agart Reach. The royal family felt that the region had been far too long, well over an entire generation, without a ruling nobility, and so the youngest child of their celebrated army commander was sent to fill the post.

Notable NPC's (alive and deceased):

Alaman, Calvin- a heretic who was executed by hanging. Calvin was caught and convicted of demon worship after sacrificing several village youths in mysterious blood magic rites. His grave was found empty just recently, almost two full decades after his demise, and this in conjunction with the missing villagers has caused mass panic and chaos in the region. The locals are convinced that his vengeful spirit has risen from beyond the grave to exact retribution upon them all.

Culsetto, Daniel- a quarryman from the town of Mintoth. Daniel was the first villager to encounter a “live” abductee. The missing villager assaulted the young man as he was traveling to the quarry, but Daniel easily fended off the villager, who resembled nothing so much as a recently deceased corpse, and was about as responsive when Daniel tried to talk to him. No one is holding him responsible for the death of the abducted villager, although his act of bludgeoning the man with his quarry mallet has earned him the enmity of the victim’s family.

Crownguard, William- the youngest son of Edward Crownguard. William was sent to Agart Reach to represent the interests of the Crown in the area. He is in his early 30s, and still unwed, though rumors circulate that he’s taken a fancy to a local widow. At times serious, he’s also quick to laugh and easy to get along with. He is a fair hand with a sword, and an able military commander.

Faltane, Megan- known around Agart as Mad Meg. Mad Meg is a middle aged woman who’s a bit off. Though generally tolerated and appeased, there are more than a few villagers who think the town would be better off without her. Mad Meg has a touch of prophetic foresight, and this has skewed her thinking and actions. Mad Meg is the mother of the sorcerer, and it is her letter that draws the sorcerer back home to Agart Reach.

Garson, Richard- constable of Agart. Richard has served as the head of the local militia for about fifteen years. Under more normal circumstances, his job is generally easy. He patrols the roads with his two dozen or so deputies, helping to insure that they remain safe from brigands and collecting taxes. He distinguished himself in the second ogre war, and went on from there to his current post. The recent events are well beyond his ability to handle, and Richard has been left scratching his heads as he tries to figure out how to combat a phantom abductor.

Hobb, Arthur- a historian in the employ of the Crownguard family. Arthur is an older man, lanky and with a graying fringe of hair left. He arrived in Agart Reach with William Crownguard, and serves as the lord’s historian. His help was invaluable during the early years of William’s reign as the then young lord struggled to adapt not just to his new responsibilities, but to learn the history and customs of the region he’d been sent to oversee. In more recent years, Arthur serves less as an advisor and has returned to his first love, managing and adding to the collection of historical accounts in his library.

Malkovich, Emily- Louis’s wife. She is a pretty woman in her mid 20s, though this isn’t much apparent recently as she recovered from the shock of her daughter’s mysterious disappearance and equally mysterious return. She speaks little, and has a haunted look in her eyes. Rarely can Emily be seen without Mina at her side, almost as if the mother is loathe to let her daughter out of her sight, lest she disappear again.

Malkovich, Henry- mayor of the town of Agart. When his niece, Mina, disappeared, it was Henry’s decision to pressure Alexie Piatrov into sending a letter to the capital requesting an exorcist to deal with the vengeful spirit of Calvin Alaman. Mina’s reappearance several weeks later, apparently unhurt but refusing to talk and with a sickly pallor, only caused Henry to put even more pressure on the harried priest.

Malkovich, Gregor- former mayor of Agart. He passed away about five years ago, and his oldest son, Henry, succeeded him as the new mayor. Gregor was responsible, along with Alexi Piatrov, for the condemnation and execution of the heretic, Calvin Alaman.

Malkovich, Louis- Henry’s younger brother and Mina’s father. Louis is a tall, lanky man who worries constantly about the world around him. He lacks his older brother’s confidence, and remarks constantly that Henry inherited their father’s courage, while all he got was Gregor’s height. His daughter’s disappearance has lined his face with worry and peppered her hair with gray, and even her return seems to have done little to dispel his anxiety.

Malkovich, Mina- the only daughter of Louis and Emily. A 12 year old girl with long brown hair and big bright eyes, Mina was only one of many to disappear in the last few months. She is the first, however, to return alive. Her eyes are no longer bright, and she flinches constantly when people pass her by. She speaks very little, and claims to remember nothing of what happened to her. Though unmarked physically, she is severely psychologically damaged.

Paulson, Curtis- known through the region as “Crowleg.” A former soldier who lost his left leg at the knee during the second ogre war, Crowleg took up farming. He is mean and crotchety, and thinks little of the recent events. He’s more annoyed that the first body turned up in his field than anything else, leaving him with just that much more work to do. He can be seen tromping around his fields, attending to his farm, cursing loudly whenever his peg leg gets stuck in the mud.

Piatrov, Alexi- the head cleric of the local Church. Alexi has served as the Father of the Church in Agart for over thirty years. In his youth, he had a full head of rich brown hair and a gentle smile. Age has brought a balding pate and a thick beard to him, as well as creases and wrinkles. Alexi is a peaceful, sincere man whose truest wish is to spread worship of the One True God, to help his fellow men, and to serve as a spiritual adviser. The recent events regarding the disappearance of Calvin Alaman’s remains and dozens of villagers troubles him greatly, though he remains unconvinced of the connection.

Raktruh, Samuel- the grave keeper of the Agart. Samuel is a middle aged man who walks with a stoop. His primary duties are to maintain the aesthetics of the cemetery: keeping the headstones clean and pulling out the weeds that sprout among them and dusting the cobwebs that form in the mausoleums and tombs. Samuel is the man who discovered the empty grave of Calvin Alaman, a shock that nearly caused his heart to give out. Samuel’s older sister, Catrina, was one of Calvin’s victims 18 years ago.

Shoel, Cynthia- owner of the Iron Kettle. Cynthia is an old woman who spends her days dottering around her inn, forever cleaning, straightening, and polishing its surfaces. She chatters constantly about anything that comes to mind, and more often than not, those things happened in the past. She seems to drift back and forth between past and present with no notion of what time she’s really in.

Toth, Jason- captain of William Crownguard’s personal guard. He commands a troop of ten men who are the personal guards of the Crownguard estate. Former army men all, the soldiers are much better trained than the local deputies that assist the constable. Their resources have been stretched thin, however, as they work under the direction of Toth to protect the town.

Back Story (plot hook):

About three months ago, the local gravekeeper, Samuel Raktruh, came out to the graveyard to perform his weekly upkeep on them. He hadn’t gotten very far, however, when he came across a sight that caused him considerable distress. Someone had been to the graveyard in that night and dug up one of the graves! It wasn’t just any grave, either, but the grave of Calvin Alaman, an executed heretic who’d been caught sacrificing abducted villagers in blood magic rites.

There was an immediate stir among the towns people at the news that such a notorious figure in their town’s history had been grave robbed. Rumors and speculations abounded. Could some evil magic talisman been buried with him that a power hungry wizard had wanted? Was it possible that a known demon worshipper could rise from his own grave?

Either way, it was seen as no coincidence that less than a week later, the first villager went missing in the night. By the end of the month, more than twenty people had disappeared from their homes across all three towns. The villagers were thrown into a state of panic. Farmers abandoned their livestock and their livelihood to flee into the more heavily populated towns under the notion that there they would be safe.

This notion proved to be false. If anything, the abductions were more concentrated in the towns than the outlying farms. Whether that was a result of the town’s simply being more populous and thus having a larger pool of victims or if the unseen stalker lurked among them couldn’t be determined.

At the beginning of the second month, the first of the abductees reappeared. An old former-soldier turned farmer known throughout the region as Crowleg stomped out to his field only to find the dissected and mutilated corpse

Halfway through the second month of abductions, one of the abducted villagers suddenly reappeared. A man named Daniel Cusetto, a young quarryman from Mintoth, was walking down the road towards the quarry early one morning when he noted a figure trudging towards him from the direction of the Black Tangle. No one in Agart Reach would enter the Black Tangle for any reason. The place was thought to be cursed and haunted, and the superstitious villagers wouldn’t go near it.

Still, this particular villager was clearly walking away from the murky stretch of woods. As the villager approached Daniel, the quarryman tried to hail him. The villager paid him no mind and, once he was within arm’s reach, attacked Daniel. The burly quarryman easily fended the crazed villager off with his two-handed hammer. Unfortunately, Daniel could find no way to stop the villager without hurting him, and glancing blows proved no deterrence either. Daniel was forced to kill the man, though to say he killed him might be misleading.

The villager had the appearance of a three day old corpse. His flesh was white and clammy, and his eyes appeared dead and soulless. Daniel’s attack didn’t seem to so much kill the man as convince the corpse that it was dead and to stop moving.

At the beginning of the third month, the mayor’s niece disappeared. This prompted him to lean even more heavily on Father Alexi Piatrov to request help from the Church. The father, who was reluctant to link the open grave with the disappearance of the villager’s, had been doing his best to hold out, but could no longer resist with the mayor joining in the rest of the village.

Alexi sent a letter to Church at the capital by way of courier, and as a result, the party was summoned to Agart Reach to help resolve the problem and potentially return a troublesome spirit to its grave. By the time the party arrived, however, Mina had returned just as mysteriously as she’d vanished, simply appearing one day at her parents’ front door in the misty hours of the morning.

The girl seemed unhurt, but she was unresponsive to verbal communication, and flinched whenever anyone walked by her. No one could get the girl to talk to them, and if her disappearance had devastated her parents, Louis and Emily, her return in such a state broke them completely.

To make matters worse, the ogre tribes living in the mountains have been spotted moving south as well. Whatever stirred them up seems to have them on the warpath, and they are pouring out of the mountains into Agart Reach.

The Letters sent to the PCs:

Mad Meg’s Letter

My Dearest,

I have Seen, and I wish I did not have to do this, but the fate of Agart is bleak if I do not send you this letter. The Sight granted to me revealed that without your presence, I will not survive the equinox’s turning. You are tied to this, as the leaf is tied to the maple. The stars have aligned for this expedition, and it is vitally important that you accept your destiny.

Come to me, my daughter. I will await you where the crossroads meet the horizon. The esteemed father has sent a letter to the Mother Church. They will send their emissaries, and a traveler who follows the path of the wind will accompany them. You must arrive as the moon hangs low in the sky, with the four of you bathed in its light.

With Destiny’s threads in my hands,

Your loving Mother

P.S. I have a new cookie recipe to share with you!




Father Alexi’s Letter

Esteemed Father Viractus,

It is with great hesitancy that I write this letter. Recent events have stirred up the people of Agart, and while I remain unconvinced of the accuracy of the events I shall relay, I can no longer resist the pressure put on me by the villagers, the mayor, and Lord William Crownguard to request assistance from the Church.

Several months ago, the grave of condemned and executed heretic Calvin Amalin was found excavated and his remains stolen. Soon after, villagers began to disappear. They are convinced that the ghost of this man has returned from the grave, almost twenty years after his execution, to exact revenge upon the community.

I do not believe anything of the sort is happening, but the mayor’s niece disappeared just last night, and he’s now exerting all his political pressure against the Church to force me into requesting assistance. I stand humbly before you, awaiting your decision on this matter,

Your Faithful Servant,

Father Alexi Piatrov

The Play Session. I really can't stress enough that this part would be much easier to read in the pdf file, which preserves formatting far better than a forum post, but I did my best to make it readable here:

The party arrives in the town of Agart at the south end of Agart Reach as dusk is falling, a pair of letters in their possession. One lies in the hands of a young sorceress native to the region, addressed to her from her mother. The other is in the steel gauntleted hands of a paladin, sent by the Church to investigate the claims of a ghost rising from the grave and terrorizing the region. Accompanying them is a priest of the Church and a sellsword for hire, a mercenary chasing his fortunes in the winds.

They are met by a jumpy and nervous man named Richard Garson, the local constable, and a trio of his deputies. A simple display of the letter in the paladin’s hands is enough to set the constable at ease, and the party is escorted to the estate of Lord William Crownguard, where Mayor Malkovich and Father Alexi are in meeting.

They are met at the gates by Jason Toth, captain of the guard. Toth takes them through the estate to a large study, and introduces them to his lord. With the lord, mayor, and Father is a thin, older man named Arthur Hobb. Arthur is William Crownguard’s historian, the man who helped him learn the history and customs of the region when he was sent there to oversee Agart Reach.

All four men seem greatly relieved at the party’s appearance. Each does his best to explain the situation, and it is revealed that the missing girl, the mayor’s niece, has returned to them miraculously, unharmed. She is much changed in personality, however, withdrawn and sullen, and refuses to talk about the experience, always claiming she remembers nothing.

The party is settled in at Lord William’s estate, their horses stabled and a meal provided for them. As they are escorted from the room by Captain Toth, Father Alexi can be overheard exclaiming to the mayor, “She brought that witch back home? Isn’t having Mad Meg here bad enough? Do something about this, Henry!”

Day 1

The investigation begins the next day. At this point, the party has several options as to where to start. Some of the most logical starting points are:

1. Visit the homes of some of the missing villagers.
2. Examine the mutilated bodies that have shown back up and the “moving” corpse that attacked Daniel Culsetto and investigate Calvin Amalin’s grave.
3. Speak to Mad Meg, the sorceress’ mother.
4. Speak to Mina Malkovich, the mayor’s niece (the mayor will insist on being present for this course of action).
5. Explore some outlying areas such as the ruins of Vantage Keep, the Black Tangle, or the Abandoned Mill.

Visiting the homes of missing villagers

Nothing is out of the ordinary in any of these homes. There is no trace of magic, either arcane or divine, and no one, family and friends or otherwise, saw anything. The missing villagers were there one night, then simply gone the next day when their families awoke. Despite diligent searching, no sign of tracks or traces of evidence can be found at any of the homes.

Some of the families are despondent. Their missing relatives have already turned back up, hacked and butchered in some farmer’s field, or as walking dead traveling towards one of the three towns from the direction of the Black Tangle. Other families maintain a kind of grim hope, as if expecting the worst, but secretly hoping that, like Mina Malkovich, their loved ones will return as mysteriously as they vanished one morning, hail and healthy.

Examine the dismembered bodies of the villagers and investigate the grave

The bodies of the victims of Calvin’s ghost are being stored in the graveyard in a large shed. The gravekeeper, Samuel Raktruh, is hard at work digging new graves for them, though he can’t keep up with the piling body count.

The bodies appear to have been hacked apart with some sort of axe or opened up with a sharp blade. At places, limbs have been severed cleanly with some sort of bone saw. Some of the victims are more or less whole; others are completely there, but in pieces. Quite a few of them are missing limbs, and all of them have been cut open and their chest and abdominal cavities dissected.

The victims span all age groups and both genders. Old men and women lay side by side with young children and adults in the prime of their lives.

Calvin Amalin’s grave has been left wide open. Piles of dirt on either side are clumped together with dampness from the recent rain, and an empty pine box, its top pried off and discarded to the side, sits at the bottom of the pit.

Speak to Mad Meg

The sorceress’ mother, Mad Meg, lives by herself in a small cottage on the outskirts of Agart. The cottage is stuffed to bursting with strange objects, which Meg claims to be talismans. Some of these things are faintly magical, mostly in terms of giving off light or performing simple functions like creating water. Others are clearly garbage and refuse. Things like sticks and leaves sit on shelves next to rocks and a clay jar of stagnant water. A broken piece of pottery is scattered across Meg’s table, its pieces arranged in a spiral pattern.

Meg smiles and greets her daughter warmly, but when questioned about her letter and her knowledge of the situation, she shakes her head sadly and tells them that it is not yet time. Her Sight has shown her what must be if they are to have a chance of succeeding, and it is far too soon. Her gaze lingers on her daughter as she tells the party this, but she refuses to speak any further on the subject.

Speak to Mina Malkovich

The party is greeted by Mina’s parents, Louis and Emily, and by Louis’s brother, the mayor, Henry. Mina herself is a small, slender girl with long brown hair. She says nothing when introduced to them, and her answers are short and curt. She gives the party no information about what happened to her, instead adamantly insisting that she remembers nothing.

Throughout the entire interview, she stares down at her hands in her lap and twists a ring back and forth on her finger. If questioned, Louis replies that the ring is a family heirloom with the Malkovich family symbol on it. There were originally three of them. One was buried with his father, Gregor Malkovich, one was lost during the first Ogre War when the ogres sacked Vantage Keep, and the third Louis gave to his daughter several years back. The ring gives off no detectable magical aura.

Explore Vantage Keep

The ruins of Vantage Keep lay, broken and huddled, against the mountains at the top of a steep path. Past them is the pass leading into ogre territory. The keep itself is still standing, though most of its upper levels have collapsed as a result of the first Ogre War, time, and exposure to the elements. The ground level is still intact, however.

Two things of importance can be discovered at Vantage Keep. First, the mausoleum in the back of the keep has been broken into. The break is recent, and the stone doors have still sharp edges that have yet to be rounded down. Inside, the mausoleum is empty. There isn’t a single body anywhere. Strangely, no evidence of anyone having been here before can be found anywhere on the grounds.

Secondly, hidden in the cellar of Vantage Keep is a door that is magical sealed shut (spellcraft check, DC 17, reveals the door has been sealed with an arcane lock spell). The door is also locked by more mundane means. A large symbol that looks suspiciously like the Malkovich family crest is embossed on the door. This symbol is in actuality the Korcavich family crest.

The Korcavich family was the ruling nobility up until their line was extinguished in the first Ogre War, and their cousins, the Malkovichs, took over rulership of Agart Reach as the mayors of its towns. This leadership was later taken by William Crownguard when the Crown decided the region needed true nobility to govern it.

When the party has finished exploring the Keep and leaves it, they find a band of ogres coming down the pass towards them. The ogres give a howl upon sighting the party and charge.

Encounter
Ogre x4 page 199

Tactics:
The ogres charge, attempting to reach the party before they can reach their horses if they party tries to flee. Their tactics are straight forward; they simply attack the first thing they can reach. The lead ogre had a potion of cure critical wounds that he uses if given the chance when he falls below 13 HP.

Loot:
52 gold
Potion of Cure Critical Wounds*
Ogre Chief’s Mandate

A scrap of thick dingy parchment, torn and jagged on either end colored yellow with age is rolled up inside one of the ogre’s pouches. It contains a simple command scrawled in thick, blocky writing:

“Find my son, bring him back to me. Succeed, you will be rewarded. Do not come back without him or I will kill you myself. –Thur’cral”

Explore the Black Tangle

The Black Tangle is a mass of trees, mostly evergreens, and shrubbery. It is extremely difficult to navigate. There are almost no trails, and those that do exist are narrow and overgrown, making passage slow and at time painful. The natives of Agart Reach believe the Black Tangle to be cursed, probably because the evergreens are so dark as to be almost black all year round.

Local superstition says that those who enter the Black Tangle and allow dusk to creep up on them will be killed, their bodies destroyed and their souls consumed by the demons that lurk within the forest.

The depths of the forest are somewhat thinner, with much less underbrush, and many of the trees in the interior are large specimens with spreading branches. These branches have warped and wrapped around each other so thickly as to block out almost all of the natural light, leaving the forest shrouded in perpetual gloom.

Towards the center of the Black Tangle is a clearing of sorts. The ground is completely cleaned out, but the towering trees lining the clearing spread their branches overhead, forming a sort of natural, living dome. In the center of this clearing is a massive granite block, its surface carved deep grooves and channels. The carving forms an intricate pattern, with large empty depressions spaced between the grooves.

A knowledge (arcana) check- DC 17, reveals that the block is an altar dedicated to performing blood rites- magic powered by sacrificing a victim. The granite is stained a rusty red color, and dried blood is gummed up in the channels, indicated that the altar has been used recently.

As the party examines the altar, a duo of blood specters form in the air in front of them and attack.

Encounter
Blood Specter x2

Tactics:
Blood Specters start combat by focusing on a target and using its Horrify supernatural ability (fear spell, pg 229). Any opponents that are incapacitated by that are ignored until they come out of it. The specter focuses instead of opponents that resist the effect, using their Specter’s Touch attacks to drain vitality from their victims and strengthen their own attacks.

Loot:
None

Explore the Abandoned Mill

The old saw mill east of Agart has been abandoned for years. The water wheel broke years ago, taking quite a bit of the gear system with it, and the engineer who’d originally designed it had passed away. With the mill no longer operational, the loggers of Kildur found it easier to simply haul the lumber they harvested back to town rather than float it down the river.

With the coming of Calvin’s ghost to terrorize the villagers, the abandoned mill was one of the first places Constable Garson checked. Neither he nor his deputies found anything to suggest the mill was being used for anything at all, or that it had been so much as visited in years.

The party finds nothing in the mill itself, but careful investigation of the exterior reveals a small cave hidden behind the waterfall (search dc 16). Inside is a box filled with fishing lures, various pieces of camping equipment, satchel of food, and a small shrine devoted to the True God.

Day 2

With the information gathered during the first day, the party has several new leads to investigate.

1. The Korcavich symbol and its relation to the Malkoviches and their ring
2. The shrine near the abandoned mill
3. Records of Calvin’s trial and execution, and known use of blood magic in the region in the past
4. The scrap of parchment discovered on the ogre and how it relates to recent ogre raids on the villages
5. Speak to Mad Meg again

Investigate the Korcavich symbol, records of Calvin’s trial and execution, and known use of blood magic in the region in the past

Who better to ask about history than Lord William’s personal historian, Arthur Hobb. Arthur can be found in his library in the north wing of the estate, where he readily answers any questions the party might ask. He appears distinctly uneasy if questioned about the door, and repeatedly makes warding signs with his hand whenever the topic of arcane magic comes up. He refuses to look directly at the sorceress, and instead stares off to the side or at his feet.

Arthur confirms that the symbol the party saw was that of the Korcavich family and that they were indeed the ruling nobility in Agart Reach for generations before the first Ogre War saw them exterminated and their home demolished. He can offer no further information about the door itself, but will gladly discuss any other historical facts the party asks about, including the trial of Calvin Amalin.

His knowledge is second-hand, gleaned from a combination of old church records and Father Alexi’s account of the trial. Calvin was discovered dragging an unconscious villager into the Black Tangle with a set of ritual knives on his person. He was captured, but not before exhibiting several arcane magics.
His trial was presided over by then-mayor Gregor Malkovich (father of the current mayor) and a much younger Alexi Piatrov. While Arthur can relate the account, he suggests to the party that they talk to Father Alexi if they want to know more.

As far as other known uses of blood magic in the past, Arthur says that there were accounts of arcane magic used in the first Ogre War, though nothing substantiated. Whether it was blood magic or the more mundane arcane magic is a question with no answer. During the second Ogre War, however, something similar to the current events happened.

Soldiers and civilians both disappeared from their homes and barracks. With all the problems dealing with the ogres, an investigation was never launched. The body snatchings slowed down after the war ended, but didn’t cease completely until Calvin Amalin was caught. Afterwards, there were cases of half a dozen people disappearing over the next several years, never to be seen again and no cause ever found.

If Father Alexi is asked directly about the trial, he remarks on the details, and how it broke Gregor’s heart, as he and Calvin had been close. He talks about how the trial was held in the estate now occupied by Lord William Crownguard. At that time, it was the Malkovich family home.

Investigate the shrine near the abandoned mill

Father Alexi laughs and readily explains that. He is an avid fisherman, and he likes to fish near the waterfall. He finds the sounds relaxing, and he likes catching bass. He found the cave one day, and it seemed like a good place to store some gear so he didn’t have to lug it back and forth. As far as the shrine goes, it might sound a bit shallow, but it never hurts to pray to the True God for a good haul.

He adds with a sigh that he hasn’t been out to fish since this whole business started months ago. He seems confused when the party mentions the satchel of food. If the party returns to the mill to investigate, they find the supply of food is gone.

The ogre’s message

No one knows anything about the ogre’s message in Agart, but if the party travels north to Kildur, where they have been receiving the brunt of the ogre raids, popular speculation agrees that the ogres are probably looking for something or someone they lost, based on what the villagers have learned of the ogres’ movements.

Speak to Mad Meg again

The next time the party speaks to Mad Meg, if they’ve learned of Gregor’s connection to Calvin, she tells them that Gregor himself was a wizard, but that he kept it a secret from everyone because he knew what the community’s reaction would be. She hesitates, opens her mouth as if to say something else, then stops. If pressed, she says only that it’s not important.

The Crownguard Estate & Malkovich Home

With so many clues linking Gregor Malkovich and Calvin Amalin, it’s only natural that the party would want to investigate both the Crownguard Estate (formerly the Malkovich family home) and the current Malkovich home. Detect Magic spells reveal nothing at the Malkovichs’ home, and when the party enters the Crownguard Estates, they are immediately escorted to Lord William, who wishes to inquire on their progress.

If the party makes their suspicions known to him and expresses a desire to search his estate, Lord William vehemently objects to it and ejects them from his household. The party’s belongings and their mounts are returned to them, and they’re left to find their own shelter.

Even if the party doesn’t tell him about their plans to search his estate, he admits that he’s uneasy about having a sorceress sleeping under his roof, and especially about what the townsfolk are saying about it, and asks for their understanding and that they seek lodgings at the inn.

The Iron Kettle

A small inn halfway across town known as the Iron Kettle has several openings for the cheap price of only 3 silver a night. The innkeeper is an older lady named Cynthia Shoel, who dotters about and chatters idly as she serves the party their food and drink.

She remarks to the sorceress that she looks much like her mother did in her youth, that she can still remember Mad Meg’s obsession with Gregor Malkovich, even though he was far too old for her and married besides. Gregor’s wife died shortly after giving birth to his second son, Louis.

Late that night, the sorceress is woken up by the sound of someone in her room. A figure swathed from head to toe in a hooded cloak is looking at her. “Yes, that’s the one. Take her,” it commands in a low voice. Immediately, a blood specter materializes and attacks. At the same time, the figure vanishes.

Encounter

Blood Specter x1

Tactics:
The Blood Specter starts combat with Horrify, then casts Nightmare Slumber. If the sorceress succeeds both will saves, it proceeds to drain her hp with Specter’s Touch until she passes out from it.




Day 3

Mad Meg shows up the next morning to see her daughter, only to find out she’s been kidnapped. She provides the rest of the party with the final clue they need. She tells them that she and Gregor were lovers, and that the sorceress is in fact Gregor’s daughter. Gregor had a secret lab in his estate in the north wing. The entrance is behind a bookshelf just to the left of the fireplace in the living quarters.

When the party arrives, sans the sorcerer, they are taken by Captain Toth to Lord William. The nobleman refuses to believe any accusations the party might make against his historian, but they are allowed to check the north wing, either to prove to them that there’s nothing there, or if they simply ask to see Arthur and don’t relate their suspicions to Lord William.

Arthur is nowhere to be found, but with the party firmly convinced of Gregor’s secret lab, they begin searching around the fireplace. Just as Mad Meg promised it would be, they quickly discover a release cache that sets the bookshelf swinging on cleverly designed hidden hinges. The party descends the stairs to find a set of stone walled rooms. Prominently displayed on one wall is a rack filled with ritual knives. Next to it is a shelf full of candles of various lengths, sizes, and colors. Jars and pots are scattered across a work bench on the far wall, and to their left is an archway leading into another room.

Bound and gagged in the far corner of that room is the sorceress. Her hair is matted down with blood, and she appears groggy and only half aware of the world around her. There is no one else in the room. The party enters the room, but Captain Toth stops his lord. “Wait. There is something here,” he says. He scans the room warily, but nothing jumps out to attack the party.

“Don’t be so jumpy, Jason,” William says. He enters the second room with the party, and Captain Toth reluctantly follows him. As soon as everyone is in the room, two blood specters coalesce into being.

A shadowed figure detaches itself from a wall and walks into the room to stand between the two specters. “Well now, this is somewhat unexpected. Hmm, who could have possibly known about this place?” the figure asks.

“Arthur?” Lord William says, peering at the figure.

The man pulls the hood back to reveal the face of the aging historian. “Very good, my lord,” he says, a sardonic smile twisting his lips. Turning to his two minions, he orders them, “Kill them all. Even the girl. We got what we needed from her.”

Encounter
Blood Specter x2
Arthur Hobb

Tactics:
The blood specters use their standard attacks, and Arthur supports them with Hold Person, Deep Slumber, and Ray of Enfeeblement. When his specters are weakened, he abandons them and activates a magical talisman to cast Dimension Door and flee.

After Arthur flees, a careful search of the lab reveals the key to the door in the cellar of Vantage Keep. When the party reaches the surface again, they find Mayor Malkovich and his brother hurrying towards the estate. The mayor demands to know what’s going on, and when asked what he means, he tells them that Arthur just showed up at Louis’s house and took Mina.

Arthur said that Lord William had sent him to get Mina, that they’d uncovered some plot and that she was in danger. When the mayor and Louis learn the truth, they both turn pale and inform the party that Arthur left to the north on a fast horse.

It’s easy enough to guess where he’s going, and sure enough, his trail is plainly visible. Arthus had taken Mina down to the cellar. The magical ward has been dissolved, and the door is swinging open freely.

The Cellar Beneath Vantage Keep

The cellar is large, with a series of linked rooms. The first room the party comes to is filled with oozing, glistening sacks of all sizes. Some are small, others large enough to hold a full grown human. If any of them are cut open, malformed and twisted creatures can be seen inside. As soon as the party enters the room, the sound of shuffling can be heard. Moments later, a dozen zombies come shuffling out both of the two entrances into the room.

Encounter
Drudge Stalker x12

Tactics:
Druge Stalkers have no tactics. They simply shuffle forward and swarm, each attempting to attack the nearest living thing.

The next room contains a series of saws, tables, and work benches. Baskets and bins are filled with human body parts. Several still living villagers and a few ogres, including one ogre child, are in a large cage in the corner. The party doesn’t get much farther before they’re assaulted by a huge monstrous creature. It stands well over ten feet in height and appears to be made of pieces of ogre.

Encounter
The Ogre’s Kiss x1

Tactics:
The Ogre’s Kiss smashes people with its fists. If it connects, it immediately uses Stunning Slap instead of a second attack. As soon as everyone gets in range, it uses Shockwave.

The last room contains a granite throne with a moldering, half rotted corpse on it. It is missing both of its legs and one arm, and it is held upright only by the steel chains tying it to the throne. Next to it stands Mina, her eyes dull and her posture complacent. On the floor beside the throne is the huddled remains of Arthur Hobb. Mina speaks to the party, but the voice is not her own.

In the final room, the party finally unravels the mystery. Gregor Malkovich, a powerful necromancer in life, has retained his conscious after dying, and seeks to create a new body to host his spirit. His experiments with Calvin Amalan were failures, and before the pair could finish their work, Calvin was discovered. Gregor used his magic to keep Calvin quiet and let him be executed.

Unable to finish his work, Gregor died of sickness. That didn’t stop him from continuing his plans. He only had to wait for someone to come along he could use. That someone was Arthur Hobb. When the Crownguards sent their youngest son to Agart Reach, Arthur took over Gregor’s rooms above his labs.

Slowly at first, but with increasing pressure, Gregor manipulated Arthur until he had completely control over him. Arthur was his faithful servant, and soon enough, his plans were back on track. They had no time to start a third Ogre War, but the easily scared villagers, full of superstition, were duped by the mere thought of a vengeful ghost. Gregor’s one-time assistant had a final use after all.

Their experiments, unfortunately, continued to fail. They couldn’t use a body, create a body, or even grow a body. Finally, Gregor realized that he needed a blood link, so they took Mina. She was useful as a link, but not what he wanted. Then Mad Meg sent her daughter, his daughter, a letter, and everything fell into place.

Finally, Gregor had a powerful link, his direct progeny, and a sorceress herself. He sent his servant to collect the sorceress’s blood. They succeeded at that, and now Gregor is ready to finish his experiments and walk the earth in a living body once more. Unfortunately, between Mad Meg’s interference and Arthur’s bungling, he was discovered at the last minute.

Gregor has one last trick, however. Using the power he pulled from Arthur’s body, Gregor can control his ultimate creation, the culmination of his research today.

Encounter
Gregor’s Monstrosity
Gregor’s Remains

Tactics:
The monstrosity emerges from the shadows in the back of the room. It is a large sized creature made of flesh and stone and wood all blended together into one semi-sentient creature, and it moves to block the throne. The monstrosity has a long reach, and uses its combat reflexes to good effect. It also bull rushes with its hands to knock its opponents out of range, forcing them to move through its threat range repeatedly.

Gregor also backs the monstrosity up with an assortment of necromantic spells, namely Ray of Enfeeblement, Ghoul Touch, and Bestow Curse.

When the monstrosity falls, Gregor has nothing left to defend himself with. The party can take Mina’s ring to the sealed door behind them, and find inside it nothing but a simple glass jar with swirling darkness in it. Breaking or opening this jar destroys Gregor’s consciousness.

Homebrewed Monsters:

Blood Specter
HP: 46
Initiative: +3
Speed: 50
AC: 13
Attacks: Specter Touch (+6/+1 touch attack)
Damage: Specter Touch (1d6 vampiric + bonus damage)
Special Attacks:
Specter Touch- drains hp from the victim and gives it to the blood specter, also increases damage taken by the victim by 2 for the duration of combat
Horrify- causes the victim to become panicked and flee the blood specter as quickly as possible. If the victim succeeds a will save, he is shaken instead (-2 to all checks and attack rolls for 1 round). DC 16
Nightmare Slumber¬- causes the victim to fall into a troubled sleep for 4 hours or until woken. Will save negates, DC 16
Special Qualities: Incorporeality, Invisibility (at will)

Drudge Stalker
HP: 20
Initiative: -1
Speed: 20
AC: 16
Attacks: Slam (+4), Infected Bite (+4, Fort save DC 12)
Damage: Slam (1d6+ 3), Infected Bite (1d4 + 1d6 poison)
Special Attacks:
Infected Bite: If a drudge stalker succeeds a slam attack, it automatically makes an infected bite attack.
Special Qualities: Undead

The Ogre’s Kiss
HP: 110
Initiative: -1
Speed: 25
AC: 21
Attacks: Unarmed Strike (+17/+12), Stunning Slap (+11/+6), Shockwave (+11)
Damage: Unarmed Strike (2d6 + 8), Shockwave (4d10, reflex half)
Special Attacks:
Stunning Slap: An open hand slap that, if it hits, stuns the victim for 1 round unless they succeed a dc 17 fortitude save.
Shockwave: Hits everything in its range and stuns them for 1 round unless they succeed a dc 17 fortitude save. Anything that makes the reflex save does not have to make the fortitude save to avoid being stunned. Useable every 1d4 rounds.
Special Qualities: Undead



Gregor’s Monstrosity
HP: 200
Initiative: -3
Speed: 20
AC: 21
Attacks: Unarmed Strike (+16/+11), Infected Claw
Damage: Unarmed Strike (3d6 + 8), Infected Claw (2d8 poison)
Special Attacks:
Infected Claw: If the monstrosity hits with an unarmed attack, its victim must immediately make a fortitude save (dc 17) or take poison damage as well.
Ray of Enfeeblement: Ray attack, + 7 to hit, 1d6 + 5 strength damage
Ghoul Touch: Fortitude save negates (dc 17), paralyze victim, causes everyone else to become sickened (except caster) unless they also succeed fortitude saves
Bestow Curse: Will save negates (dc 16), 50% chance to lose action
Special Qualities: Undead

TheWombatOfDoom
2013-02-25, 06:00 PM
So what exactly do you want feed back on my friend?

(I would for instance, like to see a description of what each of your homebrewed monsters looks like.)

Xeratos
2013-02-26, 12:16 AM
Things I'm looking for specific feedback on:

1. The world concept in general.
2. The balance of the monster's ability.
3. Overall flavor of the project (do you find the storyline to be interesting?)

Any and all comments are welcome, of course

I'm surprised I didn't have this in the playing notes when they were encountered, but I did generate basically the whole thing pretty much overnight, so I suppose a few things got overlocked. Here are some quick descriptions of the monsters:


Blood Specters- A transparent, man-shaped creature. Everything seen through it is tinged red. Its face it locked in a horrifying scream, and its body fades more and more towards the ends of its limbs.

Drudge Stalker- Much like a shambling zombie, these creatures drag their feet as they walk. Their arms sway with each step, and never move except for the momentum caused by each step. Their teeth are jagged and sharp, and flecks of green rot coat the insides of their mouths, which hang open on an unhinged jaw.

The Ogre's Kiss- Well over ten feet tall, this monstrous undead is made of a conglomerate of random, mismatched ogre parts. Is somewhat resembles Frankenstein's Monster, if it had been made of ogres.

Gregor's Monstrosity- This creature stands hulking, and perfectly still. Its body is hunched, and its muscles are strained to the point of breaking, but it never moves until it attacks, which it does with the speed of a striking snake. Its arms are long, so long that its hands, which end is wickedly tipped nails, drag across the floor. It possesses no discernible face, but a lump that could be called a head rests on its thickly muscled and grotesquely distorted chest. Parts of its body appear to have rotted and open sores are visible all over its skin.