View Full Version : Haunted castle, need ideas for haunts

2013-09-04, 02:40 PM
First: Look at my user name. If you recognize it, and you're one of my players, STAY OUT.

Good? Good. Moving on...

I'm currently running a campaign in which the players are being screwed with by fey (though they haven't realized it yet), and the fey are sending them on an extremely dangerous "quest" to "purify a castle of the undead." The castle is in fact haunted, but the fey's suggested method of exorcism is completely wrong - they're just playing a cruel and possibly lethal joke for their own amusement.

The campaign is somewhat fairy-tale inspired. This part of the campaign is based in part on the The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear (http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm004.html). TL;DR, it's a scary castle.

The fey (in the disguise of a ill but determined crusader against evil) will tell the party to survive three nights in the haunted castle and the curse will be broken. Again, this is wrong (it'll only stir up the spirits more), but the player will still have plenty to gain by going - not the least because some of the more powerful fey in the area were partially responsible for the events that led to the castle's downfall.

The biggest reason for the end of the city was the corruption of the lord of the castle that led him to imprison and marry his daughter, then dominate his subjects one by one to keep them from revolting. The haunts are supposed to tell the story of his descent into madness and the horrors his daughter/wife went through.

I'm thinking of a standard (for PF) four encounters per night, chosen somewhat randomly from a list of 12. I'm hoping to have 4 combat encounters, 4 haunts, and 4 roleplaying/skill encounters, though those numbers could change. Here's what I've got so far (not in any particular order):

1. The burning library (haunt) - Lord Orazio was a sorcerer of great power in life, and before his madness, encouraged his daughter Mirabella to read for pleasure, for knowledge, and for understanding arcane magic. When his mind was darkened, he knew that he would need to handle his daughter's growing arcane power carefully. He attacked her early in the morning, before she had a chance to prepare spells for the day, and then burned her beloved collection of books. This haunt will re-enact the scene of the burning, but I'm still debating exactly how. I'm thinking the players will find books with their names on them, and will be forced to make a save to avoid igniting their own book on fire and take damage.

2. The gasping hands (combat) - Taking a step into the trauma Mirabella experienced, the players are attacked by swarms of strangling crawling hands (http://paizo.com/PRD/additionalMonsters/crawlingHand.html).

3. The marriage bed (combat) - The players are attacked by animated furniture from the bedroom/prison.

4. The wedding ceremony (Roleplay) - Lord Orazio told his subjects that Mirabella left to be wed with a far off nobleman, and shortly after announced that he was going to be married. The wedding was perhaps where the people of the town first truly began to understand what happened to his daughter. The bride's face remains covered by a veil. The players are put into different parts of the ceremony and expected to do their role (i.e. minister, bride, etc.), but hear whispering among the guests.

5. The banquet (Roleplay/skill) - Before his madness, Lord Orazio ordered three great feasts to draw in suitors for his daughter, but by the time for the feasts came, he had already changed. None of the suitors were good enough for his daughter - only him. Here, the players need to perform in some way for the illusory Lord Orazio, Lady Mirabella, and the ghostly audience. Impressive feats of strength could even draw out the spirit of Mirabella.

6. The escape (Roleplay/skill) - In the dead of winter, in a moment of Lord Orazio's distraction, Mirabella was able to free herself and flee in the forests surrounding the castle, where she knew a dark and vengeful fey lived. She escaped her pursuers, but met her end when she walked out onto snow-covered ice that broke, drowning her. Here, the players must flee alongside Mirabella; if they make it to the end, they witness her not just falling into the ice, but being pulled deeper into the water by the wicked nymph.

7. The funeral procession (Haunt) - Mirabella's body was eventually recovered from the lake - somewhat preserved by the cold of winter - but her abdomen had been split open when the wicked nymph cut her unborn triplets from her womb. The players witness the funeral procession, and must struggle with a deep, almost unshakable desire to drag the corpse out of the coffin and huddle with it to warm it. Doing so causes the corpse to come back to life for vengeance.

8. The clocktower (Haunt) - Lord Orazio was forced to dominate more and more people to keep his terrible secret and keep the townspeople in line, until, finally, the entire town was under his command. In this vision, the players see the entire town jerkily moving to the beat of the city clock's pendulum. When the clock strikes four (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirabilis_jalapa) (four o'clock->Mirabilis->Mirabella, I've been giving them a lot of obtuse hints about four o'clock), the entire town cries out in agony and collapses.

9. The nursery (Combat) - Before her attempted escape tragic death, Mirabella had been pregnant with triplets - three boys. The players will fight against a unique serpentir (http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110702151030/sfery/images/4/4b/Serpentir.jpg) with three fused bodies instead of the normal two.

After that...I'm still thinking about it. Right now, I'm looking for ideas for a combat encounter, a haunt, and a roleplay/skill encounter. Any ideas?

2013-09-04, 10:01 PM
Okay, a few thoughts.
The first big one: If the characters are supposed to stay in the castle, then why do you have events in the town and nearby? Unless we're talking about a small town and a lake inside the castle walls, PCs are likely to remain inside the castle (as they supposed they should) rather than venturing out and potentially restarting the entire three-day wait again. You might want to change this to "stay in town" instead, if this might be a problem. Or castle and surrounding area.

Second, what if the three days the PCs are there "lead up to" the wedding at the end? As in, they keep running into random ghosts NPCs, or the random ghosts keep talking about the upcoming wedding. This can also provide some good RP situations, because players will be able to interact with the non-hostile ghosts, rather than just watch replays of haunts.

You might want to make the scenes more interesting and interactive, if you can. As in, give the characters ghosts that they can interact with, which have "triggers" which set them off and cause them to attack. This is more interesting than watching a scene and making a save to do something crazy - although that does have its place. What's more, with ghosts, you can have the ghost re-appear and not recall the last encounter, thus allowing the PCs to "try again" if they want to get information from a NPC but caused them to attack last time.

Anyways, some ideas that might work.
The haunt of a guard of the castle, one who knows that the lord's daughter is locked up in the dungeon but is obligated to keep quiet. In life, he kept to his duty but drank himself stupid each night. As a ghost, he constantly asks for a drink to "ease away the nightmares" and will share information (through a drunken drawl) if they do. If pressured to talk or questioned while "sober", he flies into a rage, calling the PCs traitors and threatening beheadment.
[This can be a threat that the lord placed on people he hadn't dominated yet.]

A chaimbermaid, skittish and frightened after learning about the daughter and the planned marriage. She will shy away from people unless they make a good diplomancy check. Perhaps she was inside the library when the lord burned it down? In this case, intimidation or threats will cause her (and the library) to burst into flames, which the PCs must escape. After a few hours, everything in the library is reset.
[Perhaps make the books in the library very unusual - diaries of the townsfolk's thoughts, sometimes scrambled up with odd references? It gives hints as to what's happening. Needless to say, the chaimbermaid gets frightened and starts a fire if the PCs just ignore her and search the library.]

Suitors would probably be appropriate. I could see a "dominated" ghost suitor, clearly being under the effects of a dominate spell and causing a combat if any PC even things of mentioning the lord being at all suspicious or the daughter being anything but in love with the lord. This would be one of the first suitors that the lord dominated, and so while the ghost still behaves dominated, all the other people know the ghost by name and refer to him as "a good match for the daughter" or "soon to be betrothed." I'd make sure he is distinctive in name and description, so that the PCs will recognize him and talk to him directly.