Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carrion Crown: Haunting of Harrowstone pt.3

They're heeeeee-- TURN!!! *splat*

The following day the heroes awoke to the sound of muffled sounds and chatter below their windows. It was another grey day in Ravengro, the mood on the street was still sour and the distrust so immense they could practically slice it into pieces. Yet, something else had caught the citizens’ attention.
Posted around town was a notice saying that this night, there would be an official meeting in the town hall regarding the odd events of late. The council wished to inform the inhabitants of Ravengro that they were indeed aware of the recent sights of the living dead and sudden uprising of stirges, combined with the desecration of the official Harrowstone memorial. Everything, the poster promised, would be discussed that night.


The heroes pondered a bit whether they should attend the meeting or head out to Harrowstone prison. They weren’t that interested in finding out more about the memorial on which the letter “E” now followed the”V”. They were quick, however, to draw a connection to The Splatter, which rewarded them some experience. (Truth to be told, only because one of them read my recent blog about it, but hey…)
They decided to poke around town for a while. This was a great opportunity to pick up on the few loose ends that yet needed exploring. They got to see the general store in which they bought a bone for Old River (the stray dog and official mascot for Ravengro) and the Plot Cube (a recurring mysterious object in my campaigns). They visited the Forge and looked at some expensive items they couldn’t afford and also made it to the Town Hall in which they spoke to councilman Heartmount. As they arrived, they witnessed an argument between him and the councilwoman Shanda Faravan about hiring the players for help. Shanda was clearly opposing the idea, judging from the sheer amount of trouble following in their heels. It would seem much more prudent to simply kick them out of Ravengro and hope for the problems to disappear by themselves.
Shanda
The heroes entered and were greeted by a cautious and yet relieved councilman. He offered them a seat, and as the conversation went along it was evident that he was greatly troubled by the recent events. The public demanded a victim. Someone to focus their eyes on. And the heroes were already the prime suspect among several of them. Heartmount wasn’t in any way sure that he could trust them, but as he said; “You guys are the only one left, capable of handling a crisis such as this. With the professor gone, who else should we turn to?”
After some diplomatic rolls Heartmound confessed that he would indeed like to hire the heroes to put an end to the occult madness. In addition, he would much welcome if they wanted to attend the meeting that night. They agreed to do so.
(The Trust score of the players was a low 16 at this point, so according to basic rules they shouldn’t have been invited. Yet, they did go to some length to do so. And they needed to provide the citizens with a positive impression.)
Burning for the cause
The players prepared as best as possible. They even made a cake (yes, seriously). Once they arrived they noticed that about 60 townspersons had showed up.
The meeting began shortly after and the atmosphere was harsh from the very first word. The citizens demanded action from the councilmembers and if they couldn’t come up with a plan what to do, there would be blood. Luckily for councilman Heartmount, he could proudly present his newest champions, the four travelers and foreigners. Albeit met with shock and silence, he plead for the audience to trust him in this matter. The heroes themselves attempted to explain their situation to the citizens and even though Vincent’s main argument was that “the people in this city were simply too dull to fully comprehend the magnitude of their plan” they made an impressive case. Councilman Heartmount prepared another impressive speech when suddenly an eldritch blast went through the room and shattered five oil lamps against the floor. They instantly caught fire.
Additionally, two burning skulls flew through the windows, in an explosion of glass and brimstone. Panic ensured among the citizens, who all headed maniacally for the exit. Two of them had been caught in the fire and had started burning to death, and the grinning skulls were gazing towards the heroes with glowing embers. And, needless to say, the inferno had started growing bigger.
During the first round they managed to organize the crowd through diplomacy (they really liked that Halfling, he seemed to know so much about fire-safety procedures!). Additionally, they doused one of the fires and saved the victim, and dragged the other one out. The skulls attempted to wound the heroes but failed to do so.
Sheriff Caelen assisted the citizens as best as he could, but the fires really started spreading by now. Leaving two heroes to take care of the skulls in the north of the room, the remaining players started dragging out the unconscious citizens. The evacuation was done in mere rounds, thanks to good diplomacy. The skulls weren’t a big issue in this fight, although they did manage to inflict some burns before shattering. The fire, on the other hand, spread quickly, and even with the help of the Sheriff and a bucket chain, it took well over 15 rounds before the fires were finally out for good.
On the other hand, the heroes had not only assured the survival of the town hall, they’d also made sure nobody came to harm! This rewarded them with a healthy load of Trust points and experience enough to reach level 2.
(This is one of those classical, great encounters in which it’s imperative everyone does something productive. It might go tremendously wrong in a hurry, especially if the players are only first level and get caught in the fire. The skulls aren’t extremely dangerous but if they get in some good hits and the players aren’t able to focus on what to do, this encounter is really easy to mess up. One of the reasons it took my group so long is that they started coordinating which fire to put out a bit late. They did end up successful in the end, though. I advise that you monitor the progression as a GM and consider whether you call it a fight when there is only one fire left standing. The encounter is very long as it is and easily risks getting tiresome if you drag it out too much.)
Set in harrowed stone
The players received much praise from the citizens. (Remember, I found there were way too few possibilities to earn Trust, so I increased some income. Meaning with seven points, they reached a nice score of 23 again. This hardly seems unfair, as the players can lose a LOT of Trust by bad luck in just mentioned encounter.)
After a good night of sleep they set out for Harrowstone.
Harrowstone was an eerie, silent ruin before their eyes. Not quite as foggy as before, the atmosphere was still unsettling. Unseen eyes watched them from afar.
As they made their way through the gates they managed to upset a swarm of angry rats that quickly descended upon them. While not a big obstacle they did make sure to inflict Vincent with filth fever.
The Harrowstone Prison-Ruins
Pushing onwards into the courtyard they did some snooping around. There wasn’t much left to see in the old home of the Warden. It was hardly safe to enter the place at all. A large part of the former compound had been destroyed by a sinkhole now full of murky water, and the stairs leading up to the various balconies were bare and with no traces of life.
Most interesting were several glyphs inscribed with blood, running in a long trail at the base of the building. They were quite fresh and they concluded that they had been used for some kind of ritual, likely involving necromancy and abjuration-magic.  It was hard to say much more.
Vincent attempted to contact some of the spirits with the spirit board found in the false tomb. Sadly, this brought him into contact with a trickster spirit that not only lied to him about being the professor, but also managed to posses him and cast burning hands on his group.
After being grappled for a minute, Vincent was finally allowed to go.
Upon entering the prison through the main door, the heroes noticed that it did indeed carry several traces of decay and to some degrees, minor burns. The stench of smoke was eerily obvious on the air.
The heroes soon encountered their first haunt as they entered the main hall. They managed to discover it in good time and destroy it through channeling (since it was a Locked Door-haunt that would simply slam the doors for some time, this might’ve seen like an overkill. But the experience is always nice).
As they progressed through the prison, they came across the auditory in which another haunt failed to manifest (this time, one casting chill touch) and later on they found the way down to the basement level. Fighting their way through three burning skulls, they realized a 20 feet drop down into water. Wishing to clear the place floor by floor, they decided to leave it alone.
In the workshop they encountered their third and final haunt this night. And guess what, high initiatives, holy water, lots of turning and dead it was. Guess it really does pay off to be prepared. (To be fair, this haunt is really deadly. In its manifested form, it happily throws out scorching rays for 4D6 points of damage. Even on level 2 this is something. And the good/bad news is; it keeps doing so as long as some tool is standing in the room). Things got dicey in the next room, though. The infirmary. The heroes didn’t get to search much before they were ambushed by a poltergeist. They weren’t welcome on its domain, and the scare effect enforced this rule more than nicely. Sending the wizard, sorcerer and rogue running for the hills, the poltergeist immediately turned invisible and started hurling piece of broken glass and furniture at them. The heroes had to retreat back to the furnace, but since the rogue and the cleric were the only ones not running in the third turn, they managed to localize the poltergeist and kill it.
Clerics...who needs haunts anyway, right?
Among the remaining loot they found some nice remedies such as antitoxins and potions of cure light wounds. As they recuperated, they started preparing for their next push, deeper into the prison.

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