Thursday, December 1, 2011

Carrion Crown: Haunting of Harrowstone pt.4

In the latest chapter of their adventure, the four heroes finally decided to head to Harrowstone prison in order to shed some light on the recent events. Ravengro seemed besieged by strange and occult forces, and during a nightly assault on the Town Hall, evidence of the prison’s involvement was revealed. The burning skulls hissed “Do not venture near Harrowstone, if you value your souls!”. Being the ever precautious and caring heroes they were, the four adventurers headed out the following morning.
After some minor confrontations with rats, haunts and poltergeists they all took a short breather before heading deeper into the compound.
(This is the part in which dungeon crawling pretty much sets in. Harrowstone houses a lot of encounters but luckily it’s also quite large about resting. In fact, some groups might need to be encouraged to utilize this option since some of the monsters are quite terrible).
Meeting Vesorianna Hawkran
Their first course of action was to enter the big unexplored part of the main floor. There they found an abandoned chapel to Lathander, in which they clashed with three crab spiders. Nothing too dangerous, especially since most of them were high on anti-toxin.
In another room a pair of animated shackles gave them a brief flashback about the recent events at Harrowstone, when inmates would be clad in iron before their final execution. They also visited the old branding-room which housed a haunt. Their keen perceptions served them well, though, and allowed them to annihilate it before a storm of glowing red irons were hurled their way.
In the third room they finally met up with the first friendly contact in Harrowstone. An eerie and yet calm apparition revealed itself before them, showing gratitude that ‘finally more guards had been sent from town’. The heroes played along and took the opportunity inquire about their new contact.

She confirmed their suspicion and presented herself as Vesorianna Hawkran, sole warden of Harrowstone. She felt a deep sorrow, ever since her dearly beloved and deceased husband disappeared barely a month ago. She told them that his presence had kept the restless spiritis in check, ever since the great riot back 50 years ago. But now when he was gone, she realized that she didn’t have the strength to achieve the same feat. The power of the insane undead prisoners grew, especially among the five most notorious of them.
When asked further about the incident, Vesorianna elaborated how she noticed a group of cloaked men approach the prison, about 20 days ago. They spoke in a strange whisper and drew the runes on the walls while silently chanting. Once they were done, a storm went through the prison. A storm that tore right into the soul. And once it had settled, the presence of her beloved husband was gone.
That was when the ‘other guard’ from town was noticed by the cloaked men, who killed him with foul magic and attempted to stage an accident. The heroes quickly concluded this to be the Professor.
There was no doubt that the remaining five leaders of the evil spirits were planning a coup in order to achieve power. Power that would allow them to manifest beyond the borders of Harrowstone and likely turn Ravengro into a ghost town. Literally. They’d grown so powerful by now that Vesorianna couldn’t stop them alone. Even when they told her about the spelling of her name on the town’s memorial, she nodded gloomily as her suspicion was confirmed. The manifestations of the five leaders; The Piper, The Father, the Marauder, the Lobber and the Splatter had to be destroyed, and the badge of her husband brought to her. Only then could they hope for victory.
As a final word of advice, Vesorianna pointed out a hidden compartment in the evidence-room. In there they would find personal belongings of the five masterminds. Belongings that could very well assist them in their struggles against them, respectively. But be warned, they were also cursed.
If only there was someone we could call…
Finding the hidden vault was easy. Inside they located an old black spellbook, a bloody hand axe, a chain with several holy symbols, a sturdy blacksmith hammer and a beautiful silver-flute. They decided to simply accept whatever ailments might fall on them and head out towards their next destination.
In the old room of clothes they were ambushed by an animated straight jacket. It was a very close fight, but they managed to pull through.
(Compared to other animated items in this adventure, the jacket doesn’t have a hardness-score, which makes you think it’d be much easier. On the contrary , though. With 36 hp and two impressive slam attacks +5 for 1d6+2 each it’s not a jacket to be taken lightly. Add in the constrict for another 1d6 damage and this can all go down in a hurry for a level 2 party. The rogue went down quite early in the fight, and had it been allowed to go on for just three rounds or more, it could very well have ended in retreat.
 
Animated object are no joke. Especially in Harrowstone there are some truly nasty, nasty encounters that will challenge your players, especially if their group composition is subpar. Besides beating on the straitjacket for several turns and barely making it, the animated shackles took an insane amount of beating, thanks to its hardness. My players managed to avoid the executioner’s scythe, though, but that is another nasty encounter. Luckily they did posses some degree of elemental damage, but for other people, such as the lowly halfling rogue and his negative strength modifier… well, it wouldn’t happen)
On the remaining part of the ground floor they found nothing but a safe in the warden’s old office, which they cracked open for some gold. Heading upstairs presented them with the part of Harrowstone that used to house the less deadly prisoners back in the days. It seemed all deserted by now, but they could swear that they somehow heard the sound of…a flute playing, from the west.

They decided to keep cool and instead clear the surroundings. They were ambushed by three stirges, who were quickly defeated but still managed to drain some nice juicy con.
(It’s a good thing that the adventure features so many restoration options, really).They went for a short trip to the kitchen in which they found a lonely weasel that had made its way in there (by request from the rogue / arcane trickster to be, who wanted one as familiar on his next level). At this time they were 90 xp from level 3, so I decided the weasel could be well worth it, as I skipped an encounter earlier. (It’s a basic fact that I really skip encounters if I don’t feel like it at the time or if they simply seem like fillers. Compared to Shackled City and some parts of Savage Tide this tendency hasn’t been that bad in CC yet. But I’d much rather just jot down the amount and present it to the players for something else, within a reasonable time-interval).
The heroes went back to Ravengro and rested. No events happened and they eagerly returned the same night and headed towards the flute-sound. As they neared the cages to the west on the first floor, suddenly eight of them slam open and filthy skeletons shambled out to meet them. In the meantime they felt the rush of energy in the air, as the Piper of Illmarsh manifested and began playing his flute. Shortly after, a huge, bloated stirge crashed through and old window and attacked the heroes from the flank.
The battle was just long enough. On the first turn the rogue began playing the flute from the evidence-vault, immediately succumbing to its effect. He was enthralled by playing the flute, whatever the cost, even when it started summoning bleeding wounds on his body. They did, however, notice how some of the skeletons were affected by the sound and slowed down, and heard the Piper hiss out in pain. “Stop them, you morons!” he sneered at the skeletons.
The cleric, now with 2d6 channeling, managed to annihilate five skeletons in one turn and joined up on the stirge (that managed to stay out of the flute’s range the entire fight). Even then, the greedy vermin feasted upon Aldarion’s blood for three turns, and two members of the party were held for one turn by the captivating tune of the Piper.
The Piper of Illmarsh

In the end, the flute killed their adversary and the cleric managed to grapple it from the rogue, just before he went down as well.
(This fight went without much fuss, mostly because the heroes played it well. Not sure whether that was their intention, but getting rid of the three stirges in the mess hall first and utilizing the flute are both important moves. I upped the amount of skeletons from the adventure because I was quite aware that the cleric would likely destroy them with a blink of his eye. Again I am reminded how much a gift clerics are to any group in this adventure.
Also, had the heroes visited Father Charlatan first and not discovered the mechanism behind his haunt, this encounter can be really deadly)
Dealing with Father Charlatan
They immediately headed south where they found a long abandoned cell. Only the remains of a human lay on a bunk against the wall, shackled in chains with various holy symbols. Needless to say, the heroes were quite suspicious about this, as Vesroianna had told them all five evil presences were still in Harrowstone. Doing a lot of searching in the cell, turning over the skeleton and messing with his holy symbols, they were just about to head out and give up when Aldarion decided to cast a Detect Undead. To his shock it revealed an apparition standing right behind Edgar the cleric, both hands on his should as if he was just waiting for something. This resulted in an immediate bombardment of holy energy and siphons, quickly nuking Father Charlatan into oblivion.

Father Charlatan
(Well, sadly this is a really, really nice haunt. It’s special in the sense that it stays with its victim till he or she suffers a wound, upon which they will collapse into a coma and dream into an alternate reality. In here they’ll have to make will saves against the father in order not to mentally die. It’s a really great idea, but sadly this can be prevented by a party with heavy access to detection. In a way it’s a bit sad, but again, it seemed reasonable since the entire party consists of spellcasters. It’s a great and dangerous haunt, though. If you’re GM’ing it, look forward to it!)
Down into the darkness
With nothing left to do but travel down to the deepest pits of Harrowstone, the heroes traversed the broken lift and arrived in the long lost cave that made up the landing station for the elevator, 50 years ago. They descended into water and made their way into a large chamber. Here they were greeted by eight skeletons, rising to banish the warmth of life from their domain. With little time left of the session, the heroes made their way to the north, to the Oubliette. Not sure what lied in wait for them, they ran into Gurtis Vortch, one of the most notorious guards of the prison, now reanimated as a flaming, headless skeleton. Poor Gurtis had some really crappy reaction-skills, though, and only got off one attack before he was missiled into oblivion.
Now, with the open portcullis before them, the heroes are looking into a large room, with a deep, dark, round pit in the middle. What dangers could possibly await them from here?...
(Due to December-rush and all, it’s not certain whether we’ll be able to gather a full group the following Wednesdays. Just want to let you all know, who’re following this blog. We consider doing some side-questing, but I likely won’t include them in this journal, as it’s purely for Carrion Crown. We’ll wait and see, and if not, we should be back around early January).

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