Friday, January 6, 2012

Carrion Crown: Haunting of Harrowstone pt.5


Aaaaand, we're back! 
It's been quite some time since we last spent time with our favorite heroes from Ustalav, who recently threw themselves into a pit of trouble by attending the late professor Lorrimor's funeral. As I wrote in the previous blog, we honestly didn't expect to game that much over christmas. People rarely have much time. We therefore decided to run a side-quest with whoever turned out, which often involved three players only. For the same reason I decided not to keep track on it on this blog, but I can quickly relay that we played through 'Carrion Hill' which is a somewhat solid addition to an already solid campaign.

At one session we got dangerously low on attendance and therefore decided to call in a guest-star player. I'm not the type to cancel sessions lightly, especially when I look so much forward to them as I do. This meant that Aldarion and Grendell were joined by ”Mutt” the barbarian, a towering, beardy man from Carrion Hill, whose house was destroyed during recent catastrophic events.

Once the events of Carrion Hill were over, Aldarion chose to return to Ravengro with Mutt, where he would meet up with Edgar and Grendell, who had storywise suffered grave injuries from the fights in Harrowstone and CH. They were therefore recuperating in the local Kelemvor temple, attended by Father Grimburrow.

Our fifth player went for a three-week holiday so the party quickly realized that the young Vincent had mysteriously disappeared during their stay in Carrion Hill. Whether he would ever return remained to be seen.

Reunited with the one-horse town
The journey back to Ravengro wasn't the longest but still substantial enough for Aldarion to notice that some time had passed during his absence. It was as if the weather had, if possible, turned even more grim and bleak. A strong tone of grey drowned the sky and the ever present dusty rain weighted heavily upon his cape. Much to his companion's dismay, the moistrous atmosphere made it hard for any kind of fire to be lit, including that of a pibe. Mutt was a towering man of indeterminable age. Besides a huge beard and pointy har, he wore a hat to ward of the harsh weather, and a raggy cape that concealed his collectable helbard 'Betty' (Yeah, but then again, we're also talking about familiars named Miss Weasley). A prominent scar ran across a significant portion of his face, as an elder of injuries overseeing the several small wounds still healing from their recent struggle.

Giving up his desperate attempt to strike fire into his pibe-weed, Mutt shrugged and looked at Ravengro. It wasn't an impressive sight, even from a high viewpoint. In truth, it much resembled a randomly scattered handful of giant stone dices.
”You still haven't told me what we're here for,” he grumbled. ”In truth, I find it hard to believe there is anything here worth our time...”
”There is,” Alarion said, almost lost in thought. ”I promise you, everything shall be revealed once we make contact with Edgar and Grendell. In the meantime, don't let yourself be worn down by the peasants here. They're not exactly fond of strangers. Sort of primitive like that.”

As they approached the village, Mutt noticed long gazes following him from every streetcorner and window. On a few occasions a brave soul attempted to initialize a confrontation, but every time they would recoil with a hesitant smile as they noticed Aldarion in the giant's prescense. It appeared that the elf had a reputation of some importance in Ravengro (in truth, if we were to follow the rules strictly, the heroes would've lost a good amount of Trust in the time they were gone. I decided against it, as it didn't seem entirely fair or reasonable, so they retained their high Trust value).
After a short walk they reached the temple of Kelemvor. Father Grimburrow grumpily opened the door, dropping a comment about it being high time someone came to take care of 'those two in the back'. He was of course refering to Edgar and Grendell who were both sleeping in the sanitarium and much delighted to see their companion return. Albeit with some skepticism about the newest arrival, Mutt was greeted and welcomed due to Aldarion's recommendation.

The heroes went to the Outward Inn to eat and explain their newest member the situation. They were all alone there, except for the inn keeper who told them that while they were gone, more letters had been added to the Harrowstone memorial. Meaning the total name of Vessor- had now been succesfully spelled. She urged the heroes to act quickly, as surely evil had everything but left Ravengro. A lot of people felt unsafe and subtle signs of unrest had begun. (This is merely an idea to encourage the players to get their asses moving. I decided to add in some civil unrest and conflict, should they not get the hint. Luckily they did, and soon afterwards headed out to Harrowstone).

Back into the breach!
Not much had changed about Harrowstone prison, except that much of the bloody ritual on the outside had been dilluted and washed away by the strong rains. On the inside the heroes could still hear the drops on the roof and faint ecchoes of wind dance through the dark corridors. Although some of the dark prescence of this place had been lifted, surely evil was lingering behind many corners still.


As they made their ways through the abandoned rooms, torchlight finally revealed the collapsed elevator and the pit descending down to the lower cells.The heroes had their last confrontation with the burning, headless captain in the north block just before they retreated, so they decided to investigate the southern block instead.
Here they found a huge porticollous barring their way and an abandoned room with a brokken mechanism for raising it. After a few attempts, Edgar was able to make it somehow operational and rise the gate. They decided to jam it afterwards, should they need to get out of there in a hurry.

Once on the other side, though, it didn't take them long to realize something sinister was lurking ahead. In the darkness they started seeing flashing, red, glowing names on the walls. Names they didn't recognise but nonetheless spelled themselves over and over, infused by some otherwordly force.
Not long after they entered an old room, walls decaying, floor uneven and the remaining cells were more rubble than structure. In the middle was a small pond of old water, as could also be found in the southwestern corner. They had no doubt that his portion of the prison was quite old.

Fighting the Splatter
Suddenly, a shiver went through the room and a strong feeling of impending doom overwhelmed their minds. To his horror, each hero noticed the first letter of his name appear on various places around the room, instantly feeling a strong connection with death, should said name ever be completed. As initiatives ensued, everyone had to maintain a strong focus and willpower in order to prevent the second letter from appearing and thus drain on their power. Whereas some of the heroes achieved this, others were not so lucky and felt some of their spiritual essence being tapped.

Mutt took the logical next step and ran to smash the wall bearing Aldarion's name. His weapon made a severe impact, sending cracks and stone flying up through the wall, and the letters started fading. Immediately, Grendell did the same with magic missiles, and the heroes felt envigorated for every letter they thusly destroyed.
Edgar made sure to utilize as much channeling as possible to destroy the haunt. However, suddenly when Grendell destroyed another letter with a magic missile barrage, a hollow, sinister laugter boomed through the complex, right before the majority of the ceiling gave in and collapsed on the heroes. Too much foundation and too many walls had taken damage and were therefore unable to retain the general structure. Grendell, cleverly evading the debris, managed to avoid a significant impact of damage, as rubble decorated the floor, creating difficult terrain for everyone in the room.

The Splatter Man
It was at this time the Splatter made his move. With a sinister laughter the tattered ghost stepped out from the wall in the far corner of the room and began casting a spell. Edgar and Mutt immediately began rushing toward the ghost through the rubble, but the pace was slow. Both Grendell and Aldarion unleashed a barrage of magic missiles against the Splatter, but the deceased professor made his concentration checks without problems.
On the following turn, three dire rats were summoned in front of the heroes and provided the Splatter with a meatshield. He smiled and hurled a handful of maximized missiles at the heroes, making sure to inflict as much pain as possible on them by splitting them up. He avoided targeting Aldarion for some strange reason, and Grendell was saved by his Shield-spell.
After casting his spell, the Splatter reallocated through the walls, to a point further away.

The dire rats inflicted additional wounds on the heroes, and the situation was quickly becoming critical HP-wise. Mutt killed a rat and moved towards the Splatter and Edgar channeled positive energy in an attempt to heal up the damage. The dices were cruel, however, and only a few points were restored. Aldarion attacked with more magic missiles and Grendell suffered from arcane spell failure, due to his leather amor.
The Splatter sprayed the party with magic missiles, avoiding Grendell. Edgar collapsed, leaving his panicking friends without a cleric.


At this time Aldarion pulled out the Splatter’s old spell book from the evidence vault and conjured a flaming sphere. He threw a quick glance at the Splatter, who now had dread all over his face. Screaming “Noooo!” as he watched the wizard drop the tome into the fire, the Splatter immediately ordered his rats to fetch the book before it caught fire.
With Grendell keeping us his assault of magic missiles, Mutt kept on slaying dire rats and making his way through the room. With Edgar stabilized, the Splatter ignored him and went directly for Aldarion, but it was apparent that the undead professor was in pain. His ethereal clothes had caught fire, which only got worse as the dire rats failed to push the book out of the sphere.

Clutching his teeth, Mutt advanced with his halberd in hand, finally achieving the reach he needed to land a vital strike. The incredible force behind the blade was enough to skewer the ghost in an explosion of ectoplasm.
And then, silence fell unto the room.

(Both the Splatter and the Lopper are known as the most lethal encounters in this adventure, which is understandable. What really makes this encounter sinister is the two-stage structure, in which the players first risk not only their wisdom but also a solid amount of hit points. The ideal approach is to nuke the room with channeling and haunt siphons, which means the party won’t have to deal with either damage or difficult terrain.

The Splatter hits hard with his magic missiles, even when splitting them up between members. If a melee-centric party encounters him in difficult terrain he’s very dangerous. The original plan in this encounter was to let him kill Aldarion with his corrupting touch, which hits for 6D6 damage. This is obviously overkill on most members of a 3rd level party, and the adventure recommends to have him save it for the real threats. I decided to leave it as a ‘rage timer’ which he would use if he ever ran out of spells.
I let Aldarion roll to notice the sudden evil presence about the spell book, but let him figure out for himself that destroying it was an idea. According to rules, a player can rip out a page of the book, thus damaging the Splatter for 1d6+1 per level of the spell. There are no rules for burning it though, so I advise simply rolling for what spell page catches fire first. It isn’t a perfect system but it works.

I’m not sure whether the rules allow for a summoner to order dire rats to fetch books. But it made wonderful drama, so…yeah.

I recommend thinking about this encounter compared to your players’ characters. Clerics, arcane users with magic missiles and haunt siphons help immensely. Otherwise, be prepared for some slaughter.)

Dungeons and Marauders
Searching the room, the heroes found a few items, such as a +1 keen longsword, a mithral dagger and a ring of protection +1 that went to Edgar as consolidation. They also found a secret door that lead them to a small cave, in which an ooze laid in wait.

The heroes decided against it and turned back to the main room and headed west. Before heading into the main cellblock they investigated a few rooms, one of which contained a small table carrying three skulls on it. In the corner, a dead dwarf in remarkably good shape was laying.

Not long after entering the heroes noticed a sudden ache in the back of their head and with a shriek the three skulls entered the air, ready to attack. Manifesting in the middle of the room was the horrible visage of a dead dwarf, carrying his hammer and a floating skull next to him.
As combat ensued, the flying heads were easily defeated, but the Mosswater Marauder made continual attacks against random party members, leaving them staggered from head pain. Small ghostly fragments rose from their heads to be consumed by the marauder, but for every skull slain the haunt suffered obvious wounds.
In the end, Edgar unleashed a final channeling that annihilated the marauder with a roar.
Searching the room they uncovered a secret door, locked with an exceptionally well made lock. They decided to leave it for now and return later.

(The Mosswater Marauder is a bad ass character, I love him. Sadly, his fight is pretty much a pushover compared to the rest. The three skulls are extremely easy to kill, but do pose a threat with their frightening screams. It’s an easy little fight that can give your players a break.)

Torture and hands
The main prison block didn’t hold much of value for the heroes. Instead they made their way into the torture chamber. Here they met another haunt, the iron maiden, and two severed hands. This was a surprisingly short fight, in which the hands were quickly destroyed, but Mutt fell into temptation and was compelled to run into the maiden. As it opened he saw the pinned remains of his dead father reach out for him and ran to his rescue. He immediately became caught in the maiden and was tormented by its horrors and pains. Luckily, he withstood and was soon saved by his companions who smashed up the torture chamber. (In the original adventure it says the entire chamber has to be destroyed, but I decided to just use two racks. The curse of the iron maiden is grim indeed; a -6 to constitution curse is not to be ignored.)
After the fight they discovered another secret door that led back to the ooze (and was therefore ignored. I don’t know why they hated the ooze so much…) and the remains of warden Hawkran. Upon it they found his old badge and some keys used to torture him to death.

Using the key they unlocked the door in the Marauder’s room and found the secret stash of weapons, armor and potions. They also found an old rope of climbing. They decided to head back to Ravengro for a night’s rest, as their supplies were short. They returned very early the next morning.

Finally, they decided to bring back the warden’s badge to his wife. Vesorianna Hawkran cried blue, ghostly tears as she finally held it in her hands again, and thanked the heroes from the bottom of her heart. She also warned them that even though they were to be congratulated on their victory, she sensed that they were yet to deal with one of the most dangerous foes among the five. She advised them to show great caution.
 (Using Vesorianna as a warning I prepared the players to be on their toes. If you want to earn some Light Side GM-points, you can even consider having her appear before the heroes and warn them, while they’re on the lower levels, if you think they’re not prepared for the final confrontation.)

Fighting the Lopper
The final room was the pit to the north, covered by an old metal grating. The heroes cautiously approached it from the side and dropped a light-stone down the darkness. It didn’t seem especially deep, but before they could make an exact judgment, they heard a silent whisper behind them.
“Do you wish to die?...”
The next second, a ghostly axe planted itself into Mutt’s neck.

The fight against the Lopper was beyond doubt the hardest to hard. The ghost seemed to rejuvenate for every drop of blood that ran from the bleeding wounds he inflicted and his gaze was full of madness and blood lust, as he went berserk on the party. The Lopper focused his ghostly attacks on Mutt, making sure to move with him for every step he took.

Aldarion relied on his trusty magic missiles and Grendell was quick to join him. Edgar desperately attempted to channel the holy power but once again rolled really poorly. The Lopper’s impressive will save and channel resistance made sure that the inflicted damage became insignificant and his blood drain overruled some of the magic missile damage.

It didn’t take long for Mutt to bite the dust and go unconscious. The Lopper immediately charged Aldarion with a roar and tore a savage wound across his throat. Blood started gushing out, much to the ghost’s enjoyment. Aldarion attempted to cast one final spell but failed his casting check and lost it. A few seconds later, he was knocked out in one fell swoop by the Lopper’s axe.
By this time, Edgar reached Mutt, kneeled down next to him and prayed to Gond for strength in this struggle. By the power of the divine, he healed him for an impressive 19 points, bringing the barbarian back to life.

Mutt got up and charged directly into the Lopper, with a savage roar planting his halberd deeply in his chest. Sneering with hatred, the Lopper sliced the barbarian again, making more blood pour over the floor. Edgar, however, being prepared, quickly ran to his comrade and once again infused him with the healing power of Gond. At this time, Grendell made his way behind the ghost and landed an arcane strike in his back. Finally, with the holy power of channeling, Edgar overwhelmed the foul spirit. With the last howl, the Lopper faded into nothingness and a sudden not felt before calmness fell over the prison. Only interrupted by Aldarion, who made his final breath as the bleeding took away his life.

(I actually felt the Lopper was way more lethal than the Splatter. Even without spells, he hits like a truck, his armor class is decent and he has a lot of hit points. Even though he is only able to heal 1D6 per turn from the bleeding, you’d be surprised how well this all adds up, and once he starts making a lot of people bleed there is a lot of damage going around. The group’s cleric remarked how healing intensive this encounter is and once the Lopper locks himself unto a target, which he should, they go down quickly. After all, he hits with a  +7 touch attack.
My group was fully rested when they took on this encounter, and they barely made it. If ran by the book and your group is not ready for it, be prepared for a not unlikely wipe.

I had some doubt in this encounter, regarding when the Lopper kills a victim. A rule states that this results in the dead person transforming, but on the other hand it says it only happens when killed by his touch attack. Since Aldarion died to blood loss, I decided to rule against it.)

The Fall of Harrowstone 
Immediately after, Vesorianna faded in before their eyes. Her face bright with a bleak joy, she smiled at them and thanked the heroes for doing what nobody else could not. Harrowstone was saved. Ravengro was saved. It was over.

With the five culprits defeated, she was now able to seal the evil influence at the place, and make sure it would never return. She could now find rest. All she asked was that they would bury her husband’s remains at the Kelemvor temple in Ravengro.
The heroes happily promised so and bowed to her, as she with a smile and a ‘Thank you…’ faded into the darkness.

Carrying Aldarion, the heroes journeyed back to Ravengro, where they were greeted by a surprise. A cheering crowd of townspeople ran towards them, hands in the air, smiling. The Sheriff told them that the entire town could feel the unholy presence lifting. Mere hours ago, they saw a magnificent flash of bright light from Harrowstone presence, and soon after a peace like never before settled over the area. The rain stopped, and for the first time in 50 years, the sun had starting shining through the skies.
That was when they knew the heroes had succeeded in their task.


Councilman Hearthmount eagerly shook their hands, telling them they were welcome to stay in Ravengro as long as they wished for. Barely able move, the heroes made their way through the cheering crowd and later arrived at the temple of Kelemvor. Selling their surplus loot they raised just enough money to raise Aldarion from the dead and tend to his wounds. While still in shock, he was quickly sucked into the festivities outside, as the entire town prepared for a party unlike anything seen before.

In solemn silence, the heroes buried the remains of Warden Hawkran and Edgar spoke the final words for his soul. This was the final word in the Harrowstone adventure. Things were finally at rest.
That night the heroes went for celebration in town. There was drinking, food, games and thrilled ladies who never tired of hearing about their adventures. With 14 days left of their stay, they decided to take in the lighter side of Ravengro, and prepare for the next step on their journey; Lepidstadt. Somewhere in this city, two people were eagerly awaiting the delivery of the professor’s old books.

Surely, such a travel would be smooth and without any trouble.



(And thus ends the first chapter of Carrion Crown. We ended the session here as it seemed most appropriate. The heroes were 70XP short of reaching level 4, so I decided to award something for solid roleplay.

All in all, I am very happy with HoH. The encounters are interesting, albeit very lethal in some cases. My players really enjoyed the fights with the Splatter and the Lopper, despite the immense danger involved.

If I have to give some advice to my fellow GM’s out there, they would be as follows:

- Make sure your players don’t head to Harrowstone immediately upon arriving in town. They should be at least second level.
- I think it really pays to run as many encounters in Ravengro as possible, even some of the optional ones in the end. They are well designed and helps you make Ravengro a site the players will remember.
- Having a cleric or someone able to channel positive energy in the party helps IMMENSELY. I’ll be honest here, I think my party would’ve had a lot of problems in this adventure without it. Even with the Siphons there are simply too many dangers to rely on them.
- This is an undead-themed campaign. It’s good for players to remember this, as spells such as sleep, color spray and the like won’t be near as beneficial as they use to.
- Running Harrowstone itself can be done in many ways. I tried to stay as close to the book as possible, but things can turn out nasty if your players are new or just plain unlucky.
- Use music. See my short guide on this topic.

There is a certain charm and edge to this adventure, and I’ll really recommend trying it out. We all look very much forward to next week, in which we begin the second journey in Trial of the Beast.

In case you wonder or have some questions in this regard, feel free to email me at Quiconjinnn@yahoo.com and I’ll be happy to elaborate!)

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