Magical Mondays: Halloween One-Shot   2 comments

Why is Magical Mondays an incredible four days late this week? Well, because I had a chance to catch up to my Korra Chronicle review for last week, which is still also late. October’s been a busy month for me. However, it hasn’t stopped me from getting this Halloween One-Shot for your viewing pleasure.

Apologies to all the non-d20 gamers who read this blog. I was tempted to go with Chill, Cosmic Patrol, World of Darkness, or some other Halloween appropriate adventure setting, but the Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 players won the economics this time around. I also apologize for the rough layout as I didn’t quite have the time to polish it as I wanted (which is why nearly all of the non-read lines appear as parenthetical comments.)  Anyway, let’s get to the adventure!

***

Song of the Slumberselves
A Halloween adventure for risk-taking first level adventurers (or second or third level adventurers who don’t want to fear death).

Setting and Hook: In the world of Cantadel, in the land of Lucara, a village called Redmill sits on the border of a dark forest (fill in your own world, land and village names as needed, naturally.) The children of the villagers have lately become lethargic and distant, worrying their elders. What was at first a malady affecting only a small number of children has gradually spread until the exhaustion began to effect them all. Concern changed to fear as the childen began to sing in their sleep, nearly in unison.

The song references the Gallowspatch, the sight of a former gallows tree deep in the forest that was abandoned for fear of a haunting years earlier. A wild patch of pumpkins and other gourds was known to grow in this spot, but continued fear of the progressively darker things in that part of the forest has kept the villagers from going there frequently.

Fearing what they might find there, the villagers have sought out the aid of a band of adventurers (this is where your players come in.) Either because the adventurers are local to the community, because they were passing through and heard of the danger, or because the village went to a larger city to seek aid, the villagers have begged the players for help.

If the players RP their way into not going on this adventure, congratulate them for finishing at this point, and award them zero experience points. Enjoy the rest of your Halloween party! Assuming they take the hook, though, or change their mind when they realize that the adventure’s over otherwise, it’s time to adventure.

Prep: Figure out which player’s Spot check is the highest, and roll a secret check using their bonus. Roll a single hide check for a Diredusk Raven (gaining the benefits from shadowy environments) and compare the results.

(If the players ask to hear the singing children, they can be taken to a sleeping child or two to hear the following mumbled song.)

“Dipping the strings, again and again…
I won’t need to stop when I begin…
Once Gallowspatch cauldrons have filled to the brim…
Dipping the strings, again and again…”

(Feel free to come up with something more clever than that.)

***

Part 1: Dusk in the Forest

(For this round, make sure to read the Magical Mondays entry on Diredusk Ravens before continuing.)

Say: The villagers gave you explicit instructions for the route to the Gallowspatch, but the instructions were unnecessary. The path is overgrown, but still clear. However, the dark shadows cast by the tree get darker as the sun begins to set, earlier than you thought it would.

(If the spot check from before is higher than the hide check from before, say the following to whichever character’s check you used.)

You almost miss it, but you see the glint of orange light reflected above you from a number of tiny points in the branches. You’re being watched by a brood of birds in the shadows. They take wing and swoop down, ready to attack, the light seeming to drain into them as they draw near.

(If the spot check failed, then the Diredusk Ravens get a surprise round. Say the following.)

Suddenly, a number of birds dart out of the shadows from above, their wings seeming to suck in the very light.

(For a party of four, include three Diredusk Ravens. For a larger party, add one Diredusk Raven per extra party member. In general, the Ravens will divide themselves as well as they can to have the best chance of infecting the party with Diredusk. Once a party member fails its save, the Raven will move on to a different party member. Once the entire party is infected, the Ravens will swarm a single party member. They’ll give preference to anyone not carrying a light source to make full use of their Blur ability. Assuming that the party eventually lives, read the following.)

The bodies of the Ravens appear to melt into the shadows, sizzling in the light as they fade away. You see other orange eyes in the boughs above you, but two by two they turn away and flit elsewhere, looking for more suitable prey. The path continues ahead of you, and you face no more dangers for the two hours that remain until you reach the storied Gallowspatch.

(If any players contracted Diredusk during the encounter, the disease might develop during the two hours there. If that is the case, adjust accordingly.)

***

Part 2: Trapped in the Witch’s Camp

(After the players reach the end, read the following.)

At the end of the overgrown trail, you find yourselves at a clearing. A shack sits on one side of the clearing built into a wall, and an open-air shelter sits on the opposite side. The grass here is more well tended than the stories of the villagers suggested, and they certainly didn’t mention any buildings. You can see what looks like a large amount of activity under the shelter, as figures cluster around tables. a gentle light flickers from behind a window in the shack.

(If the players go to the shelter, read the following.)

The scent of tallow grows heavy as you near the shelter, and the figures beneath the roof become more clear: they are small creatures, the size of goblins but colored a dark purple and blue color that moves like a shadow. The figures are wordlessly and diligently taking bits of string and dipping them into cauldrons, gradually making candles from the tallow within them. The odd coloration is a part of not only them, but the clothes they wear. The shelter is lit by a series of torches fastened to the interior of the roof, but helped a great deal by the fires beneath the cauldrons.

(If the players attempt to physically interact with the creatures in any way, the figures are entirely ethereal. The figures never grow violent and seem to ignore the players entirely. If the players scatter or upset the cauldrons or candle making tools, the figures attempt to retrieve them and get back to work. If the players steal them, then the figures will just retrieve more tools from elsewhere, or will stand in place without doing anything if all the tools are gone. A DC 20 Spot check will let the PCs recognize one of the shadowy figures as having the same face as one of the afflicted children in the town, the only difference being pointier ears. A DC 15 Spellcraft check allows a caster to determine that these are creatures called Slumberselves, a theoretical sort of servant that was thought to be just a fairy tale, workers created from the dreams of sleeping individuals, though the sleepers then get no rest from their sleep. It’s surprising to see that someone has figured out how to make a Slumberself, and worrying that people have been engaged in the forms of taboo magic required to make such a thing possible.)

(Whether or not the players investigate the shelter, when the players investigate the shack read the following.)

The building is newly but roughly constructed. You can just make out a dimly lit sitting room through the window, a flickering fireplace shining light on a chair and a few bookshelves.

(The door opens easily, and the sitting room is the same as the players could see through the window. Two other doors lead to a small sleeping chamber and a small room that acts as a combination pantry and food preparation chamber. The far wall of the sitting room is actually the same as the wall than ran through the clearing, and a door built into that wall leads out to the site of the old gallows tree. The books on the bookshelves are all arcane texts, but mostly about dreams, fairies, and botany. A DC 12 Search check reveals a hand-written notebook, written by Hectala. The notebook reveals her name, and her research into Slumberselves, and how it wouldn’t be possible without the Hand of Glory, “made from the left hand of a hanged man and drenched in the tallow of his own corpse, and given a base of power.” A DC 20 Bardic Knowledge check or DC 24 Knowledge (Arcana) check reveals that a Hand of Glory can be used to put large numbers of people to sleep, and that it can be used to influence sleep magic (Elves gain a +2 bonus to this knowledge check, and can reveal the extra tidbit that elves were fond of developing them as weapons of war. The rest of the notebook reveals a plan to have slumberselves make candles that are enchanted to turn other people into slumberselves if ever the light shines upon them.)

After either five rounds in the shack, or the moment that the players get ready to open the door in the far wall that leads to the rest of the clearing, the door will open and Hectala will enter. Hectala is an aged half-elf, bitter at civilization and eager to make Slumberselves who will work for her in ever-increasing numbers. Seeing intruders in her home, she immediately enters combat.

Note: Hectala’s stats have not been adjusted to include half-elf traits, as these alter slightly between Pathfinder and D&D. The only true notes that I should mention here are that in Pathfinder she puts the extra +2 into her Wisdom score, that her extra feat is Skill Focus (Alchemy), and that no matter what game she’s in gives her a racial +2 to Spot/Perception. And, of course, the immunity to Sleep spells and +2 bonus to saves against Enchantment can help if the players try to magically end an encounter quickly.

Hectala, CR 2
Female Half-Elf Adept 3
NE Medium Humanoid
Hit Dice 3d6 (16 hp)
Initiative +2
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
AC 13 (touch 13, flat-footed 10)
BAB/Grapple +1/+0
Attack Trowel melee +0 (1d4-1, minimum 1)
Special Qualities Half-Elf Traits (immunity to sleep effects)
Saves Fort +2 Ref +3 Will +5 (+2 vs. Enchantment spells and effects)
Abilities
STR 8 (-1)
DEX 14 (+2)
CON 12(+1)
INT 13(+1)
WIS 15 (+2)
CHA 10 (+0)
Feats Dodge, Spell Focus (Enchantment)

Spells Prepared
0: Touch of Fatigue, Touch of Fatigue (DC 13), Guidance
1: Burning Hands (DC 13), Sleep (DC 14)

Possessions Trowel (treat as a dagger), Scroll of Cause Fear, Potion of Cure Light Wounds, 24 gold.
(Hectala will fight to her death, likely opening with Burning Hands, Sleep and then Cause Fear, making use of the enclosed room that the players are in and the fact that she can’t easily be flanked while she stands in the door. Bullrushing her out through the door will take the players to the location in Part 3. When defeated, read the following.)

Hectala’s body falls to the ground. A moment of silence passes before her mouth parts open and a purple mist flows out, spiraling into the air. The mist coalesces into a Slumberself of Hectala. Unlike the other Slumberselves, Hectala appears aware of her surroundings for she floats above you and points emphatically before saying “Fools! I’ve prepared for this for years… I will return to life at dawn, sacrifing the life of one of the children in the village! By commanding their slumberself to die, I will siphon that life and return again and again, forever! While the power of the Hand of Glory remains merged with the roots of the Gallowspatch, nothing will be able to stop me!”

(Hectala will vanish at this point, fading into the background with a mad, cackling laughter. NOTE: Hectala’s picking up the villain ball when she makes her statement and blatantly monologuing, an oddly bombastic moment picked to match the tone of what might be expected from a Holiday-themed one-shot. If you want a greater challenge for the players, or don’t think the players will react well to what may be seen as a sign of incompetence from a villain, feel free to remove the final sentence of her statement and instead place it in the handwritten diary hidden in the room.)

***

Part 3: Guardian of the Gallowspatch

(Beyond Hectala is the more unkempt region of the Gallowspatch, one that she has turned into a rough garden. The central focus is a gigantic pumpkin the size of a small building, carved to have a monstrous face like a massive Jack O’Lantern. Sharp-eyed Rangers or Druids (or other characters with an affinity for Nature and Survival checks) might roll a DC 20 check if they wonder where the Gallows Tree is, and traces of its roots can be seen surrounding the massive pumpkin. Knowledge of where the tree’s final remnants are isn’t necessary, but may add some flavor for players. When the players leave Hectala’s shack and see the Gallowspatch for the first time, read the following.)

Hectala has created a small garden for herself on this side of the wall, an enclosure that keeps the tangles of gourds and squashes safe from woodland creatures. The dominating feature of the gallowspatch is a massive pumpkin the size of a small building. A grinning, but ghoulish, face has been carved into it, and a flickering light glows from within it.

(Players seeking things in the rest of the garden will only find gourds, other pumpkins, and a few rusted gardening and farming tools. The pumpkin is, as anyone familiar with this sort of game can probably guess, a massive but largely immobile monster. It was created by Hectala with the aid of the spirits that used to haunt the old gallows tree and is powered by the Hand of Glory within it. When the players eventually examine the pumpkin more closely, say the following.)

Moving closer to the pumpkin, the flickering light of an unnaturally bright candle becomes more apparent. Peering inside the pumpkin’s shell through the carved mouth, you can see a stump-like growth in the middle of the “chamber” inside. Stuck in this pumpkin-formed stump is a mummified left hand covered with wax. The hand itself grabs a blue and purple candle, which glows with an unnatural light.

(A DC 18 Spot check will allow a player to notice the subtle shifting of the pumpkin’s face. If the players don’t notice, or don’t just attack the pumpkin on principle, it will wait for a player to try to enter to try and attack.)

Jack the Guardian Gourd, CR 3
N Large Plant*
Hit Dice 4d8+24+3 (45 hp)
Initiative -2
Speed 0 ft. (0 squares; Jack is immobile)
AC 16 (10 – 1 (size) – 5 (immobile/dex) + 12 (rind); touch 4, flat-footed 16)
BAB/Grapple +3/NA (If you somehow figure out Grappling, his score is 10. Jack generally can’t grapple, though, and physiologically won’t be affected by grappling under most circumstances.  Grappling would pretty much instantly become climbing.)
Reach: 5 feet
Attack Bite melee +12 (1d8+6)
Special Qualities Pumpkin Spice, Plant Traits, Cold Vulnerability, Candle Reliance, Hand of Glory
Saves Fort +10, Ref +2, Will +3
Abilities
STR 23 (+6)
DEX 6 (-2); Immobile (effectively 0 for AC (-5))
CON 23 (+6)
INT 7 (-2)
WIS 12 (+1)
CHA 14 (+2)
Feats Toughness

Pumpkin Spice (Su): Hectala had attempted to infuse Jack with the essence of elemental fire. She never quite succeeded, but half of his damage dealt is fire damage (rounded down) caused by the heat drawn from the hand of glory.

Plant Traits (Ex): Among other things, being a plant means that Jack is immune to critical hits, sneak attack damage, poison, mind affecting effects, paralysis, sleep effects, polymorph and stunning.

Cold Vulnerability (Su): Hectala’s attempt to infuse Jack with the essence of elemental fire were partially successful but came with drawbacks. Jack takes double damage from cold energy, even on a successful saving throw.

Candle Reliance (Ex): Jack’s life is tied directly to the candle held in the Hand of Glory at his center. An arrow shot at the candle (AC 13) can extinguish the flame. If a player thinks to attack the candle and succeeds at the attack roll, the candle goes out and deals 4d8 points of damage to Jack immediately. This damage repeats every round on Jack’s turn. An attempt to hit the candle with a spell fails if it’s a spell that deals fire damage (in spite of a belief that fire would melt a candle), and any other spells used in this way requires the caster to make a DC 16 caster level check.

Hand of Glory (Su): Any character who successfully enters Jack while the candle is active is within the light of the candle. The character must succeed on a DC 16 Will save or fall into a magical sleep, as if affected by a Deep Slumber spell (elves and half-elves are immune to this effect.) This save must be made every round while the candle remains lit.

*The size “Large” refers only to Jack’s face, the only animated and active part of it (not counting vines). If all of Jack is included, it would be a Huge monster, but the back of the pumpkin wouldn’t be reactive (and wouldn’t have any true effect on Jack as only the face is truly “alive” in the sense that creatures in this game are alive). If the players attempt to attack the rest of the pumpkin, their attacks are futile due to the harder hide at that portion (causing bludgeoning weapons to bounce off) and the incredibly rapid healing that the rest of the pumpkin possesses (causing piercing or slashing weapons to pass through, but quickly reseal.)

(Jack will bite anyone who attempts to enter through his mouth as an attack of opportunity, though he only gets one attack of opportunity per round. Jack is also capable of biting anyone standing within five feet of him. If Jack successfully bites someone, it prevents their movement into his shell. Anyone who makes it past Jack’s bite attack will have to make a save against the Hand of Glory’s powerful sleep effect. The Hand of Glory is rooted to the pedestal-like growth inside the pumpkin, but once the candle is extinguished it can be removed easily Once the battle ends and the candle is claimed, say the following.)

An eerie stillness falls over the Gallowspatch. Moments later, you hear a scream of despair in Hectala’s voice, the sign of her realization that her ability to regain her life has by sacrificing the children has been taken away. With Hectala defeated and the Hand of Glory no longer powering the gourd guardian, you are free to return to the village to inform the locals that their children should finally be able to sleep soundly once again.
(So ends the adventure. If players want to continue beyond a one-shot, be sure to award proper treasure. The Hand of Glory itself can, with the cost of a candle, cause everyone in a twenty foot radius (except the one holding it) to fall into a magical slumper as if they were affected by a Deep Slumber spell, giving it a bare minimum value of 30,000 gp, so it’s probably a better idea to say that this feature of the Hand of Glory is lost when its connection to the Gallowspatch is severed (but you can still turn it into a regular Hand of Glory for a much more reasonable magic item, albeit an incredibly valuable one for first level.) Other treasure can be found hidden in Hectala’s hut, or given to the player’s as a reward when they return to the town.)

***

And there you have it. My (admittedly shoddy) attempt at putting together a Halloween adventure, an attempt that, due to Internet and time constraints, came to you three days late (four if you count Monday itself instead of starting on Tuesday.) This adventure hasn’t been playtested, so be sure to run it at your own risk.

Thanks for putting up with my month of Spookier topics. Be sure to return next week when Magical Mondays will resume regular, non-spooky magic talk for gaming. (And hopefully it’ll actually be on Monday again when that time comes.) Happy Halloween, everyone!

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2 responses to “Magical Mondays: Halloween One-Shot

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  1. Thanks, I am using this for a one shot.

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