The Haunted Mansion

[When I transferred posts to this new blog, I came across this adventure inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion that I wrote in October of 2010. It was in draft form, but I’d swear I had already posted it when I wrote it. On the off chance that I didn’t … here it is for the month of October – enjoy!]

This is a bit of a rush job – I just thought of it this morning. I think the inspiration is pretty obvious. Hopefully it will at least give folks a laugh.

The old manor that overlooks the harbor is well known to the locals, who avoid it at all costs. Owned by a successful ship captain, it was once the jewel of the town. It seems the ship captain planned to wed a local girl of tremendous grace and beauty, and invited her to live in his home while he was away on a voyage. On his return, they would be wed. His only request was that she never venture into the attic! Alas, on the happy day the guests arrived at the manor and made merry in the ballroom while the bride was dressed and made ready. The handsome captain arrived home and sought out his bride, and was aghast when he discovered her in the attic. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she broke his only request and discovered his secret – a chest of pirate booty! The man strangled her and then hung himself.

 

If only this was the end of the sad tale – for the ghost of the pirate now descended on the happy revelers, sealing them into the manor and murdering them. Their spirits now haunt the mansion and challenge any who would venture in to discover the pirate’s treasure!

The mansion has wooden walls that resist all blows. Doors are also made of wood, but quite resistant to battering, and they always close on their own a few minutes after being opened. Windows are apparent on the outside of the manor, but on the interior either disappear entirely or allow no light to enter. The rooms and halls are appointed with candle sconces and candles lit with ghostly lights.

1. This entry hall is dusty and covered with cobwebs, but otherwise well appointed. An opening in the north wall leads into the gallery. Once the gallery has been entered, the opening is shut by a sliding wall that foils all attempts to force it open.

2. This gallery has a high ceiling and several portraits of aristocratic folk. Once the sliding wall has closed, the gallery will appear to stretch and the portraits will take on a sinister aspect, depicting their aristocratic subjects dying grisley deaths. A ghostly voice will call out, taunting the adventurers that there is no escape from the room. As the voice laughs menacingly, the gallery goes dark and then the ceiling is lit as though from a bolt of lightning, revealing a body hanging from the rafters. Each henchman with the adventurers must now make a saving throw or be possessed by a spirit of death that will transform them into mouldering coffer corpses.

Coffer Corpse: HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 fist (1d6); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, choking.

3. This dark hallway is decorated with pictures of mouldering corpses and two busts that follow the adventurers progress down the hall.

4. This room is a kitchen inhabited by a poltergeist. The kitchen contains numerous knives, rolling pins and other dangerous objects.

Poltergeist: HD 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk None; Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Fear, invisibility, incorporeal, only harmed by silver or magic weapons.

5. At the top of the stairs one sees a long corridor lit by a floating candelabra. Once adventurers enter 10 feet into the hallway they will be trapped in a pocket dimension – no matter how far one walks in either direction, they cannot leave the hallway without fighting the phantasm holding the candelabra.

Phantasm: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 incorporeal touch (1d6 + level drain); Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 6; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Level drain, magic jar, desecration.

6. This conservatory holds a coffin that is partially nailed shut. A skeletal entity inside the coffin is attempting to escape while four murder crows look on from above. The crows will attack any who enter the conservatory. The occupant of the coffin is a cadaver – he cannot escape without help.

Cadaver: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk 2 claws (1d4 + disease) and bite (1d6 + disease); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Disease (fever, -1d3 Con per day until two successive daily saves are made), regenerates 1 hp/rd after being dropped to 0 hp.

Murder Crow: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 2 claws (1d4) and bite (1d6); Move 3 (Fly 30); Save 6; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Eye-rake (if both claw attacks hit, save or blindness), when killed it explodes into a swarm of normal crows.

7. The door to this room appears to bulge outward. The room is occupied by a bogeyman, a young woman of aristocratic appearance who made the sad mistake of attending the wedding those many years ago.

Bogeyman: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d6); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Bump in night, frighten, shadow shift.

8. As adventures enter this comfortable room a swarm of 6 shadow rats will emerge from one wall and attack.

Shadow Rats: HD 1d6; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 bite (1d3 + 1d2 Strength); Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Incorporeal (only harmed by magic weapons and spells).

9. When one reaches the center of this room, which is decorated with clocks, they will suffer from a slow effect. The room will appear to grow to five times its actual dimensions, and each round spent in the room will age the adventurers 10 years.

10. Two hapless apparitions of twin moneychangers occupy this room for eternity. Their corpses, hacked by a hatchet, are in the center of the room clutching a leather sack of 300 gold pieces.

Apparition: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk See special; Move 15; Save 8; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Only harmed by silver or magic weapons, sense living creatures, choking.

11. Three ghoulish maids feast on the remains of three bridesmaids in yellow taffeta. If the ghouls are dispatched, the bridesmaids’ skeletons will burst from their bodies and attack.

12. This was the room of the bride, now empty. The wardrobe contains rich clothing of velvet and silk (worth a total of 200 gp) and a jewelry box holds a golden ring on a severed finger. Anyone touching the ring must make a saving throw or be “magic jarred” into the ring – a mourning ring – their body being transformed into a vengeful demiurge.

Demiurge: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d4); Move 12 (Fly 18); Save 8; CL/XP 13/2300; Special: Transfix, soul touch, only harmed by magic weapons or cold-wrought iron weapons.

13. This séance room holds a round table and a tall wooden chair. Musical instruments float about the room, held aloft by a pesky poltergeist. A crystal ball rests on the table and holds the image of a medium’s head, one Madame Leota. Upon entering, Leota will say the following:

“Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat/Call in the spirits, wherever they’re at./Rap on a table, it’s time to respond/Send us a message from somewhere beyond./Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween/Awaken the spirits with your tambourine./Creepies and crawlies, toads in a pond/Let there be music from regions beyond./Wizards and witches wherever you dwell/Give us a hint by ringing a bell.”

Asking her a question causes a tarot card to appear on the table. Picking up the card activates it as though it were from a Deck of Many Things.

14. This balcony overlooks a dining hall. The western portion of the room is occupied by a table filled with a gruesome feast being consumed by wights garbed as though from ancient Rome and Egypt. Other wights are riding chandeliers and drinking from bottles of wine (poison). Portraits of duelists hang on the wall, and the ghosts therein will, every 1d4 rounds, appear over their portraits and fire one of their ghostly guns (or crossbows, if you prefer) at an adventurer. Those hit by a bullet or bolt must pass a saving throw or be paralyzed for one round. The eastern portion of the room holds a dozen waltzing ghosts and a mouldering organ player. His ornate organ draws shadows from the Land of the Dead into the material world. 1d6 shadows appear each round to challenge the party. The organist is a wraith.

15. This attic holds a chest of pirate treasure (10,000 gp worth) and the ghost of the bride, turned into a bhuta by her brutal murder at the hands of her beloved sea captain. The only way out of this room is the window overlooking the graveyard.

Bhuta: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP ; Special: Death grip.

16. This graveyard offers the only means of escape from the dark dimension of the Haunted Mansion. Each round spent in the place carries a 1 in 6 chance that a mortuary cyclone will arise. Once defeated, the threat of the mortuary cyclone is ended.

The graveyard is filled with tombstones and stone crypts. The doors to the crypts are easy to open but difficult to re-open once the crypt is entered. Each crypt is a room with coffins sealed into the floor or resting on shelves in the walls.

17. This crypt is occupied by the ghosts of five musicians. A brass bell hangs from the ceiling, and when rung causes all undead within 10 feet to make a saving throw or be disrupted (i.e. stunned) for one round. Disrupted undead also suffer 1d6 damage. Each spirit has a golden harp that can be seized when the creature is destroyed. Each harp is worth 500 gp and can cast a charm person spell once per day in the hands of a trained harpist.

Groaning Spirits: HD 7; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 touch (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Chilling touch, aura of fear, keening, only harmed by magic weapons.

18. This crypt holds two aristocratic corpses, now animated as ghasts.

19. This crypt holds the spirit of an executioner and a headless knight. Both are spectres.

20. This crypt appears empty. A loose flagstone reveals a brass lock made for a large key. If the key from area 21 is used, it will cause the entire crypt to sink down into the earth, revealing a long, dark tunnel lined with mirrors. Looking into the mirror will cause a wicked spirit to attach itself to the adventurer (treat as a Bestow Curse spell – no save). At the end of the corridor there is a stairway leading back into the real world, apparently depositing the adventures in a small, stone outbuilding of the Haunted Mansion and into the daylight.

21. This crypt is larger inside than it would appear on the outside. It offers a winding set of stairs down into the earth that end in a small chamber with three doors. The first door holds a gang of four barrow wights guarding a large brass key. The second door holds a crypt thing that will teleport the adventurers back to room 2 in the mansion. The final door holds another set of stairs that seem to go at least 100 feet down into the cold earth. The end in a cavern through which flows a black river of moaning souls. A skeletal boatman waits on the shore, beckoning adventurers forward. The boatman is a charonadaemon, and he will carry adventurers into the realm of Hades.

Barrow Wights: HD 6; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 slam (1d4+3 + level drain); Move 12; Save 11; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Gaze causes confusion, drain one level with slam attack (save negates), characters killed by a barrow wight rise as barrow wights one round later.

Crypt Thing: HD 6+1; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 claw (1d8); Move 15; Save 11; CL/XP 7/600; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, teleport.

Charonadaemon: HD 10; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 staff (1d8); Move 15; Save 5; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: Spells, fear gaze, summon demons, only harmed by magic weapons, magic resistance 55%, plane shift, telepathy.

22. This is the crypt of a transplanted mummy. It wears a golden circlet worth 1,000 gp that is poisonous to the first person who touches it (save or die).

Apparition
Apparitions are ethereal undead that are only vulnerable to attack when they themselves attack. They are reluctant to approach mirrors or objects made of pure silver. Apparitions usually speak common. They surprise on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6. Although an apparition cannot actually touch a victim, it creates the sensation of choking; a victim that succeeds at a saving throw is stricken with horror and must flee for 1d4 rounds, while a victim that fails his save must also make a saving throw or suffer a massive heart attack and die on the spot. A victim killed by an apparition will rise as an apparition in 2d4 hours.

Apparition: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk See special; Move 15; Save 8; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Only harmed by silver or magic weapons, sense living creatures, choking.

Bhuta
A bhuta is the spirit of a person who was murdered. For about 2 weeks they appear as they did in life; thereafter they begin to rot and take on a ghoulish appearance. When a bhuta hits with both claw attacks it fastens its hands around the victims throat and chokes for automatic claw damage each round. Breaking the bhuta’s grip requires one to roll 1d20 (adding their strength bonus or penalty) and meeting or beating 18.

Bhuta: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 claws (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP ; Special: Death grip.

Bogeyman
Bogeymen look like translucent humans with delicate, childlike features. They can create phantasmic sounds and images (per phantom force) at will and those who look upon them must save vs. fear or stand frozen with fear for 1d6+2 rounds. Bogeymen can travel between shadows per the dimension door spell.

Bogeyman: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d6); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Bump in night, frighten, shadow shift.

Charonadaemon
Charonadaemons appear as skeletal boatmen in black robes. They always have a skiff and staff. They can cast the following spells: Darkness 15’ radius, detect invisibility, fear and teleport (including their skiff). Once per day they can attempt to summon 1d4 vrocks or another charonadaemon with a 35% chance of success. They can steer their skiff into the Astral and Ethereal Planes, as well as the plane of Hades. As daemons, they are immune to acid and poison and suffer half damage from cold, fire and electricity.

Charonadaemon: HD 10; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 staff (1d8); Move 15; Save 5; CL/XP 15/2900; Special: Spells, fear gaze, summon demons, only harmed by magic weapons, magic resistance 55%, plane shift, telepathy.

Coffer Corpse
These undead resemble zombies. Although most coffer corpses attack with their fists, 25% are armed with weapons. Creatures hit by the coffer corpse’s fists must make a saving throw to avoid be grabbed around the neck and choked, suffering 1d6 damage per round automatically until killed; nothing can make it release its grip.

Normal weapon appear to do damage to a coffer corpse, but they actually do not. If the creature sustains 6 or more points of damage from a normal weapon, it will go down as though destroyed. It will then rise again, causing fear in those who witness the revival and fail a saving throw.

Coffer Corpse: HD 2+2; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 fist (1d6); Move 9; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Only harmed by magic weapons, choking.

Demiurge
Demiurge are incorporeal spirits that look like humans with sunken noses, empty eye sockets and semi-transparent flesh. Their gaze acts as a hold person spell. A demiurge can fly through a person’s body, forcing them to pass a saving throw or die instantly.

Demiurge: HD 8; AC 3 [16]; Atk 1 touch (1d4); Move 12 (Fly 18); Save 8; CL/XP 13/2300; Special: Transfix, soul touch, only harmed by magic weapons or cold-wrought iron weapons.

Groaning Spirit
Groaning spirits appear as incorporeal female elves. Their touch causes one point of strength drain unless a saving throw is passed. Anyone viewing a groaning spirit must pass a saving throw or flee in terror for 1d6+4 rounds. Once per day a groaning spirit can emit a death wail that forces anyone hearing it to pass a saving throw or drop dead.

Groaning Spirits: HD 7; AC 2 [17]; Atk 1 touch (1d8); Move 12; Save 9; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Chilling touch, aura of fear, keening, only harmed by magic weapons.

Phantasm
Phantasms are spirits of pure evil. They look like hooded spectres with tentacle-like arms. The phantasm’s touch drains one level unless a saving throw is made. It can use the spell Magic Jar once per round to take possession of a creature on the material plane. The phantasm is surrounded by a 10-ft diameter aura in which undead are turned as though 3 Hit Dice greater.

Phantasm: HD 9; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 incorporeal touch (1d6 + level drain); Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 6; CL/XP 12/2000; Special: Level drain, magic jar, turned as a 12 HD creature.

Poltergeist
Poltergeists are “noisy spirits” encountered where they were originally killed. They are invisible and incorporeal and can only be harmed by silver or magic weapons. They can attack by throwing unattended objects, hitting as though they were 5 HD creatures. Creatures hit by a flying object suffer no damage, but must pass a charisma save or be affected by fear, fleeing in a random direction for 2d12 rounds. There is a 50% chance a victim will drop what he is carrying while fleeing. Holy water and strongly presented holy symbols will drive poltergeists back but not harm them.

Poltergeist: HD 1d4; AC 9 [10]; Atk None; Move 6; Save 18; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Fear, invisibility, incorporeal, only harmed by silver or magic weapons.

“don’t forget your death certificate”

Save

Save

Dragon by Dragon – October 1980

While the world is embracing Spring outside (at least here in Las Vegas), Dragon by Dragon is getting into Fall, with the cover to the October 1980 issue warning “the doomed only beyond this point”. Let us throw caution to the wind, and dare to plumb the depths of issue #41 of Dragon.

For a start, the cover is by Steve Oliff, and is his first for the magazine. Steve is nothing to sneeze at – he has his own Wikipedia entry! Check out his official site if you have a mind to.

Todd Lockwood also has a piece inside – I’m looking forward to it.

I think it’s important for those who are interested in the history of gaming to understand that the same petty moaning and complaining that goes on on the internet today went on on the letters page of Dragon 30 years ago. This issue we have the ever common “I don’t like it, so nobody else should get to see it because its existence negates my happiness” stuff, but also this little gem …

“While I found the article in #37 on neutral dragons interesting, I should like to point out that there is no real need for them in anyone’s world.”

So there you have it. Mr. X (I won’t reprint his name) has spoken. I’d like to point out that there’s also no real need for idiots in the world, but what would be the point.

Speaking of art that one letter writer probably didn’t like …

 

… the contribution by Todd Lockwood, I believe. Now, onto the cool stuff in this issue:

First and foremost, we have a selection of new monsters by Tom Moldvay, including Saraphs from the Elemental Plane of Fire, the Apollyon (servants of Death), the Asperim, who are “super-imps” meant to exasperate players and the Hacamuli (one of the messengers of Orcus).

Since the Apollyon got an illustration, I’ll do some quick Blood & Treasure stats for him:

Apollyon: Large Outsider, HD 15, AC 16 [+1], MV 30′, Fly 60′, ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (1d8 + Poison IV), Very intelligent, Neutral alignment; Special-Death ray eyes (1d100 damage), wounds from claws will not heal except by magic and bleed for 1d4 damage per round until healed, bite poison can only be neutralized by cleric.

Ashleigh Parker presents some more new monsters, born in the depths of Hell – the Possessors. Their prince is Selm, and there are three types – Kuei, Pisachas and Asuras. These are incorporeal monsters who are used to possess mortals. They would make highly interesting monsters in a campaign of court intrigue – multiple people possessed by different possessors, all serving Hell unwittingly. Just when the players think they’ve gotten to the bottom of it, they realize they’ve only uncovered one layer of the plot.

Lewis Pulsipher chimes in with “Patron Demons”. This is a neat article, with rules for Chaotic Evil characters making pacts with demon princes. By making sacrifices, he or she can call on the demon prince, who will either show up himself, sent a lesser demon, or send a monster to fight with the caller. You could use this article as the basis for some Chaos Cult wars – the players busting chaos cults, who are sacrificing innocents and then can call on demon princes to help them conquer a kingdom or who knows what.

Here’s a clip from George Laking‘s “Restless Dead” article …

“A thief, however, may attempt to steal from the dead. The Dungeon Master should judge the success and the possible repercussions of the attempt on the type and amount of grave goods taken, precautions-magical and otherwise-taken by the thief, methods used and other significant variables.

Note that robbing any burial mound of recent manufacture (defined as up to ten centuries old) will bring back the dead spirit 10-100% of the time, depending on the age of the burial mound. The DM rolls a d 10 to determine age. then percentile dice to see if the spirit responds.”

The article goes on to describe hauntings by various undead NPC’s who the characters were too cheap to bury properly.

Speaking of quotes, this one from Gary Gygax in “Making Monsters Meaningful”

“Too often DMs complain that monsters are too weak, spells and magic too strong, or players too clever. What is actually stated in most such cases is that the DM is a Dungeon Milquetoast rather than Master.”

The Old Man, throwing some shade.

Quite often, I’ve found that I had to hold back because I was a bit better at tactics than my players, and could make minor encounters pretty threatening just by using some common sense. You have to gauge your players – if they’re good, go all in. If they’re not, killing 20 characters a session won’t do anyone much good, so slow down and hope they catch up.

The Gygax article also features a couple new spells, Crystalbrittle and Energy Drain.

I haven’t mentioned G. Arthur Rahman‘s “Minarian Legends” articles for a few issues, but they’re always very impressive and well worth reading for folks working on creating interesting, engaging, deep campaign worlds.

In Sage Advice, one for the “I like where they’re minds are at” file …

“Question: Is it possible for a high-level Cleric and Magic- User to work in conjunction to create a moving Blade barrier? A Telekinesis spell would provide the motion.”

Oh, and apparently, no – it wouldn’t work. But that’s what the spell research rules are for …

Also …

“Question: When an offensive spell’s range is “touch,” does the touch have to be with a hand?”

Hmmm

In a Len Lakofka article about the inner planes, there is an interesting table for generating whether encountered monsters with Int scores of 4 or lower are hostile. It depends on the relative strength of the party, if they look rich (Occupy Greyhawk?), if the monsters are hungry, etc. Check it out …

 

You could probably simplify by saying 5% chance per following condition met: Monsters chaotic, monsters evil, monster’s hungry, party outnumbered (by 2 to 1 or more), party looks rich, party looks weak. That gives a max 30% chance of unintelligent monsters being hostile.

If the monsters are intelligent, you can allow alignment differences to play a role.

I’m of a divided mind on these articles. My instinct would be to let the inner plane be an exotic place with some rules lite ways to make it distinct from the Material Plane. On the other hand, if a group of adventurers has advanced from 1st level to the point where they can enter the elemental planes, maybe you should take some major pains to make it more than just the material plane with some fancy window dressing.

At a minimum, his descriptions of the planes are pretty cool …

“Elemental Plane of Earth: Soils are translucent, though they may be differently colored. Rock and mineral formations are solid (cannot be seen through or passed through) if they are over one cubic foot in volume. Pebbles and the like can be passed through and seen through. Large rock formations might require Passwall or Phase Door spells. Either spell would produce much longer tunnels on the Elemental Plane of Earth than on the Prime Material.”

 

Giants in the Earth time! Moldvay brings us the following legends this month:

  • Poul Anderson’s Tauno Kraken’s-Bane (8th level half-elf ranger) from The Merman’s Children – a reminder I need to read more Anderson.
  • Robert Adams’ Sir Geros Lahvohettos (9th level fighter) from Revenge of the Horseclans – a series I’ve heard of, but never read.
  • Gordon R Dickson’s James Eckert/Gorbash (0 level teaching assistant/10 HD dragon) from The Dragon and the George – which is sitting on my side table waiting for me to finish The Three Musketeers.
  • Orvar-Odd (21st level fighter) from Arrow-Odd: A Medieval Novel translated by Paul Edwards and Hermann Palsson
  • Heidrek (15th level fighter) from Hervor’s Saga

TSR would do well to cobble all of the stats Moldvay did for Norse heroes and legends and put them out as a mini-Legends and Lore.

Andrew South has a new monster in this issue, the Quatsch. The quatsch is a monkey with yellow fur and a skull face. Here are some quick B&T stats:

Quatsch, Small Monster: HD 1; AC 15; MV 40′; ATK bite (1d4); AL CN; XP 100 (CL 2); Special-Voice causes confusion.

From Phil Meyers, there is the Necroton, a sort of metal crab construct made by wizards – super old school cool in the illustration by Roger Raupp

Necroton, Large Construct: HD 8 to 12 (40-60 hp); AC 17/21 [+1]; MV 30′; ATK 2 pincers (2d6); AL N (NE); XP 4,000 to 6,000 (CL 10 to 14); Special-Eyebeams (paralysis for 1d3 rounds or, 1/day, fireball with damage dice equal to monster HD)

Greg Holley introduces the super-intelligent elemental Well Spirit and Jon Mattson brings the Sandbats and Swampbats – giant flying manta rays dudes. Awesome.

The final piece in this issue is “The Mansion of Mad Professor Ludlow” by James Ward. This is D&D, but not quite D&D. From the introductory paragraph:

“You are all young campers on a week-long camping trip through the woods and wilderness. In the middle of a nighttime hike, you become separated from the rest of your group. None of you is worried, however; you have all taken excellent compass directions and are sure you can eventually find your way back to the campsite. So, with this great chance to do a little exploring on your own, you set out into the woods as a group.”

This one begs to be played on Halloween – could be a good Google+ live session. And how about that Willingham art?

As always, I leave you with Tramp’s Wormy. Have a productive week citizens, and if you can’t be Lawful, at least try to be Good.