Upon entering the Macabre Manse, the PCs trigger the reverse possession effect of the fleshdoll stage. The entire house—including the areas outdoors such as the front porch—are encompassed by the artifact’s area of effect. If the PCs remain in the area of effect for the five minute activation period, they are automatically affected by the fleshdoll stage, their bodies dropping lifelessly to the floor, their helpless spirits drawn into the artifact.
The PCs remain disembodied with the foreboding sense that something terrible is happening. Though unable to communicate, each feels the sense of being bound and unable to move. Soon that feeling fades and the adventurers awaken, each sitting in a darkened area illuminated only periodically by the flashes of lightning from outside that illuminate the room from some unseen opening or window.
Madam Sutradhara has bound the souls of the PCs to fleshdolls, and they are awakening for the first time in their new bodies. She has left them set neatly upon the fleshdoll stage with her other puppets, and has retired for the evening. It will take a few moments for the party to realize that they are not in their own bodies any longer. If a character speaks, they find that their voices seem higher in pitch, and slightly hollow.
To randomly determine what fleshdolls the PCs have been bound to, use the following chart. Each member of the party should have a unique fleshdoll form, so if the roll to determine their appearance is the same as it was for another, then roll again to determine a unique fleshdoll appearance.
|1d100||Random Fleshdoll Appearance|
|1-8||Human male in fine attire (like an aristocrat or nobleman) carrying a tiny felt tome.|
|9-16||Human female in a magnificent silk gown and sparkling tiara (like a princess).|
|17-24||Halfling male in brightly colored tights and bells with a polished glass marble in each hand.|
|25-32||Halfling female dressed as a swashbuckler with a daring tricord, carrying a rapier and dagger.|
|33-40||Elven male in miniature leather armor carrying a twine leash with a felt briar wolf.|
|41-48||Elven female dressed in nothing but vivid autumn leaves with a gnarled twig as a staff.|
|49-56||Dwarven male with tin plate armor and a fuzzy beard, dull tin battleaxe in hand.|
|57-64||Dwarven female wearing a cotton gown and leather apron, faux tankards of ale in each hand.|
|65-72||Drow male wearing tattered leather loincloth and black iron collar, mouth sewn shut.|
|73-80||Drow female wearing a faux spider-web dress and carrying a tiny cat o’ nine tails.|
|81-85||Pig wearing a lawman’s outfit, carrying a tiny club and wanted poster for a goat.|
|86-90||Gnarled wooden-horned goat wearing a pair of sharp leather boots and a wide brimmed hat.|
|91-95||Anthropomorphized donkey carrying its own pin-laden tail in hand.|
|96-100||Anthropomorphized chicken with articulated wings instead of arms wearing purple pantaloons and a leather falconer’s hood so that it cannot see.|
The PCs are on a large stage with tall red curtains drawn shut. When they look beyond the curtains they see what appears to be a study, though everything is enormous in size as if fitted for a giant—it shouldn’t take much time for the party to figure out that they now inhabit the bodies of miniature dolls.
Awakening at generally the same time, the party likely first reconvenes behind the curtain. If the PCs are familiar with each other, they are be able to denote who is whom by their voices—though the tone of each seems more high pitched and squeaky. Otherwise, they should be able to determine who resides in each fleshdoll body by the process of elimination.
Once the PCs have spent several minutes discussing and exploring their environment they are approached by the other fleshdolls, who have been hiding in the shadows observing the new arrivals. There are five in total each elegantly crafted. There is a human maiden dressed in a vibrant red gown, what appears to be an anthropomorphized otter in a high priest’s garment, two bald halflings dressed identically with their faces painted like clowns, and lastly a long-haired, dashing hero, who seems to be in lead of the troop as he approaches in the front.
Who are the other fleshdolls?
The dashing hero – Thomas Hiendlewyn (CG Male human bard 8): As the former lover of Sutradhara who she feels betrayed her to his wife, he is both the original owner of this estate as well as the focus of the masterminder’s ire. His fleshdoll has been crafted in his own likeness as depicted in his youth (when he was involved with Madam Sutradhara).
The red-dressed maiden – Alivya Hiendlewyn (NG Female human commoner 1): The wife of Thomas, it was she whom Sutradhara blames for “stealing” her lover. Her fleshdoll has been made into the likeness of Madam Sutradhara in her youth, and she has been condemned to reenact the story of the two former lovers countless times. She is emotionally broken, and frequently speaks of just ending it all, though Thomas is quick to reassure her that one day they will escape the hellish torment of the fleshdoll stage.
The bald halfling clowns – Richard and Foster Hiendlewyn (NG Male human fighters 3): Twin brothers and the sons of Thomas and Alivya, in life they both were strapping young lads, but as fleshdolls they have been reduced to bumbling half-witted clowns. Their anger towards Madam Sutradhara is unending, and they are quick to assist the PCs with any plan hatched to kill her.
The otter priest – Vencent Tolmyre (NG Male human commoner 1): Father of Alivya, his involvement in matters was mere circumstance. He happened to be visiting his daughter at his son-in-laws estate when Madam Sutradhara first arrived with the fleshdoll stage and imprisoned the family. He is often forced by the masterminder to preside over a marriage ceremony between the maiden and hero fleshdolls—a rendition of what the crone necromancer believes was taken from her by Thomas’ betrayal.
Thomas has been awaiting the arrival of several able-bodied (as it were) adventurers who could help him devise and enact a plan to escape. He knows the only solution is to kill the Madam Sutradhara and he has been plotting for many years the best way to do just that.
If the PCs can earn his trust with a DC 20 Diplomacy check, he reveals to them a compartment he has crafted in the floor of the stage. Within they find a pair of sheers (broken apart to form two sturdy blades [treat as two Large-sized daggers]) which he plans to use to kill his former lover.
If the PCs gain his trust, the group may spend the evening hours plotting the plan to overthrow Madam Sutradhara, a grisly affair which must ultimately end with her murder.
Additional Information that can be learned from the other fleshdolls:
- Thomas explains how the masterminder utilizes ventriloquism to voice their roles during a performance, and how she uses her dark powers to control their movements. Through the years he has discovered with enough focus it is possible to withstand her supernatural suggestions, though it is no easy task. He suggests that the PCs play along during the upcoming performance, showing no resistance, until the time is right to strike.
- The PCs are told by their fellow fleshdolls about Madam Sutradhara’s perverse puppeteers bond and warned not to wander too far beyond the stage lest suffer the fiery wrath of its curse.
- Madam Sutradhara has been writing a new play, a grand performance, and until now she didn’t have enough fleshdolls to fill all of the roles. Now that she does, it is assured that there is going to be a performance the following evening.
- All the collected souls of theatrical torment know the story of Madam Sutradhara; who she was before becoming a dark and twisted necromancer, what drove her to the dark arts, and how the fleshdoll stage came into being. [Covered in more detail in this Friday’s post! – JAM]