The party begins this journey while staying in a decrepit, sparse forest. The night is unusually dark with heavy storm clouds hinting the start of a downpour. Shortly after midnight the adventurers are visited by a charming, energetic man, This fellow has no truly distinguishing features, and makes no effort to mask his presence when moving into the area.
"I am just but a humble servant from an estate a few mere miles away from here. We noticed your group traveling through the area and I was sent out to warn you about tonight—things are not what they seem. We are requesting your presence; please come and visit the mansion, where we’ll host your safety.” The man bows with a sly smile flashing across his face.
After the bow and smile, lighting strikes the party's campfire and blinds them for a round; when their sight returns the man is gone and the only thing left is a gem-studded key.
If the party searches for footprints or tracks, there a none to be found, which anyone that succeeds on a DC 18 Perception or Survival check can easily discern. Even though the forest seems the same, the atmosphere of the woods has become unrecognizable, as though a suffocating pressure weighs upon the adventurers’ minds, dulling any colors that are vivid (something noticed by anyone that succeeds a DC 25 Perception check).
When the lighting struck, the PCs were shifted to an alternate universe just slightly out of alignment with their normal dimension. This effect does not hamper the party in any way other than the slight distortion of color. Any detection spell or compass seems to still give out the right cardinal directions, but these always lead to one of the Macabre Manses until adventurers have successfully braved the haunted estate. [Of which there are four across the month of October—the first is tomorrow! -MM]
After the party has traveled roughly a mile in any direction, they find a long, broken cobble road. After about 5 minutes of walking along it the PCs run into a large gate with a pair of overlooking gargoyles statues staring at an unusually large lock hanging from the entrance.
When the adventurers approach the gate, anyone that succeeds a DC 31 Perception check notices the statues are stirring for a fight. The creatures take to the air and spread out, racing to see how many of the PCs they can kill. Once the party has defeated these monsters, they find that the key unlocks the gate—should they dare to proceed into the mansion (though should they walk in any other direction, the PCs walk out of the woods and right back up to the entryway).
SCALING THE ENCOUNTER
To modify this encounter, apply the following changes:
CR 3 (XP 1,200): Remove one gargoyle from the fight and add the young template to the gargoyle (+2 to all Dex-based rolls, –2 on all other rolls, –2 hp/HD. Reduce the DR to 5/magic)
CR 11 (XP 12,800): Change the regular gargoyles to four-armed gargoyles.
[Submitted by Tim Snow!]