The blood red moon rising signals the coming of Hensley’s Mansion again on this Hallow’s Eve. As per usual, the mansion manifests itself in a yellow fog, atop the hill. Lights flash from the top of the old house, briefly outlining a strange figure with a large head in the darkness. A small crowd has gathered a fair distance from the estate—as they always do every Hallow’s Eve—anticipating the coming of the yellow fog which takes the mansion away before daylight. Prayers are uttered as the local priest consecrates the ground and anticipation is high as the moon sets when the yellow fog arrives to take the house away. As the mist closes, lightning spirals out from the top of the Hensley’s Mansion, illuminating the entire hillside and dissipating the fog. In a stunning development the entire estate has returned and this time, it seems, for good. Even though sunrise is nigh, the region grows darker and colder; evil is clearly afoot.
The approach to Hensley’s Mansion has been cleared; the grounds in front of the entrance, while not manicured, have opened up to make a path from the battered iron gate fence to the front door. The grounds are covered in thick vines that snake up the sides of the house—it is almost as if there is one giant vine covering the entire area. The doors of the old manse are slightly ajar.
When the PCs approach the house the temperature drops as a light mist obscures the ground, swirling at the party’s feet. In the fog, the shapes of jack-o’-lanterns appear and when the PCs enter area 1, the scared to death haunt takes effect.
The vines covering Hensley’s Mansion act as a black tentacles spell (CL 15th); climbing the walls requires a DC 15 Climb check.
The inside of the house is mostly empty. Peeling paper hangs from the walls, the wooden floors have deep scratches in them, and every window is covered by the vines from the outside. Even so, a cold breeze blows down the hallways and shadows shift about on the walls. Most of the rooms are sparsely furnished as either bedrooms or parlors.
The entire area is dimly lit unless otherwise noted.
Rooms 17 and 24 are open and the alcoves at the ends are painted with pumpkin themed frescoes.
Area 3 is an entryway opening up to the roof with staircases on either side.
Room 7 is a dining room, with the adjacent 8,9,10,13 and 14 rooms being kitchens and larders.
Most of the 2nd floor rooms are studies and libraries with many books, scrolls, and treatises on golems and horticulture. The entire collection is quite obscure and rare and is worth about 5,000 gp to a collector.
With the exception of the observatory (42) and the cellar (43-44), each room has a 20% chance of containing a jack-o’-lantern.
The cellar downstairs is dark.
Room 43 is full of scrolls, reagents, tools, and potions. There are 2d4 random potions and 1d4 random medium scrolls in this room. Roll on the magic item tables in the Core Rulebook to figure out type.
The door to area 44 is locked (DC 30 Disable Device) but not trapped. The door is made of thick iron, and has been barricaded from the inside (DC 30 Break, 10 hardness, 90 hp, DC 25 Strength to open once unlocked or broken due to barricade). Inside the room is a grotesque display—a skeleton lies in the back corner, surrounded by several withered vines and broken pumpkins. It clutches an old journal in one hand and an expended wand in the other.
The book details Hensley’s research into creating inexpensive golems with enough intellect to carry out tasks. It acts as a pumpkingolem manual. Towards the back however, Hensley has scrawled several notes on harnessing extra-planar intelligences and infusing them into golems. His last entries detail his attempt on fusing this intelligence into his newly made pumpkin golem—Hensley believed that he could create a super-vine and craft several golems at once from it. Drawings in the book show what appears to be a ritual to be completed in the observatory of the house (on the roof). Underestimating the forces he was dealing with, the mage opened up a gateway to a previously unknown plane that feeds on terror. His new golem, rather than a faithful, intelligent servant, became a horrifying conduit to this plane of terror. He barricaded himself in the workshop and closed the gate as a few of his creations began to attack; one of his golems escaped, but he managed to destroy the others. His last words detail his house leaving this plane, drawn into the plane of terror for good. Hensley thinks that he closed the gate permanently, but was obviously mistaken.
When the PCs climb the stairs to area 3b, they see a small wooden platform containing a pedestal holding a thick tome; this is the hangman trap.
At the top of the spiral stairs a trap door leads to the observatory (42). It is locked (DC 30 Disable Device) and reinforced (DC 30 Break, Hardness 6, 70 hp). When the PCs get to the observatory, a single pumpkin golem stands near a brass telescope. The vines that cover the house all meet here, under the device. Mist cascades from its eyepiece, blanketing the vines—as the mist travels along them, several pumpkins begin to form faces and the vines twist, creating a great golem patch.
The pumpkin golem attempts to keep the party away from the telescope. Moving the device breaks the ritual, something any PC discovers with a DC 30 Knowledge (planes) check. Moving the telescope requires either a DC 40 Strength check (a standard action) or a DC 25 Knowledge (engineering)check and a full round action. The ritual completes in 2d4+4 rounds if uninterrupted; 10d6 pumpkin golems immediately animate in the vines and begin to scour the area, looking for victims to terrify and kill.
When the ritual is interrupted the vines wither and die, imploding the pumpkins. This breaks the black tentacles effect of the vines as yellow mist begins to form around the house; in 1d4+1 rounds, Hensley’s Mansion is transported to the plane of terror (along with anyone inside it), never to return.
If leading into this week’s sidequest from “Finding the Macabre Manses” the PCs should be at least vaguely aware that someone (or something) has ushered them to their current locale. While the exact entity behind the strange events in the forest remains unknown, a DC 30 Knowledge (religion)check raises suspicion that some element of the divine is at play here, though the reason remains unclear.
In this case, the mysterious man who appeared at their campfire was in fact a powerful lawful good outsider—a being in service to a good deity whom has chosen the party (either for their virtues, or perhaps due to their lack of them) to put an end the meddling of an evil demon who has come to lurk upon this plane of existence for a while longer than the deity would prefer.
The demon has currently allowed its power to be bound to a cursed artifact, the fleshdoll stage, where it takes great joy in further twisting the mind of Madam Sutradhara, the Fleshdoll Masterminder. While bound, the demon’s power is somewhat limited—though not so much so that it is unaware of the PCs arrival to this plane. With the adventurers nearing the Macabre Manses, the demon used his powers to animate the gargoyles at the gate (from last week’s Sidequest) in an attempt to stop the party from interfering.
With the PCs having defeated the stone monstrosities, the bound demon’s power is too weak to make any further attempts to thwart the adventurers further, though he does telepathically warn Madam Sutradhara about the guests arriving at the manor. Her plan is simple: use the fleshdoll stage to incapacitate the party, binding the spirits of the PCs to fleshdolls or, if need be, rely on her zombie servants to do the dirty work. Given the option, she would prefer to add new members to her macabre troop of miniature puppets.
When the PCs approach the mansion, the storm surrounding them grows more intense. A flurry of lightning accompanies crashing thunder and intense gale-like winds in a downpour of rain and hail as nearby trees flail violently—by the time they reach the front porch of the structure, the adventurers are battered and drenched. Madam Sutradhara awaits their arrival, greeting them at the currently opened front door. She hurriedly invites them in out of the weather and struggles against the prevailing winds to close the door behind them as the party enters the mansion’s greatroom.
The PCs enter the area of effect of the fleshdoll stage when they step onto the front porch, and the five-minute activation countdown begins. The crone attempts to stall them until the artifact has had its effect and their bodies fall lifeless to the floor. She is wearing an amulet of nondetection that prevents the PCs from discerning her evil alignment by any means. However if perceptive, the PCs may suspect that something is not quite right with the situation and their eager host.
Once five minutes have passed, the collected souls weird event takes place and the PCs find themselves bound within the bodies of fleshdolls and trapped upon the fleshdoll stage where they interact with the other trapped spirits that share the curse of the insane masterminder. They storm eventually passes late in the evening, and the PCs are not be approached by Madam Sutradhara until the following night when she comes into the study to prepare for an evening performance.
After arranging a dozen chairs neatly across the chamber in front of the stage’s curtain, she lights a target lantern from across the room that casts a bright beam of light down over the chairs and upon the center of the stage. She spends several minutes preparing the setting, using her necrotic puppet mastery supernatural ability to tame any rowdy fleshdolls as she explains to them that they had better keep their mouths shut and perform as she wishes or she will feed their true bodies to her “pets” (human zombies CR 1/2)—a threat from their new mistress that a DC 10 Sense Motivecheck reveal to be most likely be true.
Masked by the glaring light of the lantern, a drove of shadowy figures enters the room and sits quietly in the prepared chairs—apparently an audience here to watch the performance. The “audience” is actually made up entirely of (4+2d4) zombie servants under the control of Madam Sutradhara. The necromancer uses ghost sound to generate appreciative applause as needed, but the zombies remain motionless and silent otherwise.
Note to GM: Depending on what random fleshdoll bodies the PCs were bound to, the cast of characters for this puppet play could be quite interesting. Have fun adlibbing the story of the performance while including the various established fleshdolls. Don’t be afraid to be outlandish and inappropriate—remember, Madam Sutradhara is both devious and insane.
Inevitably, during the performance at some point the fleshdolls are going to make their move (with or without the PCs assistance). They make continuous attempts to resist the will of the masterminder, and when free of her suggestive powers, directly assault her.
Sutradhara’s initial response is to utilize her necrotic puppet mastery ability to cease the attack, but when this fails she withdraws to the back of the room and commands her zombies to, “destroy them all!” It should be at this point the PCs notice the audience approaching the stage and come to realize they are all undead being controlled by the masterminder. While the zombies are a threat, the true target of the fleshdolls is the necromancer herself. The collected spirits of the Hiendlewynn family know that the only solution to ending their curse is the death of Sutradhara, and they stop at nothing to see their mission through—even if it means murdering the old woman while she cowers in the corner once her thralls have been defeated.
When she is killed, the roof is on fire trap triggers and the PCs (and remaining NPCs) are returned to their preserved natural bodies, and must escape the mansion as it burns down around them.
After the mansion is destroyed, and the demon and spirit of Madam Sutradhara have departed, the PCs are blinded for one round by another lightning strike—this time into the smoldering remains of the mansion. When their sight recovers from the flash, they see standing before them the same man whose initial arrival (in last week’s Sidequest Saturday) kicked off the recent strange events.
He congratulates the PCs for a job well done, and informs them that it is time to claim their reward. Any survivors of the Hiendlewynn family who are present immediately take a knee and lower their eyes in respect to the figure. If asked why, they explain that he is a well-known and revered messenger from the gods.
With a sly grin, the man winks to the adventurers and informs them, “Thank you, once again. You performed exactly as hoped, and my illustrious employer may have use for you again in the near future!” Blinded once more by a sudden strobe of lightning and a deafening clap of thunder, the PCs suddenly find themselves alone and no longer standing before the destroyed mansion.
When returned to their own realm, if the PCs were traveling towards a specific location when they were encountered by the man originally, then they find themselves within eyeshot of that location. They are healed and restored from any negative effects, fully rested and rejuvenated (gaining +1 morale bonus to saving throws for 24 hours). Next to the party, in a neatly stacked pile on the ground, is a stash of twine-bound burlap sacks, one for each PC—their reward for persevering the trial set before them.
Each sack contains the following: 1,500 gp, 1d4 random minor wondrous items, 1d4 random potions, and a sinew necklace from which hangs a tiny wooden carving depicting the fleshdoll figure that each PC inhabited while they were bound to the fleshdoll stage. The necklaces are magic items (faint aura of illusion, CL 5th; +2 to Will saves; cast ventriloquism at will).
The party has a newspaper from the future, salvaged from the train wreck they discovered last week. Whether or not they act on the foreboding article within it , an PNE employee approaches the party and shows them the paper. The company man shows the adventurers an article on page 3, which has a picture of the group alongside an article entitled, “Laborers Repel Adventurers Returned from theGrave“.He gives the PCs a quick glance and says, “well, I see you’ve arrived. The Timerian wishes to speak with you—this is not optional. Follow me.”
He leads the party over to Rail City, and the personal car of Borys, opening the door and gesturing for them to enter. The rail car is sparsely furnished—a bulky file cabinet is secured to the back wall, behind a simple wooden desk with a single wooden chair in front of it. Borys sits behind the desk reading a sheaf of papers; he pauses for a moment and looks up at the party, unconcerned at the lack of seating or the PCs’ perceived discomfort.
“So, aren’t you supposed to be dead? I read it in the newspaper. This is a problem, yes?”
Borys explains that recently, they have found that one of the printing presses predicts the future, spitting out The Steamtown Herald once a week. At first whatever it printed came to pass but they tended to be minor stories—a murdered goblin here, or a worker death there. Lately however, they have been getting major.
“The stories being reported have been big enough to affect the construction schedule—this cannot happen. So they started acting on some of the stories, and although difficult, there were times when the foretold press did not come to pass, although it was clear that without interaction and foreknowledge, the event would have happened. I believe that you, by your mere presence here, averted your own deaths—with a little help from us, of course. I suppose you think that train crashed on its own?”
“Now to the business of why you are here; you’ve seen the latest headlines for next week?”
Borys shows the PCs a copy of the paper that they probably already have, reading, “Goblin Boxcar Explodes, Showering Steamtown with Rust Mites, Construction Halted.”
“We are well equipped to handle worker uprisings, even a goblin or orc raid. But rust mites? That would be devastating—devastating enough to derail this project. No pun intended, of course. Investigate this article, prevent it from happening, and there’s a 1,000 gold pieces in it for you.”
Borys can pay, too; his initial offer for averting the catastrophe can be bargained up to 10,000 gp with a progressive skill check.
Skill Check Diplomacy DC 20, DC 25, DC 30 Success The checks go until failed.
Each success raises the reward by 3,000 gp, so if all three checks are successful, the reward is 10,000 gp.
If the party accepts the job, Borys informs them that three days ago a boxcar went missing in the middle of the night from near the loading docks. The strange thing is that the cargo was unloaded and left on the ground near the location of the missing boxcar. Obviously there are few places to hide it, and even less to move it to—it has to be on or near the rails. If the party suggests that they search the rails with an engine, he tells the PCs that the engines are refusing to cooperate right now, suggesting instead that the adventurers follow the tracks to the east (the tracks were blocked to the west so it is unlikely that the boxcar was taken that way).
The Trains of Pradjna The trains of Pradjna run on allogotanium. [detailed later this month on Magic Item Monday – RT] Items associated with allogotanium, among other things, possess the chaotic essence of demons—as such, sometimes the items act quirky, malfunction, or just don’t work at times.
About 1/2 mile to the east of Steamtown, the party encounters the Goblin Rocket Car. Before the boxcar is visible, have the party make a DC 30 Perception check, or a DC 25 Knowledge (engineering) check. If they succeed, they notice that the tracks have begun to vibrate a little and they have 30 rounds before the railcar arrives—if not, they soon notice a railcar coming towards them on the rails at high speed, giving them 20 rounds to act before it arrives at their location.
Goblin Rocket Car The goblin rocket car is the stolen boxcar, measuring 50 ft. long by 10 ft. wide. It has been jury-rigged with several rockets and moves at a rate of 100 ft. per round. The doors are on each side, exactly in the middle, and the larger 8 foot sliders are closed.
6 orcs are positioned on the roof. Inside the boxcar, there are 10 large ceramic containers, each one holding a single fiendish rust mite swarm. When the goblin rocket car gets within 500 feet, one of the orcs hops down into the boxcar through an opening in the roof and opens the door. A DC 20 Perception check reveals that he has rolled a large ceramic container to the edge of the door, presumably getting ready to roll this out on the party as the car passes them.
The boxcar is rigged with several small explosive devices on each ceramic container. A fuse runs from each rocket on the outside to the cluster of bombs on each container. When the rockets expire, they light the fuses, causing the bombs to destroy the ceramic jars 4 rounds later, freeing the swarms. A DC 20 Perception check of the fuses reveals to the PC that they are rigged to light if removed. A DC 16 Disable Device check is required to keep them from lighting but of course, they can be easily severed, bypassing the problem.
The party has several options here.
They can block the track somehow in an attempt to derail the train, for which a DC 50 Knowledge (engineering) check is sufficient. For each round spent preparing, a cumulative +1 circumstance bonus is applied to the check.
The tracks themselves can be destroyed. Each section of track has 80 hp and 20 hardness.
The track can be pulled away with a DC 23 Strength check, however, removing a section of track exposes the party to the effects of a frozen ore railroad spike.
Any of these methods causes the car to derail. The containers inside are pretty strong, so if it does derails, each container has only a 5% chance of breaking, freeing one of the rust mite swarms.
The PCs may also try to cause the car to crash by using something like a wall of force, wall of ice, or something similar. The GM should use their best judgement here—something very solid causes a crash, while something like a wall of fire or thorns does not.
If the car crashes, the chance of each container breaking rises to 15%.
If the players come up with something else, determine whether it is a derailment or a crash, and use the appropriate mechanics. In either case the orcs are killed and the fuses become detached from the rockets, immediately lighting them.
Another option is to board the boxcar as it passes. A successful DC 18 Acrobatics check lets the PCs board the goblin rocket car, hanging on to one of the sides. If they try to jump in the open door, the orcs attempt to stop them, adding +2 to the difficulty of the check. When the PCs board the goblin rocket car, there are 26 rounds before the it arrives on the outskirts of Steamtown and the rockets expire, lighting the fuses. 4 rounds after that, the boxcar is in the middle of Steamtown as the ceramic jars are destroyed.
Boarding PCs have to face the orcs. Fighting while holding on to the side of the car imparts a -4 penalty to attack rolls.
The adventurers can either climb in the open door or climb to the roof. Moving laterally along the side of the car requires a DC 15 Acrobatics check to move 10 feet, while climbing to the roof takes a DC 20 Climb check. The orcs interfere, however; each orc interfering with a character’s movement increases the difficulty of the Climb or Acrobatic check by 2. Failure means the PC falls from the boxcar, taking 3d6 points of damage and going prone.
Once inside the car (either through the roof or the door) the fuses can be removed or cut as described above. The orcs try their best to block access, using melee or bull rush on opponents near the door. The brake handle has been broken off inside the car—10 rounds and a DC 15 Knowledge (Engineering) check can fix them well enough to stop the goblin rocket car. If applied, the car comes to a complete halt in 5 rounds.
If any swarms were freed, they spend 3 rounds devouring the metal on the railcar, then they follow the adventurers. If the party’s metal is destroyed, they then begin to rust the track headed to Steamtown, destroying it at the rate of 5 feet per round.
When the players succeed in stopping the car, Borys happily pays them the agreed upon sum and sends a work crew to salvage the car. He offers them contract positions as part of his enforcer squad, complete with a caboose in Rail City as accommodations.
If they fail, however, they aren’t very welcome in Steamtown—they aren’t outright banned, but they are harassed by the workers and overcharged by the merchants.
Shortly after arriving back in town, Borys produces another headline: “Tense Standoff Between PNE Police and Workers as Strike Looms and Work Stops“.
At the head of the trail to Mahangua’s Shrine is a small lizardfolk settlement, Xacana, nestled in the forest against the base of the mountain. There are roughly 100 lizardfolk living here, mostly hunters and a few merchants that profit from pilgrims visiting the shrine. A few guards are present, but these reptiles are friendly and warmly greet travelers of all races.
XACANA N village Corruption -1; Crime -1; Economy +0; Law +1; Lore +1; Society -5 Qualities tourist attraction, tribal Danger +0
DEMOGRAPHICS Government Autocracy Population 100 (100 lizardfolk)
NOTEABLE NPCs Lescius (N Male lizardfolk commoner 2) Chief Xacana (N Female lizardfolk shaman 2
MARKETPLACE Base Value 600 gp; Purchase Limit 2,500 gp; Spellcasting 3rd Minor Items 2d4; Medium Items 1d4; Major Items None
Near the trailhead a lizardman merchant, Lescius, (+3 Appraise, +3 Bluff, +4 Sense Motive) hawks his wares. The trader sells various volcanic rocks and fetishes (each for a few silver pieces), as well as full skins of watery wine for 15 sp. Lescius also has a map of the Mahanguan Pilgrimage Trail. Notes are scribbled on it, pointing out vistas, vegetation, interesting natural formations—and even a few warnings—all for the low price of 2 sp.
If engaged, the reptilian merchant mentions that he is from a nearby tribe, and a small group of visiting lizardmen started their pilgrimage just a few hours ago. A successful DC 15 Diplomacy check, along with the purchase of the map, gets the trader to inscribe a short prayer on the map’s edge with the suggestion that the party should recite it at the shrine for good luck; the incantation seems harmless enough.
“May the spirit of Mahangua ever shine and keep travellers safe; may pilgrims be free from harm and be brought good luck”
At some point during the adventurers’ visit, the ground violently shakes as an explosion echoes along the mountain. A fresh stream of lava rushes by the village and into the ocean, creating a huge steam cloud that obscures vision for several minutes. When the steam clears two lizardmen guards sound the alarm as a cloud of ash rolls down the hill towards the settlement. Several of the villagers begin to flee the town as six sturdy lizardmen take up arms and form a battle line at the edge of the forest in the cloud’s path—now seconds away from overtaking the village.
Any PC that ventures into the forest to attack the spirits have to deal with a super sap trap for every 30 feet of forest movement. The ash spirits fight to the death and concentrate their attacks on the foe that is deepest in the forest, be it a PC or a lizardfolk.
(6) Ash Spirit CR 1
This enormous humanoid figure is made from dense, choking smoke that roils between black and dark grey fumes with each step. ASH SPIRIT CR 1 XP 400
CN Huge undead Init -5; Senses Perception +0
DEFENSE AC 3, touch 3, flat-footed 3 (-5 Dex, -2 size) hp 15 (2d8+4) Fort +2, Ref -5, Will +3 Immune undead traits, fire; DR 5/— Weakness wind based spells deal 1d6 damage per caster level
OFFENSE Speed 30 ft. Special Attacks suffocate, salt the earth
TACTICS During Combat The ash spirit attacks the nearest living creature and tries to maximize the number of opponents it is in contact with.
STATISTICS Str 3, Dex 1, Con —, Int 8, Wis 8, Cha 8 Base Atk +1; CMB -1; CMD 4 (can’t be tripped or moved) Feats Iron Will Skills Fly +2 SQ occupy space
ECOLOGY Environment any Organization any number Treasure none
SPECIAL ABILITIES Occupy Space (Ex) The ash ghoul may occupy other creature’s spaces with no penalty.
Suffocate (Su) Any breathing creature in the ash spirit’s space begins to suffocate. Salt the Earth (Su) Upon death, the area occupied by the ash spirit is despoiled, unable to produce crops or grow anything. This condition lasts for 1d4 years or until consecrated.
When the ash spirits are defeated, the lizardfolk’s attitude in Xacana towards the PCs becomes Helpful. Chief Xacana gives them a piece of volcanic rock, carved in the shape of a lizardman. Any other lizardfolk’s attitude on the island is Friendly if shown the rock. Should the PCs run away or do not engage the ash spirits, the lizardfolk’s attitude is Unfriendly; they don’t interact, and attack the PCs if they remain in the area or attempt to enter the Mahanguan Pilgrimage Trail.
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Either in a previous encounter (from last week’s Sidequest Saturday)—or by chance while in the city of Mohkba—the adventurers acquired an invitation to a masquerade ball and a beautiful mask of diplomacy +1 (actually a mask of thirst). The event is being held on the night after the party’s encounter with the trio of muggers and is lauded as the most grand occasion to come to the city in many months.
Notable persons from all over the realm will be in attendance, and the PCs are sure to meet influential and powerful individuals that hold sway over considerable resources in the Klavek Kingdom while there. Countess Darah Veresovich is the host of the masquerade, and her sizable mansion is located in the affluent area of the city. Adventurers keen to scope out the residence beforehand or wise enough to learn more about the countess may make a Diplomacy check to determine more about the event itself and the property it is being held in.
The countess is the sole heir to the Veresovich fortune after her older brother tragically died in a hunting accident. She is thought to have distant cousins, but they have scarcely visited Mohkba these past ten years.
The whole ward in which the manor is located is one of the oldest parts of Mohkba, and the Veresovich estate is rumored to be coated with small magical enhancements to amplify its presence and grandeur.
While not a recluse, after traveling to oversee Veresovich mercantile interests afar, the Countess began to create odd waves in the social climate of Mohkba that has put much of the nobility ill at ease. It’s thought that this upcoming grand masquerade is her way of mending the fences with her elite peers.
Read the following as the adventurers approach Countess Veresovich’s mansion to attend the grand ball:
A large iron-wrought gate stands open to accommodate the steady stream of gilded carriages entering the magnificent manor gardens before you. A gravelled boulevard leads up to the mansion where servants greet and assist the guests, lit by lanterns hanging from the lowliest bush to the mightiest oak, suspended on the branches of every plant in the gardens. Amongst the masked uniformed servants, a tall, gaunt man stands and surveys the scene in silence.
A servant quickly looks over your invitations and guides you to the door, where another attendant leads you to the ballroom via dimly lit corridors, finally stopping in front of a massive ornately carved door—as it opens you are overwhelmed by light and the sounds of a full-fledged nobles’ ball in Mohkba. Servants dodge dancing couples while carrying trays with glasses full of different liquors as what seems like a full symphonic orchestra provides the fantastic melodies flowing through the room.
Everywhere you look masked guests meet your gaze, some glancing cursorily in your direction. While a few avert their eyes, others seem to take a greater interest in your presence. On a long table in the back of the ballroom there are a panoply of different foods, the countess’ chefs having prepared well for the masquerade. The countess can easily be made out, a tall lithe woman dressed in a black ballgown with gold accents, her face concealed by a white porcelain mask inlaid with rubies arranged in a heart-shape pattern over the left eye. Only her smile reveals her mood behind the mask. The servant behind you whispers, “the countess wishes to make your acquaintance this eve, and wishes you to know that she expects much of you”, before closing the doors again.
Before approaching any of the members of the grand ball, the PCs can reduce the DCs for the checks required to ferret out their secrets (by 3 points) with successful DC 18 Perform (dance) checks. Otherwise, the adventurers find it challenging to get in touch with any of the nobles as the Klavek customs in observance that evening do not allow people of lesser rank to address the elite socialites of Mohkba until the unveiling at midnight. Still, the masquerade element presents an opportunity for cunning and mischievous adventurers to rub elbows with nobility—to earn their trust, however, they’ll have to Hopak!
Radimir Vlasputin, Mercantile Entrepreneur
Male human [Klavek] aristocrat 6; CR 4 (XP 1,200) HP 33 (6d8+6); AC 12 (+2 Dex) Init+2; Speed 30 ft.; Atk unarmed +0 (1d3, provokes attack of opportunity) Base Atk +4; CMB +4; CMD 16 AL Neutral; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +5; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 15 Skills Appraise +13, Bluff +11, Diplomacy +13, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Perception +6, Profession (merchant) +9, Sense Motive +9; Feats Deceitful, Persuasive, Skill Focus (Appraise), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Igor Rastvick, Merchant of the Rastvick Trading Company
Male human [Klavek] aristocrat 6; CR 4 (XP 1,200) HP 33 (6d8+6); AC 12 (+2 Dex) Init+2; Speed 30 ft.; Atk unarmed +0 (1d3, provokes attack of opportunity) Base Atk +4; CMB +4; CMD 16 AL Neutral; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +5; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 15 Skills Appraise +13, Bluff +11, Diplomacy +13, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Perception +6, Profession (merchant) +9, Sense Motive +9; Feats Deceitful (+2 bluff/disguise), Persuasive (+2 diplomacy/intimidate), Skill Focus (Appraise), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Frieda Manovitovich, Ensconced Socialite of Mohkba
Female human [Klavek] aristocrat 6; CR 4 (XP 1,200) HP 33 (6d8+6); AC 12 (+2 Dex) Init+2; Speed 30 ft.; Atk unarmed +0 (1d3, provokes attack of opportunity) Base Atk +4; CMB +4; CMD 16 AL Neutral; SV Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +5; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 15 Skills Appraise +13, Bluff +11, Diplomacy +13, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Perception +6, Profession (merchant) +9, Sense Motive +9; Feats Deceitful (+2 bluff/disguise), Persuasive (+2 diplomacy/intimidate), Skill Focus (Appraise), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
Cultus Sanguineus Secrets!
Diplomacy DC 20 The entrepreneur is here in the interests of several other merchants that have heard new and truly exotic (perhaps even illegal) trade will soon be coming into Mohkba, exclusively for Countess Veresovich.
Diplomacy DC 30 Radimir was asked by Count Krev to locate the fastest runners in the land for a very specific courier job; apparently, he did not trust the services available in Mohkba or the use of magic for whatever task he was up to. A DC 24 Sense Motive checkreveals that whatever it was, Radimir doubts it was entirely within the bounds of the law (though he’s smart enough not to pry or say any more on the matter).
Intimidate DC 32 Under duress he recalls that when Krev approached him about the runners, the Count seemed to know Radimir’s thoughts during the conversation and the distinctive black mask he insisted on wearing still gives Vlasputin the chills.
Diplomacy DC 25 Countess Veresovich is an esoteric sort that enjoys exotic delicacies. The Veresovich line has been influential to trade for decades and she has enjoyed the life of a debutante—perhaps too much.
Diplomacy DC 32 Rastvick knows for a fact that Countess Veresovich is quite mad and drinks blood in her wine—not just any blood, but the blood of young women.
Intimidate DC 32 He has several times observed how the Countess has used an exquisite necklace that beats like a heart to instill envious desires in younger women. These lasses—servants or socialites, but always extremely attractive—are never seen again. Once when Igor got close to see the amulet he himself felt an unearthly desire for it and its wearer. With all his mental might Rastvick tore his eyes from the amulet and promptly left. He will remark that the amulet she wears today does not beat like a heart at the moment, but…
Intimidate DC 16 “Well no need to be so rude! Let me tell you, the way you lot carry yourselves about, someone might take…no, will definitely take offense and you might find yourself at the wrong end of a Klavek dueling blade. Proper etiquette mind you, know your place. If you want to talk to someone, do impress them with a display of “Hopak”![a traditional Klavek dance, DC 18 Perform (dance) check]
Diplomacy DC 22 Frieda knows nothing of the details of the accident and is more interested in the problems with hiring good staff. “The Veresovich manor is built in the oldest ward of Mohkba, but there are some rumors that the ward is dangerous. Last year the manor of the Ollianov family fell into a sinkhole and killed half of their staff; considering how horrible it is to get good staff nowadays, can you imagine how hard it is to find so many at the same time. Poor Darah, should it happen here, her servants are so well trained; they are here, but you don’t see them, just like a disciplined dog. Frieda shows no emotion when comparing servants to dogs and openly declares that dogs would make excellent servants, if they had opposable thumbs. She follows this macabre joke with the high-pitched laughter of the bourgeoisie.
Diplomacy DC 32 “Why yes, the countess is an avid collector of Klavek historical items and paraphernalia. Lately she has been actively searching for the cloak of Jaroslav Mandatin, the greatest duelist in Klavek history! Rumors say that the cloak was part of a set, consisting of a mask and an amulet as well, but that must be nothing more than an old wives’ tale, typically the fodder of the peasants. Now where were we, Lubov?” She gives a wolf-like smile before sipping the last bit of crimson wine from her tall glass goblet and heads to refill her glass.
If the adventurers are not looking for the remaining enchanted items from the set the mask of thirst belongs to, Krev Ragata is! His agents are seeded throughout the event and as the night drags on, an expert hired specifically for the task approaches the PC wearing the magical masquerade mask, engaging them in a conversation that seems very friendly…
Daineus Guslar, Master of Lore
Female halfling bard (sandman) 7; CR 6 (XP 2,400) HP31 (7d8+7); AC 22, touch 14, flat-footed 19 (+5 armor, +3 Dex, +3 shield, +1 size) Init+3; Speed 20 ft.; Atk mwk rapier +4 (1d4-2, Crit 18-20/x2) or mwk light crossbow +9 (1d6, Crit 19-20/x2, Range 80 ft.) Base Atk +5; CMB +2; CMD 15 AL Neutral Evil; SV Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +7 (+2 vs fear); Str 6, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 18 Skills Acrobatics +9, Bluff +15, Escape Artist +13, Linguistics +9, Perception +7, Perform (oratory) +18, Sense Motive +9, Sleight of Hand +13, Spellcraft +11, Stealth +12; Racial Modifiers+2 Acrobatics, +2 Climb, +2 Perception; Feats Ability Focus (slumber song), Skill Focus (Perform [oratory]), Spellsong, Voice of the Sibil; Languages Common, Halfling, Klavek, Vikmordere, 4 bonus languages (GM’s choice) SQ Bardic knowledge, bardic performance (move action, 20 rounds/day; countersong, distraction, fascinate [Will DC 17], inspire competence +3, slumber song [Will DC 19; as deep slumber, no HD limit], stealspell [Will DC 17]), cantrips, lore master 1/day, versatile performance (Diplomacy, Sense Motive), well-versed Gear +1 chain shirt, +1 heavy wooden shield, masterwork light crossbow (15 bolts), masterwork rapier Bard Spells Known 3rd (2/day)—charm monster (DC 17), confusion (DC 17) 2nd (4/day)—blindness/deafness(DC 16), hold person (DC 16),suggestion (DC 16), tongues 1st (5/day)—charm person(DC 15), cure light wounds, disguise self, feather fall, summon monster I 0th—detect magic, ghost sound, lullaby, mage hand, prestidigitation, read magic TACTICS Daineus uses Spellsong (swift action, Perform [oratory] vs observer’s Perception/Sense Motive to realize a spell is being cast) to hide charm person and lullaby before using suggestion to draw the member of the party with the mask of thirst away into an otherwise empty chamber, where she tries to convince them to give her the item willingly—even offering another mask of diplomacy +1 in trade. Anyone that interferes is targeted with blindness/deafness or confusion (hidden by Spellsong). If bartering fails, Count Krev (hiding in the shadows; his statistics will be on the AaWBlog tomorrow, but in the meanwhile use the “Freelance Thief” entry in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: NPC Codex if need be) loses his patience and assaults the PC, attempting to wrestle away the mask of thirst physically! Five of his most trusted acolytes, scattered throughout the masquerade, come to back him up and ensure none of the guests realize that there is an attack going on in one of the mansion’s rooms.
CR 4 (XP 1,200) Male or Female human (Klavek) fighter 4/sorcerer 1 HP 44 (4d10+1d6+19); AC 18, touch 14, flat-footed 14 (+6 armor, +3 Dex, +1 dodge) Init+3; Speed 30 ft.; Atk mwk rapier +6 (1d6+3, Crit 18-20/x2) or mwk light crossbow +8 (1d8, Crit 19-20/x2, Range 80 ft.) Base Atk +4; CMB +5; CMD 18 AL Neutral Evil; SV Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +3; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 15, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 14 Skills Bluff +8, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (religion) +4, Perception +5; Feats Combat Casting, Dodge, Greater Spell Focus (necromancy), Spell Focus (necromancy); Eschew Materials, Toughness, Weapon Focus (rapier), Weapon Specialization (rapier) Sorcerer Spells Known(CL 1st; concentration +3, +7 defensive; spell chance failure 25%) 1st (3/day)—ray of enfeeblement (DC 15; CL 2nd), ray of sickening (DC 15; CL 2nd) 0th—acid splash, detect magic, mage hand, touch of fatigue (DC 14; CL 2nd) Bloodline Undead (Sanguine) Gear masterwork breastplate, masterwork rapier, masterwork light crossbow, 78 gold The Blood Is the Life (Su) Sanguineus Acolytes can gain sustenance from the blood of the recently dead 5 times a day. As a standard action, they can drink the blood of a creature that died within the past minute. The creature must be corporeal, must be at least the same size as them, and must have blood. This ability heals the Sanguineus Acolyte 1d6 hit points and nourishes them as if they’d had a full meal. TACTICS These cultists have little regard for their own well-being, believing (falsely) that an afterlife of pleasure or existence as an immortal undead awaits them. They will wade into battle, attempting to first weaken and sicken their targets with spells before dashing forward with their rapiers. The instant another of their group falls, however, any adjacent Sanguineus Acolytes are overcome by blood lust—they drop to the ground and feed on their recently fallen peer without regard to any dangers doing so might present.
At this point in the adventure, either Count Krev has the items and dons all three (the mask of thirst, cloak of the dark servant and amulet of the sundered heart) or one of the PCs does: doing so causes them to disappear entirely until the stroke of midnight! However, Countess Veresovich has been prepared for the arrival of the Cultus Sanguineus items for some time and her entire mansion is warded specifically for their use. If a creature dons all three items while within her home, the entire manor and its surroundings are coated in magical darkness for 3 rounds as they are affected by the items’ rituals.
Countess Veresovich’s preparations protect the creature from the harshest of the Items Sanguineus’ effects: only on a natural 1 will they fail the associated Fortitude and Will saves, though they still disappear until midnight. On the end of the third round, the magical darkness from all around the mansion draws back in on itself and explodes into a vortex of blood that splatters everywhere, coating all squares previously occupied by the disappearing creature in a fifteen-foot radius.
Blood Vortex — CR 9
XP 6,400 NE persistent haunt (manifestation) (15 ft. radius) Caster Level 14th Notice Perception DC 20 (to get a feeling of a centuries old hunger which soon shall be sated) HP 40; Trigger (special see text); Reset 1 day Effect When the items transform anyone into a vampire, Exsanguinator’s desire and yearning for blood manifests as a swirling vortex of razor-sharp blood droplets. The manifestation deals 10d6 damage (Reflex DC 22 for half). The vortex remains stationary and lasts for two rounds, after which the vortex harmlessly dissipates. Destruction: A manifestation is indestructible permanently unless the entity behind it is slain or banished back to whatever realm they came from.
After someone has donned all three of the Items Sanguineus, the nobles and merchants at the grand ball become far more talkative and Countess Veresovich is nowhere to be seen—the DCs for them to reveal their secrets drop by 10 and may be attempted again if previously failed.
Were that not enough, the Exsanguinator has been waiting, watching his acolyte Veresovich mastermind the bloodbath about to take place. The blood vortex caused by her rituals of protections and the Items Sanguineus draw his hunger; he locks the building down, barring the outsides with walls of force (CL 14th). On the other side of the walls of force are more of the blood vortex haunts, out to a radius of 20 feet from every surface of the building’s outside walls.
The adventurers (possibly missing one of their own) are trapped within Veresovich Manor, surrounded by the extremely-panicked nobles and merchants, utterly bereft of a host or direction! They must try to divine what is going on before the stroke of midnight, when all HEL breaks loose…
Synopsis Count Krev Ragata rushes through the narrow streets in one of the less wealthy areas of Mohkba having just met with several different black market merchants and keen to quickly reach his next destination. Ne’er-do-wells in the city have something else in mind, however, and a group of them ambush the noble directly in front of the adventurers, wrestling away several prized items as they stab him in the stomach with a wicked looking dagger coated in poison.
During the struggle Count Ragata yells, “the countess requires these for the ball! You cannot have them!”, before falling limp and unconscious. One of the muggers turns to see the job finished while his compatriots bound down the alleyway, making their escape quickly in frenzied dashes.
A Chase Through Mohkba!
As the party (4-6 adventurers of 8th-9th level) travels the less savory backstreets of Mohkba they suddenly hear shouting and commotion from a narrow, shadowed alleyway up ahead.
A giant of a man stands over a crumpled form at his feet—behind him, two other men are starting to run down the alleyway away from you. The inert form on the ground trembles and with great effort rises his hand and points at the man clad in flashy clothes and shouts: “Stop him, he has…”, but a precise strike from the brute cuts his sentence short. The large man raises his fist again, this time with the intention to quiet his victim permanently.
Hrolff runs at full speed to get the items he carries away from the scene. Vasiliev will stop and cover Hrolffs escape with spells and scrolls, while Eignar physically engages the party, to hinder the characters from pursuing. Hrolff reaches a large street in 1d4+2 rounds, where his tracks are lost in the crowd. Should the party almost catch up to him he will duck down another alleyway where Exsanguinator manifests his will (see Alleyway of Blood from the February 5th meal for the AaWBlog!)
The alleyway is 100 feet long by 10 feet wide (its sides are from 10 feet high to 25 feet high, varying as often as the motley architecture of the homes here) and at the end it connects to the veritable maze of narrow corridors that make up Mohkba’s infamous lower class quarter, providing plenty of alleyways to pursue Hrolff through—if the party gets past Eignar and Vasiliev.
Eignar Ravnirson CR 9
XP 6,400 Male human monk (tetori) 9/barbarian 1 NE Large humanoid (human) Init +1; Perception +14 DEFENSE AC 17, touch 17, flat-footed 13 (+1 Dex, +1 dodge, +2 monk, +2 shield, +1 Wis) hp 81 (9d8+1d12+29) Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +7; +2 vs enchantments Immune disease; DR 10/adamantine (currently under the effects of stoneskin; 62 hp left) OFFENSE Speed 60 ft. Melee unarmed +11/+6 (2d8+5) Ranged tanglefoot bags +7/+2 ranged touch (entangle and half speed for 2d4 rounds; Reflex DC 15 or glued to floor, DC 17 Strength or 15 slashing damage to regain movement; Range 10 ft.) Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft. Special Attacks stunning fist 9/day (Fort DC 15; fatigue or stun 1 round or sicken 1 minute) STATISTICS Str 20, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10 Base Atk +7; CMB +16 (+20 grapple); CMD 23 (30 vs. grapple) Feats Dodge, Rapid Grappler, Snapping Turtle Clutch, Snapping Turtle Shell, Snapping Turtle Style; Improved Grapple, Stunning Pin, Greater Grapple Skills Acrobatics +14, Climb +18, Perception +14, Sense Motive +14 Languages Common, Klavek, Vikmordere SQ Break free, counter-grappler, evasion, fast movement, graceful grappler, inescapable grasp, ki pool (magic, cold iron, silver; 5 points), maneuver training, permanent enlarge person, rage (6 rounds/day), purity of body, still mind, unarmed strike Gear 5 tanglefoot bags, potion of invisibility, potion of negate aroma, potion of silence, sanguine antidote (the magical poison afflicting Count Ragata does not respond to mundane cures) RAGING STATISTICS AC 17, touch 15, flat-footed 11; hp 96; Fort +12, Will 9; +11 vs enchantments Melee unarmed +13/+8 (2d8+7) CMB +18 (+22 grapple); CMD 25 (32 vs. grapple) TACTICS Eignar uses his grappling skills to stall the party’s pursuit of Hrolff and Vasiliev—he will not hand over the antidote he carries voluntarily. As the party tries to revive the count, Eignar taunts them from a distance and tries to goad them into rushing him by loudly yelling, “he is as good as dead now, your magics are no match for the power of my master!”, while holding up a flask filled with cyan liquid before slipping it into his pocket and assuming a fighting stance.
Vasiliev Dovrovich CR 7
XP 3,200 Human bard 8 NE Medium humanoid (human) Init +7; Perception +11 DEFENSE AC 17, touch 15, flat-footed 13 (+2 armor, +1 deflection, +3 Dex, +1 Dodge) hp 63 (8d8+24) Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +6; +4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic OFFENSE Speed 30 ft. Melee rapier +9/+4 (1d6-1, Crit 18-20/x2) Ranged shortbow +9/+4 (1d6, Crit x3) Special Attacks bardic performance 21 rounds/day (move action; countersong, dirge of doom, distraction, fascinate, inspire competence +3, inspire courage +2, suggestion) Bard Spells Known (CL 8th; concentration +13) 3rd (2/day)—deep slumber (DC 18), dispel magic (DC 18), displacement 2nd (3/day)—eagle’s splendor, hold person (DC 17), invisibility, mirror image 1st (5/day)—charm person (DC 16), comprehend languages, disguise self, expeditious retreat, lesser confusion (DC 16) 0th—daze, detect magic, light, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance STATISTICS Str 8, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 20 Base Atk +6/+1; CMB +5; CMD 18 Feats Dodge, Improved Initiative, Magical Aptitude, Skill Focus (Use Magic Device), Weapon Finesse (rapier) Skills Acrobatics +14, Knowledge (history) +13, Knowledge (local) +13, Perception +11, Perform (mime) +14, Perform (wind) +14, Spellcraft +15, Stealth +14, Use Magic Device +20 Languages Common, Klavek, Vikmodere SQ bardic knowledge +4, lore master 1/day, versatile performance, well-versed Gearbracers of armor +2, ring of protection +1, scroll of dispel magic (3 total at CL 9th), satchel with papers, a mask of diplomacy +1* (stolen from Count Ragata)
*This item is actually the mask of thirst, but only members of the Cultus Sanguineus are able to identify it as such. BASE STATISTICS Without eagle’s splendor, Vasiliev’s statistics are Bard Spells Known reduce spell DCs by 2, concentration +11; Cha 16; Skills Use Magic Device +18. TACTICS Vasiliev is under the effect of eagles splendor, displacement and mirror image (4 images) when the party shows up. Displacement lasts 6 more rounds. When the party arrives he takes up position in cover behind some barrels down the alley in the same direction Hrolff fled. Vasiliev intends to cover Hrolff’s escape alongside Eignar, using use his scrolls and spells to keep the party from mounting an effective chase until Hrolff is gone—Vasiliev then leaves Eignar and make his own escape with the help of his invisibility spell.
Hrolff Angirsson CR 7
XP 2,400 Human monk 7/barbarian 1 NE Medium humanoid (human) Init +4; Perception +8 DEFENSE AC 18, touch 18, flat–footed 13 (+4 Dexterity, +1 dodge, +1 monk, +2 Wisdom) hp 58 (7d8+1d12+15) Fort +8, Ref +9, Will +7; +2 vs enchantments Immune disease OFFENSE Speed 85 ft. Melee unarmed +7 or +7/+7/+2 (1d8+1) Ranged tanglefoot bags +9 ranged touch (entangle and half speed for 2d4 rounds; Reflex DC 15 or glued to floor, DC 17 Strength or 15 slashing damage to regain movement; Range 10 ft.) Special Attacks stunning fist 7/day (Fort DC 16, stun 1 round or fatigue) STATISTICS Str 13, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8 Base Atk +6; CMB +9; CMD 25 Feats Fleet x3, Point Blank Shot, Shot on the Run; Deflect Arrows, Dodge, Mobility Skills Acrobatics +15 (+26 to jump), Climb +11, Escape Artist +15, Perception +8, Sense Motive +9, Stealth +15 Languages Common, Klavek, Vikmordere SQ Evasion, fast movement (barbarian 10 ft., monk 20 ft.), flurry of blows, high jump, ki pool (magic, cold iron, silver; 5 points), maneuver training, purity of body, rage (5 rounds/day), still mind, slow fall 30 ft., unarmed strike, wholeness of body Gear boots of striding and springing, hat of disguise, potion of invisibility, potion of negate aroma, potion of cure serious wounds, 5 smokesticks, 5 tanglefoot bags, hidden satchel (amulet of the sundered heart*, cloak of the dark servant*); currently under the effects of a potion of nondetection (CL 9th) *If identified, these appear to be nothing more than an amulet of natural armor +2 and cloak of resistance +2. TACTICS The only thing on Hrolff’s mind is taking the loot back to his master, he will fight if cornered, but will take the first opportunity to continue his escape, and use his hat of disguise.
After the battle, Count Ragata hopefully gets the antidote (otherwise, he dies within 1d4 rounds without a restoration spell) and the party retrieves the stolen items from Vasiliev. The count assures them that all the items are accounted for, but says that the mask is not his (a DC 32 Sense Motive check reveals that he’s lying) and the party should keep it—furthermore, they are all invited to a ball held at his manor in two days time. He hands them each a gilded invitation to the masquerade ball, giving them occasion to wear the recovered mask. Again thanking the adventurers from the depths of his heart, he sincerely looks forward to seeing them at the grand event and introducing them to some of his acquaintances.