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Sidequest Saturday (Macabre Manses): Golem Patch

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.

macabre manses map

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.

jack-o-lantern11

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 pumpkin golem 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.

Pumpkin GolemAt 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.

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Sidequest Saturday (Macabre Manses): Welcome to the Show

macabre manses mapIf 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.

gargoyle1__bruno_balixaThe 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 sutradharaMadam 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.

fleshdoll stageAfter 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 Motive check 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.

fleshdollNote 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 inappropriateremember, 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.

roof on fire 1When 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.

rogue 7 swashbuckler guardsmanWith 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).

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Sidequest Saturday (Destiny Derailed): Goblin Rocket Car

Norte_FCNC_boxcarThe 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 the Grave“. 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.

Rick Orc 1Boarding 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“.