Halloween Roleplaying – Dread

I am the storyteller of an annual Halloween one-shot at our local gaming store. This will be our second year using the roleplaying game Dread. I’m a big fan of this little independent roleplaying game. I have not found a better game to create suspense and tension at the gaming table.

So, this year I took the Dread scenario, “Beneath a Full Moon” and then tweaked it to better suit our purposes. In the original scenario players take on the role of college students, rafting in the Grand Canyon for spring break. They are soon attacked, chased and hunted by a monster. For our Halloween game we dress up in costumes and for this reason I thought college students were a little mundane. I set our story in the Weird West, combining elements of  Western, steampunk and the occult genres. The characters survive an airship crash in the mountains and have to escape from a monster that relentlessly hunts them. I renamed the scenario “Beneath a Clockwork Moon”.

Again this year my players did a great job with their costumes and a few even took on accents for their role. As always our story is told by candle light. Which really adds something to the spooky aura. I find it liberating to role-play by candle light. You can really step out of you comfort zone and go all in on the acting. There is no need to feel silly or shy when the shadows partially hide you.

My silent storyteller was Alex. He listens to the game and then cues sound effects. I describe things and then the players really hear the wolves howl, the wind blowing, the rain pouring and the thunder booming. It adds an immeasurable amount of verisimilitude while we play.

I recently subscribed to the free trial offer over at Project Alpha. I have been watching  @Hydra_Lord masterfully storytelling his Sagas of Sundry. His Dread games are really something to behold. He adds a number of physical challenges to the Dread RPG and I borrowed some of them for our Halloween game. For example, I asked a player to balance a stack of large wooden blocks on their outstretched hand, while the other players made pulls from the tower. I taped a prop (journal) to the bottom of the table before the players arrived for the game. Then when they went reaching under some floor boards, I had them literally reach beneath the table blindly to find the journal.

It was another great Halloween game of Dread and I can’t wait for next year’s story! Check out some pictures of the game below.

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Black Goat Campaign 09

The heroes breached the burning library and spilled out into the courtyard under a smoke filled sky. Darkwood Abbey’s library was entirely engulfed in flames, as was its small chapel. The great keep showed signs of smaller fires, but nothing like the inferno that was devouring the library. Looking for others to help fight the fire they saw the horrific display of dead guardsman draped over the towers and battlements. It was as if they were standing in bowels of hell, surrounded by the dead and flames.

The great doors of the abbey swung open belching more smoke into the courtyard. The great shape of a giant woman emerged, back lit by the interior flames of the keep. She loomed to a height of ten feet as she descended the abbey’s steps. Her skin was as grey as ash and wrinkled with age. Her black matted hair hung wildly over her disfigured face. Her black claws were long curved blades that gripped the viscera of a victim in one palm and dragged Brother Jacob by the head in her other.

The great hag tossed the limp, wounded body of Jacob to the feet of the heroes. She grinned a sinister smile, revealing shark like teeth and beneath her tangled hair they could see familiar grey-blue eyes…

Castle_Estas_Seguro

Following their opening/destruction of the seals, the heroes explored the caverns beneath the Abbey. Within these caves they would encounter many things. They confronted half-starved fomorians, who had remained alive these many years eating fungus and cannibalizing their own kind. They found a cache of strange alchemical ingredients preserved through arcane means. They would discover the ancient remains of an elven guardian and his Waywatcher Spear (Elf Relic). They found a great door sealed shut with a strange lock, a lock that they suspected could be opened by the spear they had found.

But, it was the old elven woman that concerns us now. She told them a tale, of a great battle between the elves and the forces of Shub-niggurath. The battle took place here beneath the Abbey, a place known to her as High Hill. In order to contain the evil, the elves and their allies sealed the caves in haste, trapping many of their own within. Taking pity on the old elf, they led her out of the caves to the Abbey and continued their exploration.

When they at last returned to the Abbey to rest, they found it ablaze! The great hag tossed the limp body of Jacob at the feet of the heroes. She grinned a sinister smile, revealing shark like teeth and beneath her tangled hair they could see the old elf’s familiar grey-blue eyes.

The heroes had made a tragic error… the hag with the assistance of a demon (that had also been released from the caves) had slain the night guards, set fire to the great library and had then begun to murder the Abbey’s clergy in their sleep. The heroes would make their stand in the burning courtyard of Darkwood Abbey. They would slay the deceitful hag and drive off it’s demon ally, but at a terrible cost. Many lives were lost to the infernal duo,  including Captain Artur and Archdeacon Torel.

Black Goat Campaign 08

Brother Jacob returned to the heroes after an exhaustive use of the Abbey’s resources. His findings supported their assumptions, the vaults beneath the Abbey most likely contained the second pool of The Black Goat. Meeting with the heroes to discuss his findings, Jacob stressed a certain level of trust needs to be reached in their relationship. He went on to explain that in order to confirm the pool is hidden beneath the Abbey there are a number of protective seals that need to be unlocked/broken. “You will be entering a place that has been locked away for hundreds of years. It was sealed for a reason… we need to keep whatever is in there… down there, but I too feel we need to know if the pool is there and if it is active.

The Seals of High Hill

Here upon the High Hill we bind the darkness behind three seals.
Only the devout wear the symbols of religion. A reverent follower of the cudgel may use the key of the faithful to open the first seal.
Radiant flame cleanses absolutely. Only conflagration of the second seal’s guardians will produce a sacred ember to light the way.
Two must stand for an ancient alliance of race. Bless the torchbearers, so they might create a marriage of light to pass the final seal.

The above is all the information that Brother Jacob could find to unlock the vault’s three seals. The heroes interpreted the first seal to need a cleric of St Cuthbert (the cudgel). Jacob again urged the heroes to tread carefully, but he cautiously agreed to help them.

They passed through the Abbey’s catacombs to a great stone door marked with protective glyphs. Here Jacob knelt and began to channel the divine power of St Cuthbert. He finally placed his hand upon the door and its glyphed surface glowed with a clean white light. The great door opened and the heroes descended into the darkest places beneath the Abbey.

The second seal would come in the form of two fire elemental guardians. The heroes defeated the burning warriors only to see their flames flicker and spark them back to life. The guardians were finally overcome with radiant attacks of divine light. Leaving only an ember of white flame on the floor.

The heroes took ceremonial torches from the walls and lit them with the sacred ember. In an adjacent chamber they found an ornate hammer resting between two statues, one an elf, the other a human. The torchbearers, Zetvosk (human) and Brona (elf), placed the torches into the empty hands of the statues which resulted in the hammer being charged with arcane power.

Exploring beyond the chambers and into the ancient caves they discovered a wall of force blocking their progress. Bjorndar stepped forward with the charged hammer and struck a mighty blow against the magical wall. In a thunderous boom the wall shattered, the hill shook as if it were about to collapse. The darkness in the ancient cave stirred and like a swarm of insects it flew past the heroes. They felt cold and as the dark wave flew past they heard distant cries and screams. The twisting darkness then made its way up towards Darkwood Abbey and the surface! The heroes stood silent exchanging glances of guilt… what did they unleash?

Black Goat Campaign 07

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Seven

Our heroes return to the barbarian barrows and further explore the King’s Barrow. They found evidence to support the idea that the ancient barbarian tribes of Khrullion worshiped the Black Goat of the Woods (Shub-Niggurath). There would be no denying this when they faced off with the Barrow’s lord, an undead creature that had been loyal and devout to the Black Goat in life. This undead lord now radiated agony and death.

Wyleros deceived the Barrowlord long enough to learn that the Black Goat would require its three sacred pools to become active before it could again stalk the Great Wood. They also learned that “the roots” prevent her from returning and acted as a barrier. Unfortunately, the deception was short lived and the cries of battle overtook the conversation.

Following their confrontation with the Barrowlord, they discovered a broken crypt. The lid was covered in Elven glyphs and strange markings. After careful examination the heroes surmised that it was a map of the Great Wood. There were a number of glyphs that stood out among the rest. Roughly translated they read; the buried river, high hill and the burnt vale. Could this be the locations of the three sacred pools?

Their examination of the crypt’s lid was cut short when the sounds of goblins could be heard within the King’s Barrow. Using a secret passage the heroes escaped the barrow taking the crypt lid with them. Hidden outside the barrow, Vale would witness the arrival of the Goat (Shub-Niggurath’s avatar) a top an azure skinned wyvern. She was furious when her goblins exited the barrow empty handed and ordered them to find the lid. The heroes silently withdrew and retreated to Darkwood Abbey.

The Riverman Inn and tavern was a welcomed sight, inside they relaxed with good food and good drink. They shared their bounty from the barrow with the townsfolk who appreciated their generosity. The heroes had put a number of plans in motion since their return to the abbey and now they needed to let their schemes ride.

First, Clarion (an expert forger) created a masterful duplicate of the lid’s markings. Then the duplicate was dispatched to her Highness immediately. He was sure to alter the glyphs and lines enough that the copy would be worthless to the Queen. Whether or not she will find this to be an acceptable payment for helping the heroes previously is unknown.

Second, they gave Brother Jacob of the Abbey a few of the pieces of the broken lid. Unsure of who can be trusted they kept the majority of the lid hidden. They hoped the skilled librarian would be able to find out more information about its meaning. However, they again used subterfuge, telling him that there were no other parts recovered and that they would appreciate him not sharing his findings with the Arch Deacon. He hesitantly agreed and went to work, using the abbey’s library to guide him.

Weekend in Thule

Many times life interrupts gaming, friends move or work gets in the way. This was the case for a group I played with 20 years ago. We were playing 2nd edition D&D at the time and after 4 years of gaming our campaign came to a close when life interrupted. Fortunately, I’ve stayed in touch and we will occasionally set up a weekend to play D&D together again.

At the other end of things, my oldest son (age 11) commonly observes my current gaming group and I  playing D&D. He asked if he could join us on our next adventure and it happened to coincide with one of these rare weekend games with the old crew. I was elated and invited him to join us for his first game of Dungeons & Dragons!

A weekend game with old friends always takes the form of a one shot and it was my turn to jump behind the DM screen. I decided we would step into the world of Primeval Thule and I would run Richard Baker’s, Secret of the Moon Door. I’m a big fan of this setting and I wanted to expose more of my friends to it. Baker did a great job with this module and its very easy to customize.

With a table of friends (some from the past and others from the present) and of course my son, we ventured into the Atlantian colony of Katagia. We solved the disappearance of the sage Ghilean. We discovered a lost temple to the dead goddess Selene and unlocked the Secret of the Moon Door.

THE GOOD:
I tried something a little different and let the players design the NPC Ghilean. They all knew Ghilean was a sage/historian, but they each had to answer three questions at the beginning of the session. First, how did they meet Ghilean? Second what was one thing they liked about her? Lastly, why are they answering her letter for assistance? As we went round the table each player’s answers begun to flesh out Ghilean and the type of person she was. The players were immediately invested in the NPC because they had help create her.

THE BAD:
We ran a little short on time. The module is broken up into three parts and unfortunately the final part had to be trimmed so that we’d reach the final battle with the villain. I think I needed the equivalent of one more session (4 hours) to really do the third part justice. However, I think most players still enjoyed themselves and understood we were under time constraints.

Black Goat Campaign 06

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Six

DM NOTE:  It is important to note that with the death of Lyonesse and the retirement of Faye, there are no heroes that witnessed the original dark pool. In fact other than Brona, none of the remaining heroes were present for Parts 1-3. Our tale could have ended here… but it didn’t. Brona took up the cause of Darkwood Abbey with new allies.

CAST:
Brona, Wood Elf – Druid
Bjorndar, Hill Dwarf – Cleric of Ulaa
Zetvosk, Human – Fighter
Wyleros, Half Elf – Sorcerer
Vale, Wood Elf – Ranger
Clarion, Tielfling – Rogue

The heroes began exploring the barbarian barrows, but found nothing until they entered the “King’s Barrow”. Named for its relative size compared to the other barrows, the “King’s Barrow” was massive and contained three separate entrances. Inside they found a dark altar and trinkets honouring Shub-Niggurath. They didn’t get too deep inside before a pair of ghosts aged Zetvosk into his 70s.

The heroes retreated to Darkwood Abbey, where they discovered a small fortress had taken up residence overnight. The Red Queen’s banners flew from its tower and a large garrison of Dark Sun mercenaries had arrived with it. Worse the Abbey was under attack by an aggressive goblin warband that would unleash mutant monstrosities against the town. With the assistance of the heroes and the Queen herself unleashing her magics the warband was defeated.

Following the raid, the Queen herself acknowledged the heroes’ contribution. She told them that she had learned of their quest and asked for an update. However, the heroes were deceptive and it was obvious the Queen did not get the answers she was looking for. The Red Queen offered to have her clerics reverse the aging of Zetvosk and remove the swamp hag’s curse that plagued Brona. However, they would be in her debt and for payment of this boon they would return to the “King’s Barrow” and bring the Queen their findings. The heroes grudging agreed to these terms.

The heroes would not return directly to the barrrows though. Instead they traveled northward into the Great Wood. Their motivations for seeking the elves and the Darkwood tree were unclear and driven by Brona’s motivations more than anything else. While in the forest the heroes would make contact with the wood elves a few times. Some of these meetings were friendly and others were violent. Vale made an ally, Asha a druid of the moon who assisted her in gaining more information.

What they learned was troubling. The Goat and her goblins were using strange grubs to kill Darkwood trees. The goblin offensive was succeeding in the eastern reaches of the forest and there was a rumour that the Goat and her minions could listen to the Darkwood trees. The wood elves most strategic advantage (Darkwood Trees) could no longer be used for fear that the goblins would eavesdrop.

Their journey into the Great Wood came to an end when they finally reached an eastern Darkwood Tree, guarded by a druid and his dire wolf pack. The heroes defeated the druid after he refused to let them near the tree. Brona reached out through the Darkwood roots trying to send a message to her druid allies. However, the Darkwood trees were more silent than she’d ever witnessed before.

Birth of a Kingdom

The Kingdom was formed out of a necessity for defense against the goblinoid hordes of Hildrakk. The Lords of South Khrullion formed an alliance to defend their homes and families in 1216KD. Goblin raids declined for a short time against the united defenses. A bugbear chieftain named Hulgat rose to power in 1218KD. He led the largest goblin horde the people of Khrullion had ever seen, into the lowlands through the Drakk Pass. Hulgat sacked the city of Northgate and threatened its neighbouring cities.

Lord Takkar, displaced from his home in Northgate, rallied the free peoples of South Khrullion and formed an alliance with the Gael barbarians to the south. Together they took back the city of Northgate and following the battle the Kingdom was born. Lord Takkar was crowned the King of Khrullion and during the ordination the capital was renamed King’s Gate.

King Takkar ruled well until his death in 1248KD. Under his son’s (Takkar II) rule the Kingdom’s wealth would grow, large quantities of silver and iron were drawn from the Dragonscale Mountains in the West. The increased presence in the western foothills angered the dragon Cinderfang, who claimed the domain as his own. Tension between the Kingdom and the dragon rose, until at last the beast razed the town of Riverwatch in 1262KD. A band of heroes quickly retaliated against Cinderfang and the beast was slain.
In the year 1267KD a plague known as the fire fever swept across Kingdom. The fever took many lives and it did not discriminate, rich or poor. King Takkar II, fell ill and died to the fever during the year long plague.

This left the Kingdom of Khrullion to his son Takkar III. King Takkar III was soon ordained after his father’s death and almost immediately wed Lady Avarin of Tylis. His reign was short lived; an unknown ailment overtook King Takkar III and he died suddenly. With no heir, Lady Avarin became the Queen of Khrullion in 1272KD.

Shortly after mourning the loss of her husband, the new Queen imposed sweeping changes upon the Kingdom. Doubting the wisdom of her rulership, many Lords spoke out against her. Lords who opposed her changes began to disappear and there was talk of assassinations. Lord Jerem of Wyvernmoor was the loudest of these rebels and renounced the Queen, accusing her of murdering Takkar III.

The Queen’s army would siege Wyvernmoor in 1274. Her elite guard, known as The Black Suns, dragged Lord Jerem from his keep and executed him for treason. His heir, Rayan was not found and the Queen declared the young noble a traitor, seizing all of his wealth and lands. Those who witnessed the siege of Wyvernmoor, tell tales of demons fighting alongside the Queen’s army.

Following the siege, the Kingdom saw more change. The Queen rose above the laws of the Kingdom and traditions were thrown aside. Taxation and extortion became rampant. The penalties for breaking the laws of the land became extremely harsh; unless, you  could afford to pay off the so-called justice.

In the spring of 1279KD the city of Tylis ended its fealty to Khrullion. The holy city looks to Paladin-Lord Tamiel to lead them. Fearing the demonic allies of the Queen, Tamiel ordered the holy city be purged of all tieflings. The Knights of the Silver Shield burnt hundreds of tieflings at the stake in a single evening. This genocidal act is now remembered as The Night of Light.

It is now 1280KD, Khrullion is the domain of Avarin, The Red Queen. Her alliance with a dark power is undeniable; The Black Suns (her elite guard) mix their ranks with cambions and worse. The capital, King’s Gate has become a terrifying sight to behold. Peasants toil in the shadow of its great walls and strange winged demons patrol the skies. The people are crippled beneath the Queens demonic influence and tyranny.

The city of Tylis stands as a beacon on the edge of Khrullion. Its knights keep its borders secure against all manners of evil. However, Tylis shows signs of fanaticism and zealotry. It began with their purge of tieflings, then their formation of the inquisitors, what next step will be taken in the name of safety? Cool heads try and keep the balance in Tylis, with the hope it does not slip into the encompassing darkness.

NPC: Brother Jacob

Inside the border of the Great Forest rests Darkwood Abbey. The Abbey is guarded and
cared for by a sect of cleric/monks, known as the Order of the Cudgel. The order follows the texts of St. Cuthbert, stressing respect and faithfulness. Darkwood Abbey’s library is a treasure to the Kingdom of Khrullion. The curator of this treasure is the venerable cleric Brother Jacob.

Jacob takes great pride in his library and the special collections he has helped curate. Even though he is considered a master in many fields of study, Jacob still considers himself a student. He has a particular interest in the folklore of Khrullion, before it became a Kingdom.

Like many of his sect, Jacob tends to be a listener and is careful to be precise when he speaks. He is an advisor to the Arch Deacon and commonly sits in on council discussions that concern the town or Abbey. Jacob is a reasonable, level head man, but does have a tendency to hold a grudge.

Black Goat Campaign 05

Black Goat of the Woods, Part Five

After many weeks, the heroes returned to Darkwood Abbey. During their return they stopped again in Mistdale and tried to uncover the swamp hag that had evaded them before. Unfortunately, the hunt again ended in failure. When they finally reach the Abbey it was early autumn and only Brona and Lyonesse remained from the original party. Although, retired from adventuring they were reunited with Faye who was now serving the Abbey as a sister of St Cuthbert.

Tanaleca
Daokan of the Black Suns

The Great Wood had become fully engulfed in conflict during their absence. The Abbey had seen several goblin raids and the wood elves were now killing any non-elf on sight. The Queen of Khrullion had sent a large garrison of Black Sun mercenaries to Darkwood Abbey. This force was led by a cambion named Daokan. Things were grim at the Abbey and its people were fearful.

The heroes revealed everything they had found to the  Archdeacon and his council. The council consisted of: Archdeacon Torel, Daokan, Captain Artur and Ambassador Ashlyn. They elaborated a fair bit about the barrow scrolls and it became obvious that the Archdeacon had not brought the council up to speed. The council suggested that the heroes investigate the barbarian barrows to see if any other information about Shub-Niggurath could be found.

The heroes agreed to search the barrows, but first Lyonesse asked the clerics of St Cuthbert to remove the curse that bound her to the sword she found. An exorcism was preformed on the blade and the spirit within, but it released the ogre-mage that was trapped within the sword (wounding Brother Jacob in the process). Later Lyonesse was found dead on her anvil where she had been crafting a new magic blade.

Archdeacon Torel is sequestered by the Black Suns following the council’s meeting with the heroes. His whereabouts during this time were unknown and it is unclear what happened to him. It is assumed some sort of interrogation took place and a few days later he was returned unharmed.

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