SCENIC BERGENZEL (AKA Scenic Dunnsmouth)
DEATH AND TAXIDERMY
SPOILERS BELOW! See previous entries for how we ended up here.
The adventurers make their way up from Herman’s Boat House to the cottage of Adolph and Sheila Van Kaus. Hearing voices from the cottage (just audible over the sound of the bleating of the sickly sheep eating moss around the house), they pause and eavesdrop. They hear Adolph and Sheila bemoaning their fate, Sheila wishing she had a husband who could make her marvelous furniture, and Adolph wishing he had a wife worthy of making marvelous furniture for. (It’s all from the module. It’s great.) The players were amused and delighted and disarmed, and walked up to knock on the door.
Now the house has been infected, which means the couple’s daughter, Kaylee is a product of the cult–an attractive girl with six spider arms and able to fight with all of them with a dagger each. She’s in her bedroom, with the door closed, so while Adolph is rude to the Player Characters, they suspect little danger. They get information about where the Church is and decide to move on.
However, Mike, who plays Vilfolk, a Specialist, has decided that he’s going to stay behind and talk to the couple about fixing their leaky roof. The party doesn’t usually split up. But it becomes clear through the evening’s play that Mike is making sure isolate his character in order to draw out trouble to himself and lure the dangers of the village out into the open.
Now, Adolph and Sheila are supposed to be obnoxious and drive PCs away, due to their family nature. But when one of the Player Characters offers to stay behind, I realize that this is one of the few chances I might have for the infected villagers to get the drop on one of the PCs and get him or her to the Spider to be infected. So, first Adolph refused Vilfolk’s offer. And then, as soon as the party is leaving, the door swings open again, and he invites Vilfolk inside.
Eric, another player, decides that his character Werner, is going to stay with Vilfolk, standing outside the cottage with his crossbow ready, in case trouble arrives.
The rest of the group heads north through the swamp for the church, looking for Father Iwanopolous in order to secure the back taxes they’ve bought from Father Jonah back in Murnau.
Adolph tours Vilfolk through the leaks in the ceiling, leading him to the master bedroom, and then his daughter’s bedroom. Vilfolk is on guard. But as he heads back to the main room with Adloph (where Sheila has been sitting the whole time) Kaylee moves quickly from her bedroom, a dagger in each of her six hands, and strikes! She get surprise! I am convinced that I’m about to take Vilvolk down and then move quickly to dispatch Werner!
But… Kaylee rolls poorly, only hitting twice (!), and then only doing a few points of damage (!). The fight is on!
Sheila has grabbed a dagger and rushes for Werner. Werner fires a crossbow bolt into her. Vilfolk fights Kaylee, then realizes he might not last against all of her attacks. He bolts for the door to join Werner outside. Werner meanwhile drops his crossbow and swings the Spear of Longinus he took from The God That Crawls into Sheila. (This is the first time Werner has used the spear. He does not know it yet, but he is now cursed, unable to be helped by spells cast by Clerics.) Sheila is killed by the blow. Kaylee arrives right behind Vilfolk.
They fight Kaylee in the doorway, blocking Adolph from helping… but still… six attacks a turn. They end up fighting defensively as they call for their companions to return.
The rest of the group is a few minutes away up the swamp. By the time they get back the fight will be over one way or another. But they hustle as fast as they can back south.
Adolph sneaks out a window with a club and tries to flank them. Lots of wounds back and forth, until both Kaylee and Adolph are dead.
Now, I didn’t expect this to happen. But now I’ve tipped my hand… the PCs all gather up, examine Kaylee’s corpse, and quickly surmise some sort of Spider Cult is busy in Bergenzel.
The group goes back to Herman’s shack. They aggressively demand he tell them what is going on. (They are certain everyone is in on it and are preparing to string up everyone.) They drag Herman’s ass up the path to his brother’s place and show him the corpse of his niece. He goes paler than he already is, drops to his knees, and passes out. Suddenly they are not sure if everyone in Bergenzel is already corrupt. (Note: Not everyone is.)
They leave Herman in the cottage, take his skiff, and make their way up to the church for more information.
They find Father Iwonopolous. They know Father Jonah sent him to Bergenzel 20 years ago. But when they ask about how long he has been in in the village, he says about five years. And even then, in his eyes, he seems hazy and confused about the matter.
They tell him about Kaylee, and he begins to understand that Magda, living in a cottage north of the church, might be at the center of this. Many of the parishioners have invited him to go to her home and try to save her soul. The Players now suspect that getting folks to Magda’s place is ruse to get folks infected.
They ask about Rudolph Graupher. He is the explorer of other worlds they are seeking. (Although they might make some money collecting taxes, they really are here to track down clues to find him. They know his keep is in an hidden location in the Alsp. But they also know he might have a home here in Bergenzel.) The priest knows Graupher, though he can’t remember when he saw him last. But he will lead them to the house.
They reach Graupher’s house. This was the Worldly Explorer’s Home in the Scenic Dunnsmouth rules. I have made it the Other Worldly’s Explorer’s home. It is the only element I “forced” when setting up the village. Everything else was random, per the Scenic Dunnsmouth rules.
By chance, the Other Worldly Explorer’s Home also is where Uncle Ivanovik (a terrifyingly powerful serial killer wielding a rusty two handed axe) has set up shop in Bergenzel. He is crazy, believes Magda was once his wife, and wants to kill her. He hunts people in the swamp, and then stuffs them like trophies. Here are my notes for the house. Some are straight from the book, others are altered because of my needs for the campaign:
WORLDLY EXPLORER’S HOME
Here lies the abandoned home of RUDOLPH GRAUPHER, a man of wealth who explored the alternate realities of many earths. Trinkets from these other worlds decorate each and every room of his three story brick home.
His parlour contains alien masks carved from a strange, greenish petrified wood, mannequins in Oriental looking silk dresses (three of them, each worth 100sp, though closer inspection reveals there is slit in the back for what might be a tail), and a fez sits on the mantelpiece underneath a shield with an emblem they do not recognize on it and a pair of swords of unseen design behind it. His fine leather furniture is protected by linen sheets. His dining room contains a solid oak table, a set of ten exquisitely carved chairs, and a fabulous oil painting mounted on one wall.
The painting is worth 40sp, but if the player characters have great knowledge of the art world the painting is actually from a famous Dutch museum (actually, a copy from an alternate Earth) (which apparently now houses a fraud) and is worth 45,000sp. No matter what the value of the painting, it depicts a dark haired noblewoman with an enigmatic smile.
At the top of the stairs stands a stuffed creature, like a bear but with feathers rather than fur and eyes all over its face, rearing up as if to attack. Grauphen’s bedroom contains lacquered wicker furniture and a heart shaped bed with zebra fur blankets.
A gem inlaid rapier (worth 650sp) and 4 bottles of expensive scotch (each worth 200sp) are tucked into his dresser.
Per the setup if Uncle Ivanovik has set up house, Graupher is dead and stuffed at the head of the table. There are also several adventurers, naked, gutted, and stuffed poorly, their feet nailed to the floor to keep them upright. They are in fierce poses to mimic the pose of the creature at the top of the stairs. (However, the creature’s taxidermy is done well… the work done on the dead men is not.)
The whole encounter played out with growing terror. At first, looking in the living room from the front door, it seemed like a normal but empty home.
But then one of the characters decided “Since we’re here…” to take a quick look inside. The door was unlocked, after all, so why not.
Stepping inside they saw the first of the stuffed and posed men. And from there the weirdness kept building… more naked and stuffed men. Artifact from alien worlds. And so on.
So they decided to explore the whole place after all. Everyone but Vilfolk made their way through the house, checking for traps, and exploring carefully. Vilfolk waited by the front door with the priest. The water of the flooded swamp reached right up to the doorway.
On the second floor of the house the Player Character found a dozen GLOBES… all showing continents and worlds that did not match any maps they had ever seen before.
They also found THREE SHEETS FROM A FOLIO that had been scattered on the floor.
The pages are covered with DRAWINGS. I described the drawings as looking tentative, as if the hand drawing them were finding the elements of the images “as if in a dream…”
There are also, on each page, A COMBINATION OF NUMBERS of some sort. (You can see them you look at the accompanying photos.) The Player Characters will, if they track down the Graupher’s keep in the Alps, be able to use these numbers to travel to the worlds illustrated on each sheet.
Anikia, the Magic-User, meanwhile detects a scent in the room. It is similar to the Lotus Powder the adventurers found in Death Frost Doom, but processed in a different, magical manner. She has enough knowledge to recognize it as a powder used to alter one’s consciousness to dream of other places.
Next to a chair they find a hookah with the residue of the crystalized lotus powder, as well as a small table with a bottle of ink and a red pen which most likely had been used to make the drawings on the pages.
The group looks for other pages, but everything has been torn out of the folio, and most likely burned down in the still warm oven in the kitchen they explored on the first floor.
They also find a journal entry from Graupher.
So, the folio sheets…
These are props I made that tie directly to images from each of three locations I would love the Player Characters to go to. One set of images is Graupher dreaming of Quelong. Another set of images is the beanstalk that leads to Castle Gargantua. And the third set of images is Graupher catching glimpses of the Isle of the Unknown.
You will note, if you have a copy of Qelong, I stole liberally from Rich Longmore’s fantastic art from the interior of the book.
The Players LOVED the folio pages and are now wondering which world to go to, how to access the codes, and where to go to find their way to these other places.
Meanwhile, down by the front door, Uncle Ivanovik snuck up on Vilvolk and the priest.
Once again, I thought, “This is it! Vilfolk is going down!”
Here are Uncle Ivanovik’s stats:
Armor Class: 14
Hit Dice: 11
72HP (+2 due to 16 CON)
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 (+13 to hit [HD11 + 17 STR])
(-2 for AC 15 or better for the Daggers and Straight Razors)
Straight Razor 1d6
Rusty Two-Handed Axe 1d10
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter 11
He’s tough! And the PCs are all Third Level.
He surprised Vilfolk, getting a swing in, but only doing 3 points of damage.
On the next round Vilfolk got the initiative and swung the priest into Graupher’s house, following him, and slamming the door behind him. He bolted the door.
Uncle Ivanovik BANGED once on the door. It would take him a few minutes to break down the door. So he quietly snuck off into the swamp, leaving the group in the house.
The players now have the folio pages. They also know that there is a man in the village who sometimes did errands in the mountains and might know where Graupher’s keep is. They also know that there is a spider cult. They also know that there is something wrong with time in the village. And, most astoundingly of all, perhaps, they have found a painting worth 45,000sp! It’s in their hands and they could head home and forget about the spider cult and the time issues and call it a win.
We left the session there, with the group uncertain about which path they would follow when we reconvened.