The Northon Saga Chapter One
In the town of Northon nothing is as it seems. Reports of strange occurances, disappearances, anomalous activity and rumors of eldritch cults have plauged this town for years.
Talk to your players before you do anything else.
The false hydra campaign arc involves memory modification and will involve you as a DM lying to your players to prevent metagaming. Talk to your players and ask them if they are ok with a campaign arc dealing with memory modifications and mild gaslighting. If they arent then feel free to cut out the false hydra arc of the campaign and run the modules without them.
The Adventure Hook
In the middle of the night, the party receives a letter from a terrified courier. It reads:
To the esteemed heroes of the realm,
I write this letter to you in hopes that you may HELP our town in an hour of need. Our humble village's roads are oft beset by banditry and brigands, making the transport of goods difficult for US. Our poor town may lack wealth in gold, however IT must be said that we have many open residences that would make a fine home for noble heroes such as yourselves. A long abandoned mansion we have available IS, I think, an appropriate reward for your aid. It has many fine rooms and a rich history within the town. I would also be remiss if I did not mention the home’s elaborate dining hall, which surely would be fit for EATING in by esteemed heroes like you. Enclosed within is the deed and manor key as advanced payment for helping US.
A Decipher Script or Sense Motive check at DC10 will reveal to the players, if they have not already figured it out, that the capitalized words spell out "Help us, it is eating us."
The town of Northon is controlled by Mayor Chestdew, a retired merchant. When presented with the letter the PC's received, or the deed and key, he will initially deny having sent them; however, he will state that the village did have a bandit problem and that he had planned on hiring adventurers to handle it. If the party can prove they dispatched the bandits by showing their looted goods or via having the bandits in chains, the Mayor will honor the deed to the mansion as long as the party promises to tell anyone who asks that the Mayor hired them to eliminate the bandit problem (as it is an election year). The party should not have to make any rolls to convince the mayor to honor the deal in the letter so long as they do not attempt to intimidate him.
The Town of Northon
Upon first sight, the town seems like any other sleepy hamlet. Do more than simply pass through it, however, and the strangeness begins to unfold. Villagers disappear in the night, their family and friends never mentioning them again - as if they never even existed. DM's should show this by having a standard 5% chance of an NPC they have interacted with in the village vanish without a trace every three days. When this happens, other villagers will deny the vanished person has ever existed, despite any evidence to the contrary. If confronted with undeniable proof, the NPC will become confused for 1d4 rounds and then lose all memory of the encounter with the party. Roll on the following table to determine the NPC's actions during the confused state.
|01-25||NPC wanders away|
|26-50||NPC mutters incoherently|
|51-75||NPC screams at the top of their lungs, then falls unconscious|
|76-100||NPC sobs uncontrollably|
A: Town hall
C: Constable/town jail
D: Blacksmiths forge.
H: Private residences
* Any areas not marked are abandoned/empty
The mansion should be the next stop for the players. It is highly unlikely they will have had time to notice people going missing, or too much of the utter wrongness of the town. If you must ensure they don’t notice anything too strange, hold off the vanishings until after the players deal with the house.
The mansion deed was signed over to the party by the mayor in the previous encounter, and he highly encourages them to check out their new luxury home. The brass key that came with the letter opens the lock on the front door.
The outside of the home is beautiful: the wood and trim looks solidly built and the paint is relatively fresh. For a home that hasn’t been lived in, it appears as if it has been well maintained.
The DM should encourage all members of the party to be within the house by nightfall. If some party members choose not to, don’t press the issue. The real fun doesn’t happen until much later anyways. Spending just a single night in the house is enough to start triggering its effects.
The encounter proper will begin once the party rests for the night within the mansion for the first time. If it is daytime, allow them to enter and exit the house at will and explore all the rooms. During the first day, nothing seems out of the ordinary and the house appears as advertised: a well furnished and stocked luxury home, fit for a wealthy merchant or minor nobility.
The silverware is made of real silver. The furniture is made from rare woods. The curtains are spun from the highest quality cloths. Fine china dishes and crystal goblets can be found in the kitchen. The foodstocks in the pantries are still good, and enough to last for three months.
The bedrooms are the only areas that will seem slightly amiss. While furnished much like the rest of the house, they also contain personal belongings from unknown individuals: clothing, paintings, hairbrushes (with hair still in them), etc.
An investigation (Search check, DC 13) will uncover the personal belongings of a family: a husband, wife, and three children. If the players ask the townspeople about them (by, say, showing them one of the paintings depicting the family, or describing how they appeared), nobody in the town will know who they were and will deny that anyone ever lived in the house. Any kind of Sense Motive check or lie detection spell will show they believe what they are saying.
First floor layout
Second floor layout
1: Entrance hall.
2: The Kitchen.
4: Formal Dining hall.
5: Gaming room.
7: The Library.
8: Breakfast nook.
9: Storage closet.
10: Linens closet.
13: Master bedroom.
14: Arcane lab.
17: Trophy Room.
19: Master bathroom.
20: Hidden panic room.
1: Entrance hall
In the entrance hall there are racks to hang cloaks, coats, weapons, and armor. Old oil paintings adorn the walls, depicting heroic scenes from history. Suits of nonfunctional plate mail stand in each corner, holding decorative swords which point down. Animal skin rugs adorn the floor. A small cabinet contains various distilled spirits and fine crystal drinking glasses. A small humidor, with various pipe tobaccos and cigars, can be found as well. An ornate fireplace (blue rectangle on the map) is unlit but contains ashes. There are four small tables, each with four ornate wooden chairs seated around them, as well as an ash tray on the tables. It is fairly obvious that this room was used to attend guests for drinking and conversation.
2: The kitchen
The kitchen contains a full set of fine copper cookware, cast iron pans, a wood stove, its own fireplace with a cauldron. Hung on the walls are various dried herbs and spices. A full set of chef’s knives and prep tools can also be found among the drawers. The kitchen is clean. The fire is out, but ashes can be found in the fireplace. In the center of the room is a giant marble countertop used for meal preparations. Various kinds of cheeses and dried/smoked/salted meats are hanging around here, and they are still good.
Inside the larder is about three months’ worth of various high-end foodstuffs and preserves.
4: Formal Dining hall.
A formal dining hall with an ornate wooden long table and chairs(yellow rectangle). Along the walls are cabinets that display multiple fine porcelain dish sets.
5: Gaming room.
Within this small room is a billiards table, several small tables with chess boards on them, and a medium sized circular table with a deck of playing cards and numerous clay tokens. A small cabinet with various distilled spirits and drinking glasses is also present.
Stairs that can take you to the other floor; pretty self-explanatory.
7: The Library.
Along each wall there are floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, even covering the windows.ach bookshelf is full of tomes. Sliding ladders allow a person to pick up any book from any shelf. Furnishing the room are padded ornate chairs and a couch. There are hundreds of books on various topics; players can use the library as a research tool, giving a 25% chance that the library has a book on a given subject and that they can find it. The odds of finding books on eldritch lore of any kind is 50% instead, as numerous books here deal with this topic.
8: Breakfast nook.
A small informal dining area. A fine china tea service set sits on a table for five.
9: Storage closet.
Old, unused, or spare household items are stored here.
10: Linens closet.
Spare linens for beds, table cloths, body towels, etc are stored here.
A few paintings or small art objects decorate the hallways.
There are three regular bedrooms, each one apparently belonging to a young adult: two men and one woman. Their personal effects can be found with a Search check (DC 13) as well as depictions of their appearance.
13: Master bedroom
Upon a successful Search check (DC 13), the master bedroom can be identified as having belonged to an older couple. Paintings of the man and woman show them to be middle-aged to elderly, and their personal effects can be found in the room.
14: Arcane Lab
Within this room you can find blackboards on the wall with various magical formulae written on them. Reagents in beakers are on tables, as well as notes on various arcane theories. Using this lab grants a +2 Circumstance bonus to Knowledge (arcana) checks.
The bathrooms have ornate marble tubs and cabinets filled with scented oils and soaps, in addition to the usual facilities one expects in a bathroom.
The solarium has glass panels instead of a roof, shaped in a geometric dome. Houseplants can be found growing in pots (still alive) and various chairs and small tables are here as well. A little cabinet with various spirits and crystal drinking glasses can be found as well.
17: Trophy Room
The mounted heads of various predatory wild animals adorn the room, surrounding a centerpiece: the mounted head of a young red dragon.
A cloth awning covers this outdoor area. There are lounging chairs and tables.
19: Master bathroom
This one is similar to the other bathrooms, but it also contains a steam room.
20: Hidden panic room.
A Spot (DC 17) or Knowledge (architecture and engineering) (DC13) check will allow a player to notice this room’s existence. Locating the hidden mechanism that opens the room requires a successful Search check (DC 25). The room has a permanent Protection From Evil cast upon it. The walls are solid steel as well as sound proof. There are seven days’ worth or dried rations stored in the cabinets..
The first night in the mansion.
As stated before, during the daytime the players can enter and exit the mansion at will with no issue. When the players spend the night in the house, the trap is sprung, unbeknownst to them. They can do as they wish during the night; it makes no difference. When dawn breaks the next day and they go about their business within the town, that is when you should start implementing the house’s supernatural effects.
Days spent in house
1 day: Any homes you enter that are not your own lead back to the mansion instead.
2 days : Any homes or businesses you enter lead back to the mansion instead.
3 days : Any door anywhere that is not the mansion instead leads to the mansion.
4 days: Leaving the mansion in any way leads right back to the entrance hall.
The effect is supernatural and deposits players within the entrance hall as if they had entered the house through the front door. Leaving the front door will not take them back to where they came from; they must travel back to that area if they wish to return to it. The effects can be temporarily bypassed by spells like Teleport, Dimension Door, Gate (or other dimensional travel spell), Antimagic Aura, or Dispell Magic. However, the next door they enter will lead them back to the mansion, regardless of plane. If there are no doors on the plane of existence, then they will be pulled back into the mansion within 1d4 rounds.
Mage’s Disjunction, if cast upon the house, has the following potentially disastrous effects. Firstly, consider the house to have a will save modifier of +13 If the house makes its will save, then nothing happens and it is immune to further Disjunction attempts.
If the house fails then it and all of its contents (including any players) are pulled into a whirling event horizon created by the collapse of the house. Any objects pulled in are destroyed forever and may only be recovered by a Wish or Miracle spell.
This small black hole exists for 2d4+5 rounds, pulling in anything within 50 feet (DC 30 Strength check to resist by grabbing onto something solid). At the end of the duration the singularity explodes, sending a destructive energy pulse along the city streets, vaporizing the town and everything in it.
If the Wish or Miracle spell is used to remove the house’s anomalous effects, regardless of how the spell is worded, the house will cease to exist as if it were never built. In its place will be a solid stone road. This outcome ends the mansion portion of the adventure. If this route is taken, Northon's other anomalous effects cease forever, with the exception of the disappearances.
Day 4 and beyond
Once the day 4 effect has occurred and the players cannot leave the mansion, the weirdness really begins to dial up. The panic room, if it has been located, will be the only room immune to the effects of the house. This is intended as a safe room where the players can rest and plan. If the players did not find the panic room, rest will likely be difficult.
Feel free to roll for or choose the anomalous effects for the day.
Random anomalous effects
1. For the rest of the day, the walls breathe.
2. Torches, candles and other sources of light (even magical) randomly dim, the room becomes cold, windows frost over, and words appear written in the frost.
3. When a PC looks into a mirror they see themselves and also their worst fears behind them, coming to clearly do them harm. When they turn around, nothing is there; but for the rest of the day their reflection is gone.
4. The PCs hear whispered conversation coming from around a corner, but will find nobody there.
5. The next time a PC uses a canteen or water source, thousands of spiders pour forth instead. They vanish after 2 rounds.
6. A random room within the mansion suddenly becomes an inky black vortex for the rest of the day. The sounds of wet chewing can be heard inside, and there is a mild compulsion to enter (Will save DC10 to resist). Treat as a Bag of Devouring.
7. A PC feels suddenly nauseous and vomits; mixed in with the half-digested food are recognizable humanoid parts. Target the Paladin or Cleric with this first.
8. The next door a PC tries to open sprouts shark teeth and attempts to bite off their fingers.
9. The walls begin to bleed in the shape of eldritch runes and sigils.
10. Eyes sprout on the walls and constantly follow the party.
11. Fog fills the house, obscuring vision.
12. The next time a PC enters a hallway, they see at the end a clown with razor sharp teeth, grinning at them, holding a red balloon. It begins to chase them and vanishes just before it catches up.
13. The next PC to lie down or sit on a bed is attacked by a giant trapdoor spider that attempts to drag them under.
14. Paintings in the entrance hall begin to animate, showing their epic battle scenes play out. If a PC watches for more than one round they become Enthralled as per the spell. For every round they observe the scenes they are aged one year; they are unaware of this and watching feels very pleasurable. Any other PC can break their line of sight and stop the enthrallment. If the process is interrupted, the PC regains one year of youth every round until back to their normal age. Should the PC perish, their soul is consumed by the painting.
15. The windows no longer show the house exterior but a surreal, corrupted vista. Tentacled swarms instead of people, impossible geometries that hurt to look at, colors that don't exist, etc.
16. Each PC sees the other for a moment as rotting, corrupted corpses that are animated and hostile. Then they blink, and it is gone.
17. A children’s song can be heard faintly in the background. Laughter softly follows the PC's when they make any decisions, as if mocking them.
18. Curtains or furnishings move as though something brushed against them, yet nobody is in a position to have done so and no breeze blows.
19. A random PC's non-dominant hand begins to try to throttle that PC. Their dominant hand becomes unable to move. This effect fades after one round.
20. Each PC is randomly teleported to a different room in the house the next time a door is opened.
Non random effects.
These effects happen in sequence depending on the days spent in the house.
|5||1d4+2 Hasted Bull’s Strength Zombies manifest in random places. The decorative platemail statues move when nobody is looking at them. They do not attack, but they will try to corner players.|
|6||A cloud (3-12) of Eyeball Beholderkin manifest in a room.|
|7||A pod of Intellect Devourers manifest and go into hiding, waiting for lone PC's to pick off.|
|8||The houses geometry becomes permanently non-euclidian: entering or exiting a room will result in you winding up in a random room. The random room changes each day.|
|9||The walls are permanently covered in stretched , flayed corpses. They wail and beg for death, but it never comes.|
|10||A devil in fine clothing appears before the party holding documents, claiming to represent Asmodeus. He offers to make their problems with the house stop, in exchange for their souls. If they decline he remains in the home as an affable guest, in case they change their minds. He does not interfere.|
|11||Every 30 minutes, 5 Gibbering Mouthers manifest.|
|12||Every 30 minutes 5 Gibbering Mouthers and 5 Rust Monsters manifest.|
|13||1d4 random rooms permanently become vorticesper random effect 6. Daily effect 12 occurs as well and continues until day 15|
|14||3 Mind Flayers manifest, 2d4 more rooms become vortices|
|15||The devil gives the party a "freebie" and resets the house back to its original state for the day. No monsters manifest. He again makes an offer to solve the problem permanently in exchange for the souls of the party. He warns them that the “reset” will revert the next day and the danger will escalate.|
|16||The house reverts back to it was on day 14. 3 Mind Flayers and 1d4+1 Beholders manifest.|
|17||1d4 more rooms become vortices. 6 mind flayers and 2d4+2 beholders manifest.|
|18||1d4 more rooms become vortices. If all rooms are vortices, skip to day 20. Otherwise, 12 Mind Flayers and 4d4+4 Beholders manifest.|
|19||1d4 more rooms become vortices. If all rooms are vortices, skip to day 20. Otherwise 24 Mind Flayers and 8d4+8 beholders manifest.|
|20||All rooms (even the panic room) become vortices. The players are consumed body, mind, and soul.|
There are multiple routes to escape the house.
The good ending.
Investigating the library and magical lab, the PCs can discover (with a successful Knowledge (arcana) check, DC 25) that the house was built on part of a giant stone sigil that makes up the city’s roads. The sigil was broken by the construction of the house and parts of the stone were used in the foundation. The previous owners made a diabolic pact, selling their souls and the souls of their children in exchange for stability in the home.
Smashing up the floor into the sublevel will allow the players to manhandle those stones and replace them into the sigil, however there is still some stones missing. The sigil repair is imperfect, allowing the players to leave the home; however the weirdness of the town remains. Upon exiting the home it collapses, destroying everything except the silverware inside. (1000 GP worth)
Some of the scrap wood can be reclaimed to build a much smaller but safer home on the property.
The Neutral Ending.
The party can ignite the house and burn it to the ground, however the house will not let them go and they burn inside of it. The evil inside is defeated, but at what cost?
Further investigation in the magical lab (Knowledge (arcana) check, DC 15) will provide the summoning ritual for the devil the family bargained with. If the party cannot find it, the same devil will arrive on day 10 to make the offer.
The party signs the pact with the devil and bargains their souls for dimensional stability within the house, reverting the changes and allowing them to come and go freely. But now a devil has an unbreakable lien on their souls.
Dungeon Masters Notes.
You should allow clever solutions to the house outside of the prescribed solutions. Wall of stone, stone shape or transmute mud to rock etc to reenforce the home and move the sigil stone in place is likely to work.
Dimensional Anchor could stabalize the house enough to allow the players to leave. Using permanency with Dimensional Anchor could allow them to permanently suppress the anomalous effects.
So long as the solution is creative and well thought out and makes sense you should allow it.
The devil who offers a contract for the players souls should be played as friendly, affiable and not very convincing in regards to the contract. If pressed on the issue the devil will admit that they care little for infernal politics and just is using it as an excuse to come to the prime matereal plane. If the players solve the problems of the house without the contract he will say he is relieved but now is forced to go back to the nine hells.
You could allow the party to convince the devil to stay in the house as an employee or caretaker of the property. Treat alignment as true neutral and give the devil some interests in the matereal world, like gourmet cooking or gardening and appropriate skills to match. He will excell in this role and appear happy to do it.
However he will not fight or use his abilities to aid the party in combat or to solve serious problems. If asked why he will explain that the use of major abilities on the prime matereal plane is tracked and accounted for and he lacks the infernal funds to power such abilities and that he is not much of a fighter.
This could lead to further adventures by itself where the party has to convince the town the devil means no harm, and might have to find a way to keep the nine hells from recalling him. This route would only be avilable to the good ending. If the evil ending was chosen treat as a normal devil.
The purpose of this module is to get the players invested in staying within the town on a permanent basis and the town is intended to be weird in extreme ways. See shows like gravity falls, twin peaks and welcome to nightvale for inspiration on how to describe the town itself when going into later modules.
Its also important to ensure the players have heard the fact that nobody can remember the old owners. They have been eaten by a false hydra that will be central to later modules.
Add a few parts to the module intended for the "missing party member" you noted at the start. Then give the players easy outs to these problems. If its a locked door, make the key simple to find. Lacking a cleric? You easly find healing potions. No wizard? The knowledge arcana checks are bypassed and the documents you need to discover are the first thing the party finds, and easy to understand as if it has been translated for laymen. Lack of a fighter? Reduce monster HP each round of combat as if a fighter has been hitting them.
Allow the players to believe and even encourage the idea that you have given the dungeon a mild nerfing due to their lack of a certian class, one that the adventure had required but you changed things to allow it to be solvable by them.