Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Recap: The Mad Manor of Astabar

Making a Puzzle Dungeon 101
As I mentioned last week, I'm running some one-shot games this month to cover the gap in my player's schedules. I think there should be two more, but I think I'm going to do their recaps a little differently.

This one shot was on this past Saturday, so doing the recap today is fairly normal. But next week I'm anticipating not having time to do a weekly game, so I'll be writing about the next one-shot then. The last one-shot is a bit special, and I'm planning something cool for it. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. However, I think that week will be without a weekly game as well, so we'll have another Old News article coming up.

Anyway, this one-shot was a prewritten module I found online. If you're interested, it's available as a free download. The company that wrote it is called Survive RPG. All the artwork in this article is included with the module! I'll get into my personal opinions after the recap.

Monday Recap: The Mad Manor of Astabar

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Megan: Leonan "Leo" Barakoti, Half-Elf Storm Sorcerer, Knight of the Order, bold and brash
Makayla: Nostshee "Nost" Voronda, Elf Dream Druid, Knight of the Order, would rather be a wolf
Shannon: Neiri Underlake, Halfling Sea Sorceress, Knight of the Order, practical and kind
Wade: Milo Bravestout, Halfling Immortal Mystic, Knight of the Order, leader and interrogator
Will: Olgierd von Carsten, Human Phoenyx Sorcerer, Knight of the Order, loves fire a lot
Wes: Rufus Hawklight, Human Rogue, quest giver, enigmatic thief, lover of shiny things

The adventure began with the Knights of the Order, an organization dedicated to law and justice, received word from a rogue (Rufus) that the fabled Mad Manor of Astabar had appeared near the town of Havehollow. The manor was the home of a wizard who had performed experiments on a Wand of Wonder, eventually leading to some magical mishap that caused his house to teleport all over the world.

The Order, knowing the danger of such a powerful magic item dedicated to chaos, decided to send a team of Knights to investigate the manor and retrieve the wand. They met Rufus at a tavern, the Crooked Crow Inn.

The commoners had been ignoring Rufus, but their heads turned when five magical adventurers with matching robes walked into the inn. The Knights quickly introduced themselves and agreed on the contract for Rufus. The Order was not keen on obtaining riches, and had granted Rufus a sizable portion of the manor's loot in exchange for his assistance in getting them to the Wand of Wonder.

The group traveled through the forests around Havehollow, reaching the manor after an hour's walk. It was a large, three-story stone building, with a stone wall extending all the way around it. The grass within the wall had grown to unnatural size, and even Olgierd's fire wouldn't stop it from growing tall.

Milo and Rufus climbed the stone wall, and after they had ensured the garden was empty, let the party know it was safe to pass through. The characters pushed their way through the monstrous grass, reaching the ornate double doors of the manor.

My immediate thought was James and the Giant Peach
The doors were covered in odd runes, and Nost began to inspect them. As she did, however, the group heard a foreboding snort behind them. Appearing in the grass, in the space they had just traveled through, was a monstrous black rhinoceros. The adventurers were sure they couldn't defeat it, and bolted through the door just before it charged them.

Inside the manor, the group began exploring the various rooms connected to the main foyer. Their attention was drawn to a booming knock on a small side door, which Olgierd attempted to open. He was successful, but as soon as he did, he was hit with a mop bucket that flew out of the closet. Nothing seemed to have thrown the mop bucket, but a mop head raised up and began to fly at the group.

Milo and Nost worked together with their abilities to stop the item in its tracks. It strained against their combined strength, but couldn't hit anyone. Olgierd checked in the room and saw a skull with a strange symbol on it. He grabbed it, and the group closed the door.

Leo identified the symbol as a phase of the moon, in a runic system. The group decided to keep the skull and press onward.

They explored a room with a potion that made those who drank it glow, and a room with a chess puzzle that gave them another skull. The group was wondering what all these skulls were for, until they reached the dining room.

There, seated around a long table, were 8 headless skeletons dressed in finery. Olgierd discovered another skull under one of their platters, and the group noticed a painting of the full moon at the head of the table radiating sealing magic. Neiri realized that the skulls were a key to opening the painting, and they would have to collect all the skulls to get what was inside.

The characters explored a couple more rooms connected to the dining room and hallways. In one, each living thing alternated between turning to stone and turning to flesh. After finishing off some rat "statues", the group worked out the puzzle and rescued Leo, Milo, and Rufus, who had turned to stone.

You can't tell, but this rat isn't moving
In another room, the group fought a trio of giant butterflies after Rufus let them free of their jar. The room was filled with small butterflies as well, blinding everyone and making the fight very difficult. Fortunately, Neiri splashed the glowing potion on two of the butterflies attacking the group, and Milo found the third with his psychic abilities. Milo discovered a Wand of Magic Missiles for their trouble.

The group explored the kitchen, where a bowl of magic fruit turned Leo completely blue and Olgierd completely red. Leo had a fun time juggling the three pieces of fruit (the other one was yellow) and changing colors rapidly. Meanwhile, Nost used her Faerie Fire spell to find another skull in the magically darkened pantry.

They went upstairs, emerging in a bathroom that seemed to be pouring rain from the ceiling. Leo was incredibly happy. Rufus and Nost decided to check the water-filled bathtub for a skull, and were nearly swallowed by a giant frog! Fortunately, they finished the beast off quickly and found another skull in the water.

After wandering through Astabar's disappointingly-unmagical changing room, the group found his master bedroom. Olgierd picked up a small glass sphere with an explosion inside it, and Milo discovered a trapdoor leading up to the attic. The group decided to take a short rest, and Rufus attuned to a Ring of Protection he had found while poking around in the kitchen. The party was keen on exploring the rest of the second floor before entering the attic.

After the group had recuperated, they began exploring the rest of the second floor. Rufus found a room that rained gemstones, and despite taking some damage from the rocks, was quite pleased. They found a library with some odd books in it, and a strange voice that seemed to follow them afterwards, whispering discouraging things to them. Rufus did find a skull in a drawer, however.

Spoiler alert: the voice
The party had to brave hallways full of magical wind, which only stopped when they had placed three suits of armor back on their pedestals. They found a closet that turned everything in it invisible, and Olgierd and Nost decided to vanish for a bit. Next was a bedroom where they could hear whispers of each other's thoughts. Olgierd didn't like it and burned the source of the magic, a large four-post canopy bed.

The last room on the second floor was a normal-looking room where anyone that entered shrunk to minuscule height. Across the room was a chest containing another skull. Milo used his psionic hand to carry Olgeird across the room, set the chest on fire, and bring him back. Olgierd cackled the entire way back, and Milo grabbed the skull.

Finally, only needing one more skull, the group went up to the attic. There, lying on the floor and holding the final skull, was the body of Rufus!

Rufus's memories began to flood back. He had tried to tackle the manor with his old adventuring party. He had thought he was the only one to survive, but it seemed that the magic of the Manor had been giving him a corporeal form. In fact, he had died from a poisoned sting in his back over a year ago.

The group collected the skull and returned to the dining room. After placing the skulls on the correct bodies, the full moon painting waxed to a new moon, revealing a secret vault behind it. Inside was a key, which the group realized must go to the wizard's study in the attic.

The ascended once more, making their way through the piles of Astabar's odd collections. Suddenly, the group was hit with a Slow spell affecting half of their number. The voice that had been following them revealed that it was malevolent, and attacked them as an invisible monster!

Neiri blasted the sound of the voice with a Thunderwave, and it howled in pain. Olgierd unleashed his fire on it, but it seemed to be unaffected. The monster used its poison stinger on Olgierd, and revealed itself to be an Imp, a minor devil that often serves as a wizard's familiar. Rufus shuddered to see the weapon that felled him.

Nost began casting Faerie Fire, but being slowed, she had barely finished her incantation before Leo blasted the Imp with a Chromatic Orb, vaporizing it. The group recovered from the Slow effect and made their way to the wizard's study door.

The door opened to the key, and the group saw inside the wizard's private sanctum. Strange implements covered the tables, including their sought-after prize: the Wand of Wonder! Nost went forward to inspect it and suddenly vanished!

The rest of the group was very cautious. Olgierd noticed a locked chest on the ground, and after realizing he couldn't burn it open, decided to help look for the key. Rufus inspected all the way around the table, and when he reached the point where Nost had vanished, he disappeared as well!

Pictured: not a great wizard
Nost and Rufus had appeared in the Ethereal Plane, where they were surprised to find the wizard Astabar. Even more surprising was that he had apparently turned into a zombie! The former mage attacked the group.

Meanwhile, Neiri and Olgierd sidestepped the portal to the Ethereal and grabbed the wand. With a poof, Nost, Rufus, and Astabar were back in the material plane! The group, unhindered by the magic of the wand, finished off the zombie quickly. Rufus noticed that his weapons seemed to pass through his enemy, even though he had fought normally up until this point.

Rufus began to fade away, making the Knights promise to burn the manor down and to never forget him. Olgierd immediately agreed to the first and forgot the second. Nost, unsettled by their companion's death, grabbed a dust-covered bone from Rufus's body and promised to find a way to bring him back to life some day.

The Knights exited the manor, all the magic of the wand now negated. Olgierd set the building on fire, and they began the journey back to the temples of their Order.

The chess puzzle: it's black's move, win in one move. Makayla solved this immediately.
Overall, I enjoyed this adventure. It was more of a dungeon crawl than I like to run, but the puzzle rooms and the variety of cool rooms based on the Wand of Wonder were a lot of fun. Also, the adventure isn't too long (17 pages), and didn't take much time to prepare, meaning it was fun to do for a random one-shot.

My groups are not used to doing these sort of games, however, and the session ran a little longer than I expected. Which is fine, but it's always good to consider how much time your group takes to do things. I have an idea of how long my players take to do various tasks, but I should really work on applying that to prewritten modules. I should have probably cut a few of the combats, or altered some rooms to be simpler.

Thanks for reading!

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