NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 22


Pretty good haul

Previously in Nightwick...

Cherwe (Cleric 1)
Ianthi (Changling 1)
Mayfly (Magic-User 2.5)

Hirelings: Elger, Grolmes, Ticze, Mach, Pawel the OG

Off the road but only for a short while...

The party initially considers booking it to Lychgate to see the Bishop, however, a few errands occupy most of the previous members. Seeing that money is running low and the Abbey calls, the remaining members decide to tempt fate and plunge once more into its devil-besotted halls.

EAST TOWER: Tried and true (and well-known), the party heads down this tower as it is generally deer-man free. The statue, previously covered with a bag, has finally sloughed it off. Wonder if it will ever animate?

The overall goal of the party is to re-find the stairs to the second level of Nightwick Abbey having lost them after the Abbey shifted due to clerical use of turn undead and application of holy water.

SMOKING ROOM: The party quickly heads west into the sweetleaf room that smells anything but. This time quick reflexes save the PCs as rocks fall from the ceiling. Nobody dies. The hole in the ceiling is covered in purple slime. Party moves through the south door.

LIBRARY: Ah old memories come flooding back as this is the room Mayfly found a beautiful Fireball scroll in, but had to put it to use before being able to properly copy it. The party moves south again.

READING ROOM: After the party crowbars the door, it pops open revealing 9 goblins! And one with an ermine cloak! The party definitely eyes the one with the ermine cloak $$$$. The party forms a line across the doorway, but not quick enough for goblin swords to find Charwe's chest for 5 damage! 

Ianthi steps up quickly and hums a powerful lullaby and many of the goblins' tiny eyes lose the fight against their lids. Several drop asleep and the rest run. While Mayfly looks at Charwe's wounds, the party quickly puts the Goblins deeeeep into Slumberland. Plus one ermine cloak (500 SP). The party moves further south.

CULT OF THE LADY: Adversity is unending. The party stumbles into some sort of ritual. Daggers are drawn and the cultist rush the party! Mayfly fires off Charm Person and hits one of the cultists: "Friend! There has been a misunderstanding! Please get your breathern to stop!". Alas this charmed cultist fails to make any convincing argument. Blood-craze is just too strong. Eventually, the party is victorious!

The charmed individual makes the party promise to deliver this gold (75 GP!) thithe to the church in the swamp: "Of course, we will!". The party then asks him a series of questions about the Abbey and the location of the garden. Mayfly unwisely offers his spell book back page over as a place for maps to be drawn-- and the fool cultist promptly mars this beautiful text with incoherent scribbles and adolescent drawings!

Mayfly cuts this cultists throat and moves onward with the party through the south door.

STAIRS DOWN: At last, the party finds the stairs to Level 2. This is important because it helps fulfill a 6-month obligation to Halfdan the Black. But for this delve, the party decides to make a quick exit. They certainly have enough loot.

%*^&ING DEERMEN: Or at least the exit would have been quick were it not for Nightwick's contstant vermin: deermen. Returning north, a hail of arrows is the vanguard of the deermen. And while none of the party was hurt, poor Pawel one of the longest surviving members was struck down by multiple direct hits. The party splits up and flanks either side of the door as the deermen enter the room. The gods of good fortune are on the party's side as well as another Sleep spell by Ianthi. 

Now the party makes it out!

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People, Session 21


Previously in Nightwick...

Corfu (Dwarf 1)
Mayfly (Magic-user 2.5)

Ianthi (Changling 1)
Grant (Fighter 1)
Sotar (Cleric 2)
Brother Bréagadóir (Cleric 1)

In a swamp somewhere...

On the 30th of Leftember one day before the 1st of Quentember which is the Feast Day of St. Richard the Pryre, the party sets out ahead of the angel Malibek & the pilgrims. The angel knows the shrine is not a tomb, it's lost, and most likely on the heath. So, with a horn, to summon the angel, the party sets off.

THE WITCH: Traveling south the party stumbled upon a stooped figure picking flowers. The party dives behind a collection of rocks and shrubs, but not before the figure becomes aware of them. Now drawing itself to full height, the party can see there are also vulture-like aspects to this figure.

Brother Bréagadóir  steps out and says, "HelllloooooOOoo!" After a brief exchange of pleasantries, the witch agrees to give information in exchange for something and proceeds to drift over to the party in an open coffin containing her mother's corpse. The witch proposes a kiss first. Brother Bréagadóir declines on the account of the chivalric code. The witch then proposes he hand over his "lance". Brother Bréagadóir declines again citing that without his "lace", he could not then resist using it, which is a key element to his faith. The witch mulls that over and says, "Hmmm well that makes sense." And leaves with one parting bit:

"The shrine you seek is North, a man with fire for eyes will be there, and when you see him, tell him Goodie Gallows sent you!"

THE CASTLE: A a brief discussion, the party decides that it's best not to follow the mostly unpaid for advice of a witch. Because such advice is most likely a lie. The party turns further south. In the distance, as the sun drops low, the party sees a set of ruins. Mayfly feels this would be a great place to rest (maybe loot), while Sotar feels the exact opposite. The party reaches the ruins by nightfall. They light up torches and try to poke around the ruined keep.

Eventually, this was met with opposition. Heads seemingly covered in flesh masks popped up from the ruined keep's crenulation. Arrows fired from the top, spearing Ianthi! The party rushes to grab her and pull her out of range. A forced camp is made and bandages applied.

THE HUNTSMEN: In the morning the party moves southwest and encounters three bizarre things. The first is a large boar seemingly triumphant among a group of large crushed spiders. The second is a collection of 11 wolf skins seemingly devoid of anything inside as if the wolf in the skin just left it. The third is then meeting 11 men, dressed comically in peasant dress as if from a play, hunting a large boar.

The party, wary of their number, keeps their distance but directs the group of 11 to the location of the boar. 

THE SHRINE: With the light quickly fading the party chooses one last direction. Cresting the top of a low hill, the party sees a twisted tree wrapped around the statue of St. Richard! "Blow the horn!"

And at the cessation of the heavenly bellow, the angel appears in all its geometric glory. The shining three-sided representation of Law itself, bereft of its human skin, fires a searing light toward the twisted tree. Searing it to ashes, the angel then disappears!

There was much rejoicing. But with very little food because no one really packed for a party.

...and no gold.

To solve this problem, Brother Bréagadóir suggests that the party sell the location of the formerly lost shrine to the Bishop of Lychgate. Brilliant!

03 TOMB WITH EIGHT SKELETONS: Layering For Dynamic Encounters

A dynamic encounter for sure

It is entirely possible by playing D&D for any amount of time you have encountered or have written some variation of the following:

03. TOMB (80 x 80): Eight skeletons guard their former captain's tomb; will attack PCs who enter. Captain wears gold circlet (300 GP).

8 Skeletons AC 12 HD 1 (4hp) 1x weapon (1d6 or by weapon) MV 20, ML 12

This is pretty much the monster + treasure result from BX D&D and a serviceable one at that. You pretty much are picturing a room with a single tomb in the center and eight skeletons lined up along the walls. 

LAYER ZERO: You don't always need the latest monster book, you can easily layer additional simple elements to create novelty

Or monster tome, or 3-ring binder enchiridion, or monster cards. There is power in the familiar. It can be leaned on for shorthand in non-critical situations. And it provides players with the enjoyment of recognition in either a nostalgic or anticipatory sense: "Ha! I bet those skeletons will attack us just like in the GT1: Stone Grey Halls of Grog's Tomb" or "Ha! I've always wanted to fight skeletons in stone gray halls!". But too much of the familiar and D&D loses some of its spark, especially if you are pursuing an exploration-centered classical style of game.

Instead, for my own games, I have been trying to focus on layering simple ~1-2 sentence additions using other common, easily understood elements of the game to create novelty. The shortlist of layering:

  1. Unique Description
  2. Weapon Mix
  3. Stretching, but not changing, the stat block
  4. Terrain
  5. Objectives

LAYER ONE: Unique Description

Presenting the tried and true in a new light can make the mundane novel.  For instance, if you wanted to startle your players, you could have 7 of the skeletons kneeling in prayer to a central seated figure. This brings our 8 skeletons to something like this:

03. TOMB (80 x 80): Seven skeletons kneel in prayer around their former captain (skeleton on a throne, circlet, center); the seven skeletons will attack PCs who enter the room.
Monster: Skeletons AC 12 HD 1 (4hp) 1x weapon (1d6 or by weapon) MV 20, ML 12 
Treasure: circlet (300 GP, opal in center 200 GP)

This setup tells a small story and begs some questions. Who were these folks? What is the relationship? Is the kneeling an expression of subjection or reverence? Player table-talk might generate some new adventure seed for you.

However, this is not going to be a dynamic combat situation. The room described above is pretty much a "white room" with little in the way of terrain or enemy variety. A singular room is okay, but if too many rooms occur like this it encourages players to just adopt a singular strategy of heaviest armor, high damage weapons, and damage-only spells. And it gets boring and that is not okay. 

LAYER TWO: "Weapons" mix

One of the simplest ways to create variety is to just change up the methods of attack. This is pretty well covered here, but you don't even have to be that complex about it. Let us give a mix of bows and axes to our skeletons: range and melee, both still 1d6. And maybe one of those ax-welding skeletons has a two-handed sword and some rusted plate:

03. TOMB (80 x 80): 7 skeletons kneel in prayer around their former captain (skeleton on a throne, circlet, center); the seven skeletons will attack PCs who enter the room.
Monster: Skeletons AC 12 HD 1 (4hp) 1x weapon (3 x axe, 1 x 2H-sword, 3 x short bow) MV 20, ML 12; skeleton with 2H-sword has AC 13
Treasure: circlet (300 GP, opal in center 200 GP)

LAYER THREE: Stretching, but not changing, a stat block

Five out of our seven skeletons have swords. Still kind of same-same. So, what if we make the 2H-sword skeletons into something that will do the same amount of damage but be more interesting. We could change to a different monster, but, again, let's not alter the stat block too much.

How about "skeletal horses"? This is basically a superficial description change and we can use the BX charging rules as a method of attack (move 60' and a successful attack deals double the damage). We might also give these skeletons max HP, 8, as a way to denote their size instead of altering HD. And 8 hp is often an average 2 HD PC anyway.

To explain the horses, we are altering a simple tomb into something grander. Instead of a throne, how about the leader is in a chariot in front of a procession?

03. SKELETAL PROCESSION (80 x 80): 6 skeletons, heads bowed, stand eternally behind a  former captain (skeleton on a throne, circlet) seated in a rotting chariot pulled by a similar horsethe 6 skeletons & horse will attack PCs who enter the room.
Monster: Skeletons AC 12 HD 1 (4hp) 1x weapon (3 x axe, 3 x short bow) MV 20, ML 12; Skeletal Horse as skeleton, but 8 hp and will always charge on its attack (successful hit 2d6 dmg)
Treasure: circlet (300 GP, opal in center 200 GP)

However still two issues with this encounter. The first is that we still have a white room. So what can we add to give the room some terrain? And the second is that just because I have outfitted the encounter as more combat-oriented doesn't mean it has to go that way. So what can add to give these skeletons a reason to chat?


To solve the white room problem, let's place the captain and chariot on a dias that is 40 ft long, 20 ft. wide, and 5' tall in the center of the room. The 6 skeletons occupy about 20 ft. x 10 ft of space to the left of that. We can add four columns to the north and south around which amphorae can be placed if you want more coverage.

In my head this gives a king-of-the-hill object blocking the center line of sight blocked with columns to hide behind north and south. This should allow for tactical maneuvering around the room. Which can aid in escape, hiding, magical hijinks, or other such things. You can add this to the description, but most likely this information will be contained on a map of the room. 

The goal is to provide something else that can be acted on or used to solve whatever's in the room. You don't have to think of many pieces or anything original. Just something to keep the space from being wide open. If you look at a lot of skirmish games, you can see that rarely are things just a flat plane. The same should be applied to D&D.

Other alternatives could be things not even rated to what is in the room. But objects and "flora" added later: roots of a giant tree have found their way below; strange mushrooms cover the floor; waist-deep pool of rainwater has collected in one quarter or half of the room; a few 2-3 deep pits have opened up- one of which leads to the next dungeon level down.

LAYER FIVE: Objectives

This is coming last, but it is not the least. Is there a single sentence that could be added to this description that would allow some sort of discussion or bargaining to take place? Preferably, it would be something that provides a choice.

There are combat objectives, but I am thinking of something a little more tied to the world. And I also like tieing these sorts of things to character class, god, background, or place of origin if you have it. The Nightwick Abbey game I play does this very effectively.

Since this is an example and not tied to a specific dungeon, I'll just keep it general. Maybe some of the answers to the below questions can be found in earlier parts of the dungeon or in alternate side rooms. Some basic things the captain could ask are:

  • Are you a descendant of X?
  • Do you pledge loyalty to Y?
  • Have you come to give an offering?
  • Do you serve the god Z?
  • Who do you count among your foes?
If the party sufficiently answers then the skeletons leave them be and attack if they do not.


I guess depending on your view of dungeon crawling or what your purpose is will tell you how you view the following as an improvement. But we have gone from this:

03. TOMB (80 x 80): Eight skeletons guard their former captain's tomb; will attack PCs who enter. Captain wears gold circlet (300 GP).

8 Skeletons AC 12 HD 1 (4hp) 1x weapon (1d6 or by weapon) MV 20, ML 12

To something meatier, yet still is a rather terse text block:

03. SKELETAL PROCESSION (80 x 80): 6 skeletons, heads bowed, stand eternally behind a  former captain (skeleton on a throne, circlet) seated in a rotting chariot pulled by a similar horse (on a large dias); the captain will ask "Who do you count among your foes?" If the PCs answer "The Serpents of Norr", they they will not attack. 
Monster: Skeletons AC 12 HD 1 (4hp) 1x weapon (3 x axe, 3 x short bow) MV 20, ML 12; Skeletal Horse as skeleton, but HP 8 & MV 30 and will always charge as its attack (successful hit 2d6 dmg)
Treasure: circlet (300 GP, opal in center 200 GP)

My final point is that for this example I used each layer, but you don't have to do that for each room. Each layer by itself could be a room of its own that thematically culminates into a room with all 5 layers. One advantage to this is you can introduce patterns to players bit-by-bit and then put them all together for a rather showy set piece or dungeon anchor.

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People, Session 20


In Nightwick previously...

The Party

Corfu (Dwarf 1)
Mayfly (Magic-user 2.5)

Ianthi (Changling 1)
Grant (Fighter 1)
Sotar (Cleric 2)

At the Winsome Winch...

Recovering from a rainy midnight awaking and, for some, loss of arcane knowledge by giving birth (of sorts), the party scouts around the Hamlet of Vollage for rumors about the frogling bandit.

Ianthi strikes up a conversation with the bandit Benusch who has worked for the frog in question, knows his location, and drops that there are other bandit groups in the area who'd like to take the frogs down.

PIXIE MONGERS: Thanking the man for that information, the group decides to stick with the plan and investigate the ruined tower in this village. As they make their way there, the group runs across three local men selling "saint's bones". These turn out to be more fairie bones as Mayfly immediately identifies with a couple of dry heaves. A discussion ensues on the true power of said bones, how locally and humanely sourced they are, and why the men themselves weren't wearing them.

THE FALSE LEAPER:  After arriving at the White Tower the party notices a group of leapers one of which seems suspeciously less afficted than the others. Ianthi learns, after striking up a conversation, his name is Jesko and he is trying to raise money to undertake a pilgramiage to a supposed lost shrine of St. Richard the Pryre. A lost shrine seems intresting to the party for the chance to maybe look over its contents before the rest of the pilgrims arrive.

THE FALSE PERSON: Off through the northern swamp the party goes. The first thing that raises some eyebrows is that Mayfly spots four stone deer legs sticking up in the swamp. Closer inspection reveals they were no trick of light or weird roots, but in fact petrified deer legs. The most likly culprite are-- basilisks. 

Fortunately by mid-day, the party is drawn to a small camp by the sounding of a large bell and is greeted by a small group pilgrims. Collectively, the group pushes Sotar to the front being a cleric and all. After some back and forth, the source of the bell makes it self known. 

A peculier bald person steps to the front. Its as if they are something else pretending to be human--close, but not enough to bridge the uncanny valley. Once this person opens their mouth a voice like a bell (!) anounces they are "The Master" of these pilgrams (!!)-- the angel (!!!) Malibek- a tertapheme.

This is an interesting moment for Mayfly because the non-clerical thinking of the whole matter is that the angels might be more beings who have constructed the idea of the God of Law for their own purposes. But that's not something Mayfly will say out loud too much.

AN AGREEMENT: Malibek, too, is looking for the Shrine of St. Richard however doesn't really know where it is (this makes Mayfly suspecious). But the party fully committing to a course of action aggress to scout ahead for the shrine while Malibek protects his flock from the horrors of the swamp. And provides and Angelic horn to blow once the shrine is found.

...the sun sets.