“Before you lies the dilapidated grounds of a once great tower. Meandering paths of a once viridian garden lie strangely clean and silent next to the withered husks of hedges and trees. Silent statues stand as lone guides amidst the thickets and brambles that have taken root. The murky ponds reflect the lone tower in the center of the garden. Thick vines hang from its walls like shaggy hair as windows and the main door leer out at you as though watching your every move. A lone crow pecks at the top of the tower, its loud caw shattering the silence.”
Our heroes find themselves at the doors to a decrepit tower. Rumor has it that the place is haunted as no one has been known to live there for over 30 years, yet lights can be seen in the windows at night, and those brave enough enter have reported hearing strange hushed whispers.
GM Adventure Overview:
This adventure is meant to add a level of intrigue and flip the players' assumptions on their heads. While the intro to the adventure is meant to trick the players into preparing for dealing with ghosts and hauntings, the reality is that the tower is filled with animated objects.This should cause some surprise when standard anti-ghost actions seem to have no effect.
Fortunately for the well-prepared adventurer, there is in fact a ghost within the tower: Lord Vainrick. The former owner and creator of the animated objects still resides in the tower, wishing for nothing but to be left alone. In life, he despised people and sought to live a life of isolation. He devoted his life to studying magic and animating objects to serve him to that end. His disdain for others extends so far that he refuses to travel to the afterlife, where he might have to deal with others.
His aim is to scare away or force out any who would disturb his sanctum, rather than kill them, as that might simply attract people looking for them.
The party can be directed towards the tower for any number of reasons. They may be sent there by locals to end the haunting, or maybe they stumble upon it. They could even go in search of someone or something that has gone missing. As a GM you can use the tower as a set piece for whatever story you want to tell.
Act 1: The Doorman
The adventure begins with the party arriving outside the abandoned tower. Despite supposedly being abandoned, it appears that some care has been taken to maintain the structure over the years; while thick vines creep up the walls, they have been cleared away from the door and windows. In addition to the tower, the grounds themselves have been maintained to some degree. While the pathways are cleared, the fountains and shrubbery have fallen into disrepair.
Keen observers may notice small hints of movement within the tower's windows, but they could easily be mistaken for curtains caught in a draft and as they pass by, various statues on the way to the front door they should get the feeling of being watched. The reality is that the player characters are being observed by magically animated statues that simply stand and watch like statues unless the characters attempt to vandalize the property, at which point they will animate and attempt to forcibly remove the intruders from the property. In the event the characters do provoke the guardian statues, they should prove a challenging obstacle for the players, but a preferably non lethal obstacle that will only pursue them beyond the tower grounds if actively attacked. In the event the statues knock a character unconscious but drive others away, they will bring the character inside the tower to treat their wounds before leaving them outside the tower grounds to awaken. In the event that all characters are knocked unconscious, or at your discretion, the unconscious characters can awaken inside the tower, utilizing such an event as a means to enter the tower.
If the players approach the tower at night, or wait to observe it until nightfall, Lord Vainrick takes a stroll through the castle grounds every night at sundown before retiring to his library to read. Players may attempt to engage in combat or diplomacy with him before ever entering the tower. You can either allow this to happen, or have him retreat to hole up inside the tower, where they will be forced to reach him. In the event he retreats, the attitudes of all the tower’s residents become hostile.
If the characters manage to approach the front doors without attempting to vandalize the tower grounds, they will find the front door is locked and contains a large door knocker with a demonic-looking face. Astute characters will realize this is simply a gargoyle face meant to scare people away and not some worshiping of demonic entities. At this point, the players will have several options on how to enter the tower.
The simplest and safest way to enter is simply to knock several times and request entry. The door itself is an animated object that is instructed to attempt to deter visitors by simply acting as though no one is home until their persistence appears likely to cause more trouble. At which point it should allow entry in the hopes of the other animated objects in the tower to politely turn the intruders away. Entry by this method will set the attitudes of the animated objects and Lord Vainrick to be indifferent towards the characters while compliments about the tower or its occupants may change the attitude of some of the objects inside to friendly.
As previously mentioned, one option for entry is to get knocked unconscious and brought inside for medical treatment. This will result in the attitudes of the tower's occupants and Lord Vainrick to be unfriendly. They will do what they can to steer and force the characters out of the tower, not letting them explore. They will awaken in the dungeon (See Act 2 for details) and every door not leading to the entrance will be locked. Compliments will not sway the attitudes of the constructs or Lord Vainrick and will, at best, merely keep them from being forcibly removed from the grounds.
A third option is to forcibly gain entry into the tower either by picking the lock, breaking down the door, or scaling the tower to the roof or an open window. Any of these actions will turn the residents of the tower hostile and cause them to attempt to scare and if they are large enough to forcibly remove the characters. In the event they knock someone unconscious and there are no more active threats, they will attempt to treat their wounds before depositing them outside the tower grounds. Lord Vainrick detests intruders, but dead ones will simply bring people to tear down his tower, so he would rather avoid this if possible. However, if the characters persist on running amok in his tower he will resort to slaying them and instructing the constructs to deposit bodies away from the tower, hoping to deflect any potential attention.
Act 2: Whispering Shelves.
Depending on how the players gain entry, it will vastly affect the reaction of the animated constructs inside. Unlike most constructs, these animated objects are not entirely mindless and can have their attitudes swayed by the behavior of guests. Just like real servants, they will do their job for anyone deemed as a guest and repel anyone deemed as an intruder, however, treating them well may provide some additional aid. The main point of this act is primarily to serve as filler or for you to instill your own plot elements into it. Lord Vainrick will make an appearance at sundown if the adventurers are still inside the tower grounds, as he prepares for his evening walk among the gardens.
The various constructs will generally react to the player characters depending on their attitudes as follows:
Helpful - The residents of the tower will cater towards the characters' needs and attempt to anticipate their desires. Such things include preparing food, offering chairs, lighting the way and even opening doors to help guide the player characters to what they are looking for. This can help fast track the players to an audience with Lord Vainrick, so it might be worth forcing the players to wait some time for him to be ready to meet with them. Perhaps entice the players with a whimsical encounter much like the dinner party from Beauty and the Beast, or have a small game of gambling be offered by one of the constructs.
Friendly - The residents will be quite hospitable, attempting to make them comfortable by lighting up rooms and playing music. Most doors will be unlocked and they generally will not hamper the movements of the player characters.
Indifferent - The residents pretty much just attempt to play dead and hope the characters get bored and leave. Most doors leading to anything particularly interesting or valuable will be locked and they will attempt to mildly hamper investigations in whatever ways they can without obviously revealing their animated nature. Examples are that windows may unlatch themselves to allow the wind to blow out candles/torches, have doors pretend to be stuck and require a little bit of force to open, or even creak loudly to distract them while they search.
Unfriendly - The residents will actively try to hamper the investigation. All doors not leading out of the tower will lock themselves or attempt to resist being opened. Rooms will reorganize themselves to confuse and hopefully frighten intruders. They will make strange noises in the hopes of distracting the investigators or scare them away. The residents will reveal their animated nature in an effort to scare away the intruders. Naturally, as adventurers, this is likely to fail, but their limited intelligence is not aware of this. They will do almost anything to try to scare the intruders out that does not involve physically attacking them.
Hostile - They will behave as though they are unfriendly with the exception that they will attempt to physically remove the investigators from the grounds, though if they knock someone unconscious, they still will attempt to make sure they do not die. Chairs may attempt to grapple them and walk them outside, book cases may attempt to block their way and push them out of the way, carpets may attempt to trip them and drag them outside, books may fly off shelves and swarm around them.
It is up to you how many or how few objects you want to have actually be animated, but nearly every room should have at least one animated object to make exploration interesting.
The tower’s design can be anything you want it to be, you can make this a quick encounter or a multi session expedition, however several potentially useful rooms are detailed below for your convenience. You can use them as is or modify them as you see fit.
“This large room is lined with shelves filled with books of all shapes and size. A large desk and a comfy looking chair rest in the center of the room with two candelabras on either side. A large globe rests in the corner of the room and two large windows allow light to flood in behind the desk.”
The chair, globe and candelabras in this room are all animated objects.
The chair knows where all the books in the library belong and will walk any guest who it views as a friend that sits in it over to where a book is located and even stretch itself up so they can fetch or place it back without needing to stand up. When it becomes unfriendly towards guests, it simply makes itself uncomfortable to sit in, while it will attempt to lure guests to which it is hostile to sit on it and then grapple them and escort them out of the tower.
The candelabras simply seek to illuminate the room for those they are friendly or helpful to, while they will attempt to put themselves out for those they are unfriendly or indifferent to. When they become hostile, they will attempt to pummel, trip, and twist themselves around intruders to drive them back or disable them.
The globe can rotate itself to point to any place on itself. It does this for those it is friendly or helpful to. To those it is unfriendly towards it may resist spinning or even spin itself wildly. When it turns hostile, it may release its heavy globe to chase intruders.
The Dining Room
“This lavish room has several large windows that cast light over a fine table set with eight chairs total, three on each side and one at the head and the foot. Two chandeliers twinkle at the head and foot of the arrangement while a fine table setting seems well-kept and dust free.”
Each of the chairs and the chandeliers are animated.
The chairs will pull themselves out and push themselves in as well as adjust their height to anyone who they are friendly or helpful towards. For those they are unfriendly towards, they make themselves uncomfortable and wobble as though they might break. For those they are hostile towards they will attempt to lure as many as possible to sit on them before grappling them and attempting to escort them out of the tower.
The Chandeliers simply seek to illuminate the room for those they are friendly or helpful to. While they will attempt to put themselves out for those they are unfriendly or indifferent to. When they become hostile, they will lower themselves and attempt to pummel anyone adjacent to the table, swinging back and forth like pendulums.
“This dark and cramped room carries a dull and musky scent of stale air and earth. Ramshackle cages line the room and a heavy chest resting by the foot of the stairs gives off a foreboding aura.”
There are a number of cages in this room. If your players are looking for someone who has gone missing, they very well might find them in one of the cages here.
Both the cages and the chest are animated objects that are difficult to make friendly and have little care even then. When they are indifferent or unfriendly they actively refrain from opening unless it is for another animated object to place something inside or retrieve what is inside. In the event that they turn hostile, they will actually open up in the hopes of luring someone either fully or partially inside.
The chest itself contains the gear of former prisoners. Depending on how you want to reward you players it could be a few coins and some bits of adventuring gear to some magical items.
Act 3: A Stroll Through Gardens Past.
Precisely at sundown, Lord Vainrick will manifest at the front door of the tower and take a stroll through the tower grounds, before retiring to the tower for the remainder of the night.
When the players encounter him, he realizes the jig is up and his presence has been identified. If the players encounter him before entering the tower, he is likely to retreat within and order his animated objects to not let you in even if you are polite and persistent, which will likely force the players hands into breaking in.
If they encounter him after having entered the tower, he is aware of their method of entry and their actions within the tower. If they have not treated the tower with enough respect, such as breaking things, he will accuse them of vandalizing his home and attack them on the spot, summoning nearby constructs in the garden to aid him. Unlike the rest of the encounters, he will take lethal action against them believing that if driven off they will merely come back with reinforcements, or during the day to burn it down.
If, however, they have treated the tower with respect (even if they pick the lock or climb in through an open window) and not taken anything not offered to them, Lord Vainrick will greet them morosely but politely. He will invite them on a tour of the grounds and describe the beautiful and peaceful gardens he sees through the eyes of his memories. Coming upon an overgrown and algae covered pond, he will describe the clear water and the ducks and fish frolicking in it. He will describe the withered and dying rose bushes as verdant and blooming. After giving the tour he will beg them to leave him in peace, to tell any they meet that there was nothing here but an empty and abandoned tower with too many drafts that play tricks on the mind. He apologizes for scaring people and imprisoning anyone, he explains how he just wishes to be left alone with his memories. He may even offer a token gesture of some art, silverware or even some books to buy their silence if prompted. If the players refuse to keep his secret and the peace, he will fly into a rage and attempt to slay them in order to keep his peace.
The players may also take pity on him and his reminiscing and offer to restore the place to its former glory, either themselves or sending people to do the job. While he will have reservations about this and worry that it may ultimately attract more permanent attention, the lure of his memories will ultimately win him over. In this event, he will offer to give them something special on completion of such a task, a powerful item he buried in the garden long ago to keep safe. This can be anything you want - a quest item, or perhaps a magical weapon or item. As an example, it could be a magical hammer that once a week allows the wielder to tap an object up to Large size category with it and imbue that object with life for 12 hours.