Spreading Yuletide Fear: A Dark Holiday-themed Adventure

The following is a stand-alone holiday-themed 1st edition AD&D adventure for five to six characters level 5-6. Because this is an entire adventure module, it’s substantially longer than our usual fare.

A small group of adventurers stumble through a portal and find themselves in a snow-blanketed land of forested mountains. They find shelter in a tiny village, but they also find the villagers to be cursed and in desperate need of help. The PCs can assist the villagers in one of two possible ways in return for the knowledge of how to get home. Or they can venture into the wilderness to obtain this knowledge from a centuries-old crone.

Spreading Yuletide Fear

A Dark Holiday-Themed Adventure by Michael Garcia (2020)

Players’ Teaser

The scents of pine needles, wood embers, and roasted boar fill the air, but the pleasant aromas do not match the mood in the room. Mingled with the clinking of earthenware tankards, hushed voices fill the darkened great hall with anxious whispers. The thick oaken doors, barred against the many evils of the night, give the illusion of safety. You and your companions huddle together around a worn oaken table, not far from a great stone hearth. The roaring fire within it crackles and pops, causing shadows to dance eerily in the corners of the room. The reddish glow of the firelight reveals the nervous faces of your fellows. They look uneasily at each other, painfully aware that dozens of dour villagers, seated in  the darkened recesses of the hall, send hardened stares in your direction. They are awaiting your answer.

How have you come to this god-forsaken place? Twelve hours ago, you were skulking about in a mysterious dungeon outside of your hometown. One or two wrong turns, and you found yourselves outdoors, stumbling through a snow-covered wilderness of rocky forests and rolling moors. Unable to find your way back, you made a long trek through the deep snow to this tiny village. Stunned, exhausted, and seeking answers, you found instead only fear and mystery.

The fretful villagers told you that winter snows had already blocked the mountain passes until spring. Worse, they claimed that the power of the old gods had returned in recent years to haunt this secluded valley. To wit, a company of spectral horsemen supposedly gallops nightly through the snow-filled sky, sweeping across the moors and across the very treetops, killing all in its path. Moreover, in the tangled forests that envelop this tiny settlement, malicious elves prey on anyone foolish enough to enter their dark realm. Pondering all this, you begin to understand the villagers’ distrustful stares.

After much debate, your friend beside you clearly lays out your options. The villagers claim to know your way home, but their price for this information is your help in breaking a curse on their village. Another way to get their aid is merely to protect them against the Wild Hunt and other terrifying night creatures while they complete their year-end rituals, needed to drive away darkness and to bring good fortune in the spring. If you spurn the villagers, your only other option seems to lie in the goodwill of a monstrous crone, who dwells alone in the trackless forest nearby. Said to be a powerful enchantress, half-woman and half-demon, this crone seems little better than the dreaded Huntsman and his spectral company.

Disgusted by your predicament, you are tempted to do none of the above! Let them figure it out! Vengeful curses, heathen rites, and evil ghosts are none of our business! Yet the grim stares coming from all corners of the darkened hall make it clear that you will find no shelter here if you refuse their pleas for aid.

Outside, the wind moans loudly and rattles the oiled parchment that covers the nearby window. Forceful drafts, like icy fingers, seem to seek you out, creeping beneath the barred doors and around window coverings. Standing abruptly and pushing the oiled parchment aside with your finger, you gaze outside. Wind-driven snow swirls frantically in the pale light of the full moon. An icy blast causes you to shiver, and you back away from the window. It is time to decide.

A Brief Note On Usage

Throughout this work, I use male pronouns (for example, “If the DM wishes, he may increase the number of monsters”). Unless otherwise noted, the pronoun is always used in the classic inclusive sense of the English language, meaning that it is gender neutral. I find ‘he or she’ or ‘him/her’ to be terribly awkward and inelegant writing. As for using ‘they’ or ‘them’ for a singular noun, I join the sticklers that find it grammatically incorrect, despite its popularity. As for randomly switching between ‘he’ and ‘she’, that seems schizophrenic. Know that there is no hidden agenda or bias. I have females in my own gaming groups and think it’s wonderful that they are part of the hobby. Read nothing into it.

DM’s Prologue

This brief module is designed as a stand-alone, 1st Edition AD&D adventure for five to six characters of 5th-6th level (six pre-made characters are provided in Appendix 1). If the pre-generated PCs are not used, suggest to the players that the party have several fighter types, at least one cleric, and at least one magic-user. To achieve the desired atmosphere in the adventure, try to avoid monks, druids and clerics of wilderness gods.

This adventure is designed to throw characters into an eerie northern wilderness setting, where civilization’s hold on rural folk is weak. The power of the old gods still holds sway here, threatening to cloak the land in darkness. Perhaps the most vulnerable time of the year is Yuletide, a twelve-day period following midwinter’s eve, when the nights are longest and when spring seems so far away. Indeed, the warmth of spring and the return of crops are not even guaranteed! Simple villagers, fearful of the night and of the surrounding wilderness, use traditional rituals to keep the darkness at bay. This adventure borrows from several northern year-end legends, blending them together to create a short, exciting story, meant to evoke the feel of Yuletide in the early days of Christian Europe.

The adventure should last about six to eight hours of real time. Alternatively, players can agree to dedicate two such sessions for a richer experience. Though very short adventures tend to be linear in design to keep players on track, the PCs in this adventure have three separate ways home—three possible paths to success. Yet, whatever path the PCs choose must necessarily be simple, given the time constraints. To help with this, the setting is limited to the valley and its environs. Most of the area is trackless forest and rolling moor, making it easy to find the few places of interest.

Table of Contents

I. DM’s Overview

Three Adventure Paths

If the PCs opt to help the villagers to break the curse, the village elders will provide all of the information that they can, along with some gear and a few reindeer-driven sleighs. If equipped with sleighs, the PCs can get about quickly, gathering magical items and the secrets needed to break the curse. This path will likely lead them to the cottage of the mad hermit, where they can gain many magical weapons and protections. It will likely lead to the sacred grove of the mysterious crone, who will tell the PCs how to dispel the curse—for a price. Lastly, this path will lead the PCs to the barrow mounds, where the wicked author of the curse is buried. Along the way, the PCs are likely to face the Wild Hunt at least once. To obtain help from the crone, they may have to fight dark elves in the forest nearby. If they make it to the barrow mounds, they must brave dozens of undead draugar (a draug being a variant of a wight) before they can complete their cleansing ritual to break the curse. This path brings the most experience and treasure, but it is probably the most dangerous.

If the PCs opt instead to help the villagers temporarily by protecting them while they perform their Yuletide rituals, they will find this terribly challenging. This path will likely keep them close to the village at night, processing around the perimeter, visiting the nearby fields, and gathering in the village square. Though close to shelter, they will have at least one encounter with the Wild Hunt over the course of a few nights. While the villagers perform their rituals, the PCs may also have to fend off an evil, club-wielding creature called Krampus, which tries to kidnap villagers and bring them to the Hells. PCs might also have to defend the villagers’ homes from dozens of dark-skinned midwinter goblins. The PCs must not only survive these trials, but they must safeguard the helpless villagers. If the villagers manage to complete the rituals with minimal loss of life, they will gratefully show the PCs how to return home. This path brings dangers almost as great as the first, and the rewards are fewer, for the PCs’ actions do nothing to break the curse for the villagers.

If the PCs spurn the villagers altogether, they will find themselves angrily escorted out, making it clear that they will find no shelter when the Huntsman and his ghostly troop arrive. Yet a lone maiden will take pity on them and point them in the direction of the dreaded crone’s sacred grove. This path will take them to the grove, where the crone will agree to show them the way home—for a price. She wants the PCs to punish the elves in the nearby forest (they recently stole from her). This path will first lead the PCs to the faerie circle, where dark elves will assail them as invaders. If they survive, the PCs will eventually find a stone fountain in the middle of the forest. There, they must summon and fight the elves’ dark guardian. If the PCs defeat him in battle, they are almost home, but as the battle concludes, the Wild Hunt will appear, and PCs must survive this last encounter to escape. This path brings the least treasure and experience, for the curse of the Hunt continues and the villagers will suffer in coming months.

Despite the varying levels of treasure and experience, each of the three paths has both.

Getting Home

Assume that when the PCs stumbled into the valley, they found themselves about two miles north of the village. No matter how hard they tried, they could not find the gateway back. The trek to the village required hours of arduous trudging through deep snow. Regardless of the adventure path that the PCs choose, their way home leads through the magical elfin realm, but they need not fight their way through.

If the PCs aid the villagers to the elders’ satisfaction, the elders will give them an elf-cross pendant, along with directions to the faerie fountain in the forest. When the PCs come to the faerie circle along the way, the elves will prepare to attack, but they will shrink back if they spot the pendant. At the fountain, the PCs can summon the dark guardian and show him the pendant. He will then direct them to a nearby cave. After entering that cave, they will find themselves back wherever they originally came from.

If the PCs spurn the villagers and instead aid the crone (by fighting the elves), she will tell them that their path home lies through the elfin realm. She will direct them to the faerie fountain, where they must defeat the guardian and seize his enchanted sword. They can then trade this to the elves for safe passage to the cave mentioned above. If they try to keep the sword, they will never find the cave and will certainly perish at the hands of scores of angry elves.

The Mad Hermit’s Curse

The mad hermit, living by the edge of the forest, was once a reputable magistrate named Pertinax. Some thirty years ago, he brought order to this countryside by capturing and executing dozens of heathen brigands, supposedly led by a warlock. Townsfolk buried the brigands’ bodies in a barrow mound at the place of execution, near the edge of the forest. Before the condemned warlock died, he cursed the magistrate in the name of the old gods, claiming that the magistrate would die if he should travel more than three leagues from the scene of his crime, meaning the barrow mounds.

In the months that followed, each time that the magistrate departed the area, he grew terribly ill, recovering only when he returned. Thereafter, madness set in, and the fearful villagers drove him from their village, afraid that his curse would somehow transfer to them. Exiled, he built a rickety cottage on the edge of the forest, about three leagues from the barrow mounds. On midwinter of that first year, the curse finally manifested in the form of the Wild Hunt, which visited the land for the first time in centuries. For each of the twelve nights of Yuletide, the Wild Hunt raced across the landscape, passing by the magistrate’s cottage and then roaming wildly for another ten miles.

Each year since then, the Hunt has reappeared on midwinter’s night and on the eleven nights that follow, causing death and destruction. Terrified villagers routinely spend their nights barricaded in their simple homes. After that first year, the crazed magistrate, then living as a hermit, spent his fortune by hiring local woodsmen and young adventurers to bring him all manner of holy symbols, talismans, holy water, and scrolls to fortify his beleaguered cottage. He dreads midwinter and spends each of the twelve nights of Yuletide in restless vigil.

Over the last thirty years, the mad hermit has amassed many powerful items to protect himself against the Wild Hunt, but he knows that he has become a coward at heart. He knows that he will never face the Huntsman and his otherworldly host.

The curse will only cease if the PCs cleanse the barrow mound that contains the warlock’s cursed remains. If the PCs wish to aid the village and the hermit by trying to break the warlock’s curse, see details in Section IV. Breaking the Curse.

The Darkness of This World

Optional Rules for Spiritual Warfare

If the DM wishes to give the players more of a challenge and the game more of a gloomy atmosphere, then consider the optional rules below.

The old gods still hold sway in this remote northern region of the world. The faith of St. Cuthbert is new here and growing, but its devotees are still in the minority. Many that honor the Saint do so only in name. Many in this Woden-haunted hinterland still leave offerings to the old gods and cling tightly to their pagan charms, perhaps out of fear or superstition. Even devotees of the Saint do not doubt the existence of these powerful entities; they simply refuse to worship them. Some call them old gods, others demons. Perhaps they are one in the same. It seems academic.

What matters is that these old gods have many servants, and they are hostile to clerics of St. Cuthbert. While these dark powers have no authority to harm the Saint’s devoted disciples, they do try to hinder their missionary progress, which they see as encroachment on their rightful domain.

Saint Cuthbert does not personally send spells to his clerics, relying instead on angelic messengers to answer the prayers of the faithful. However, in this region, the old gods and their minions frequently block and attack these angels. At times, this means that Cuthbertine clerics do not receive the full measure of the powers that they typically enjoy. For clerics that have never faced this interruption, it can be disconcerting. Native clerics, on the other hand, such as the village vicar Father Godwine, would have experienced this disruption before and can surmise the reason behind its cause.

During this adventure, whenever a cleric of St. Cuthbert casts a spell, roll 2d6 and consult the table below. This determines the current state of the angel that would normally power the cleric’s spell (and how effective the spell will be).

If the table shows that spiritual warfare reduces a spell’s power, the DM decides how exactly the reduction manifests (range, duration, area of effect, damage, healing power, etc.) Note that near the end of the adventure, if the cleric’s spells had previously suffered, the DM can always lend the party a helping hand by overruling the dice when the cleric next tries to cast a spell. He can simply decide that the last result occurs (as if the player had rolled a 12 on the table).

2 (2.77%) The beleaguered angel is fighting desperately against an old god and its minions. The cleric’s spell takes effect, but at roughly 1/3 power. For instance, a cure light wounds spell, which would normally heal 6 points of damage, heals only 2.
3-5 (24.99%) The angel is locked in combat with an old god. The cleric’s spell takes effect, but at roughly half power.
6-8 (44.42%) The angel is confronted and distracted by an old god. The cleric’s spell takes effect, but at roughly 2/3 power.
9-11 (24.99%) The angel is unimpaired. The cleric’s spell takes effect normally.
12 (2.77%) Only use this if a previous roll reduced the power of a cleric’s spell. Otherwise, use the 9-11 result. The angel, having prevailed in a recent contest with an old god, apologizes to the cleric and explains why the cleric’s previous spell was weakened. the cleric’s current spell takes effect at maximum power, or perhaps twice the normal maximum (DM’s call).

DM’s Calendar

You can use this simple organizer to record key events during the adventure. The PCs arrive on Day Three, just before the adventure begins. Written into this calendar are five rituals that the villagers wish to complete. If the PCs decide to aid the villagers with these, the calendar will serve as a checklist of sorts. If the PCs plan to do other things, you may wish to mention the rituals as occurring in the background. This would help to give the impression that life continues in the village, regardless of the PCs’ actions.

Days are short during Yuletide. There are only seven hours of full daylight (sunrise to sunset), plus another half hour of dim light before sunrise, and another half hour after sunset.

Third Day of Yuletide

Daytime

The PCs stumble through a magical gate, leading from a dungeon near their hometown and into this valley, about two miles north of the village. Unable to find the portal to go back, they spot the village in the distance. Cold and confused, they trudge through the foot-deep snow in their armor. After a couple of hours of arduous plodding, they arrive in the village just before dusk, exhausted.

In the village, they speak to several people, hearing many local rumors. They then meet with the village elders, who beg for their aid. When the PCs waffle, the elders promise to help them to get home if they aid the village.

The adventure begins.

Nighttime

 

Moon is full (fighting in the dark: -1 to attacks and damage).

Fourth Day of Yuletide (Wassailia)

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Traditional date for “Wassailing the Orchards”

Moon is full (fighting in the dark: -1 to attacks and damage)

Fifth Day of Yuletide

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Moon is full (fighting in the dark: -1 to attacks and damage)

Sixth Day of Yuletide (Taenellu)

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Traditional date for “Sprinkling the Fields”

Moon is gibbous (fighting in the dark: -1 to attacks and damage)

Seventh Day of Yuletide

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Moon is gibbous (fighting in the dark: -1 to attacks and damage)

Eighth Day of Yuletide (Kinstide)

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Traditional date for “Feast of the Dead”

Moon is gibbous (fighting in the dark: -1 to attacks and damage)

Ninth Day of Yuletide

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Moon is gibbous (fighting in the dark: -1 to attacks and damage)

Tenth Day of Yuletide

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Moon at half (fighting in the dark -2 to attacks and damage)

Eleventh Day of Yuletide (Sunsbirth)

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Traditional date for “Sword Dance”

Moon at half (fighting in the dark: -2 to attacks and damage)

Twelfth Day of Yuletide

Daytime

 

Nighttime

 

Moon at half (fighting in the dark: -2 to attacks and damage)

II. Survey of Notable Locations

The adventure centers on the area around the tiny village of Dun Cumar. Most of it is dense forest and rolling moor. This section provides notes on places of interest near the village.

This information is not keyed to any particular encounter. Once the PCs have decided on a path of action, you can look in subsequent sections for details on the various encounters that will unfold. To run any encounter well, however, you will want to be familiar with the details on the location (given here).

A. The Village of Dun Cumar

This small village of about 200 people is an isolated farming and fishing community (the name means ‘fort near the confluence’). The village covers an area of approximately five hides (or twenty virgates or 600 acres), and this includes all fields, orchards, pastures, forests, and about forty buildings. Most are timber cottages—half of which shelter an extended family of seven to nine people, while the other half shelter mainly male bachelors. There are about eighty adult men, sixty adult women, and sixty children and elderly folk.

The village pays taxes to a distant lord, who dwells outside of the valley. Though the lord’s servitors visit every few months to collect rents and to hear serious criminal cases, the villagers are largely self-sufficient and independent. A small village council, consisting of three elders, occasionally meets to make important decisions. Councilors include Ealhstan the alderman, Father Godwine the vicar, and Hrothgar the magistrate.

The alderman has few duties, the title being largely ceremonial. The villagers chose Ealhstan because he is the wealthiest landowner. He owns about one hide (or four virgates or 120 acres)—about one-fifth of the village. The vicar is the leader of the faithful of St. Cuthbert, caring for the local church and its graveyard. The Cuthbertine faithful do not meet or worship inside the church, but Father Godwine lives there, prays there, and makes occasional sacrifices there on behalf of his flock. The vicar oversees about one virgate of land (about thirty acres). As for the magistrate, he hears all judicial cases, handling small cases himself but convening a jury of twelve adult villagers for serious criminal proceedings. In times of crisis, Magistrate Hrothgar leads the militia himself, assisted by his son, Wulfstan. The Magistrate owns about one virgate of land (or thirty acres). Most other landholders own between one-third and one-half of a virgate (ten to fifteen acres). The poorest villagers work other people’s lands.

The village has no standing guards, though each able-bodied, adult man is a member of the village militia. Only the three village councilors have the right to summon the militia for extended action, but any villager in distress can make the ‘hue and cry.’ In such cases, after 1d4+2 rounds 1d6+6 armed (but not armored) men will appear each round for four rounds. Wulfstan and Hrothgar will be among the last to arrive.

Village Militia

AC: 08 (heavy furs), HD: F0, HP: 6 MV: 12″, AL: varies, ATTKS/DAM: 1 glaive or fauchard or club (1d6), INT: average, SIZE: M, SA: NA, SD: NA, XPS: NA

 

The village is rather simple, given its small size. It has no tavern, inn, barracks, or jail. In addition to the small village church (with its adjacent graveyard), village hall, mill, and  private homes, there is also a small village green where locals sometimes sell their surplus crops and fish. Most inhabitants are farmers, but there is also a miller, blacksmith, cobbler, and carpenter. PCs can obtain standard goods from any of these businesses.

Each cottage is somewhat spacious, but the layout is simple and the home crowded by modern standards. The average home is a two-story affair. The hearth area usually has a higher ceiling and a stone chimney to keep the smoke from suffocating everyone. All homes have thick wooden rafters and a sharply pitched roof to keep the snow from caving it in. A stone hearth, used for cooking and heating, is the central feature of each home. Evergreen boughs and wreaths hang above each hearth and on each door.

Four larger buildings—the village church, village hall, mill, and alderman’s house—feature crude, fieldstone walls, but they too have thick wooden rafters and steeply sloped roofs. Adjacent to the church is a small graveyard, dotted with worn headstones (these date back a century or so, when the inhabitants converted to the worship of St. Cuthbert; before that they burned their dead).

As for locations of interest just outside the settlement, the villagers’ fields lie in the flat terrain to the north and south of the village center, and there are orchards on the hills both east and west. The crumbling walls of an old fortress (the original Dun Cumar) lie nearby, abandoned. The walls there are only a few feet high in most places, offering little protection. The Cumar Bridge, a 10-foot-wide stone construction, left by conquerors from centuries ago, spans the Spey before it flows into the Moray. The Moray Road, a simple dirt trail, runs east to west along the south bank of the river. It passes right through the village. The Dulnain Bridge, another stone construction, lies thirteen miles to the east, where it crosses the Dulnain River.

Common Male Names: Aethelgar, Alban, Arran, Aydan, Boyd, Brannoc, Cailean, Calum, Colin, Cormag, Craig, Creighton, Cuthbert, Cuthmann, Dederick, Dermid, Derrick, Dirk, Dougal, Dunstan, Eadwine, Ealhstan, Elwyn, Evander, Ewan, Farran, Fergus, Gavin, Godwine, Gregor, Hallam, Hamish, Hrothgar, Kellen, Kennard, Kentigern, Kieran, Logan, Maddox, Malcolm, Murdo, Nichol, Niven, Peregrine, Quentin, Ramsay, Rory, Rowen, Rowley, Ryker, Tearlach, Wallace, Wulfram, Wulfstan

Common Female Names: Annag, Brianna, Brigid, Caitlyn, Evorhild, Fenella, Hilda, Innes, Kenna, Lachina, Maerwynn, Malina, Mildrith, Moira, Moyna, Murron, Pega, Rhona, Seona

B. The Great Forest

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This sprawling stretch of woodlands contains mainly pine, aspen, and oak, littered with stands of ash and thorn. The trees tend to be large and old. There is much space between most trees, allowing for thick growths of moss and fern. In the winter months, most trees lose their leaves. Yet the lush pines and the rocky slopes do much to hinder vision. The base elevation of the Moray Valley near Dun Cumar is about 600 feet, and each contour line on the map shows a rise of 150 feet (the initial tree line, encountered when moving away from the Moray, hides a contour line as well). Thus, for example, the hermit’s cottage is about 600 feet above the Moray. The highest peaks around Dun Cumar are about 1200 feet.

Dark elves and wolves roam the forests, harassing or even attacking wayfarers. Due to time constraints, the DM may wish to dispense with any random encounters. However, he might allow PCs to see shadows moving through the trees, glowing eyes peering out of the darkness, or whispers in a strange language emanating from the trees. In an extended campaign, roll 1d6 for each mile that the PCs travel through the forest. On a roll of 1, they will encounter either 1d6+4 wolves or 2d6+6 dark elves, each of which will attack until it loses half of its hit points or more.

If the PCs encounter wolves, use the stats beneath the Crone in Section IV. Breaking the Curse. If they encounter dark elves, use the stats given for them in that same section.

C. The Rivers

Seven rivers of varying size crisscross the small area around Dun Cumar. Most are not frozen, though there may be ice in many places. The Moray runs eastward, the Spey northward.

The Moray River is about 100 feet wide, and the Spey is 50 feet wide at most. For both rivers, the water within 5 feet of the bank is about 5 feet deep, but the middle is 21-30 feet deep on average. The current is strong, and anyone trying to swim across suffers a -2 penalty to the strength check. On the map, these two river valleys look pretty clear, but they have scattered trees and bushes (not shown).

Royalty-free photography. https://www.pikrepo.com/fccpv/winter-scenic-with-trees-with-snow-and-ice-in-temperance-river-state-park-minnesota

The five smaller rivers are each about 40 feet wide. The water within 5 feet of the bank is about 5 feet deep, but the middle is 11-16 feet deep on average. The current is strong in some places, and anyone trying to swim across has a 50% chance of stumbling upon strong currents, thereby suffering a penalty of -2 to the strength check.

One water spirit dwells in each river, and they occasionally try to ensnare wayfarers that come too close. Due to time constraints, the DM may dispense with any random encounters. However, he might allow PCs to see what appears to be a naked human, half immersed in the icy water. The spirit may gaze at the PCs and then submerge. In an extended campaign, roll 1d6 if the PCs enter a river or walk very close to one. On a roll of 1, they will encounter the water spirit.

A water spirit cannot be caught or fought so no stats are needed. However, if the PCs encounter one, roll 1d10 to see whether the spirit is feeling benevolent (1-2), indifferent (3-7), or malevolent (8-0). If benevolent, it will look at one particular PC and purposely leave a small stone on a boulder. If a PC carries the stone, he will have no chance of drowning. If indifferent, the spirit will simply submerge and vanish. If malevolent, the spirit will look at one particular PC and try to charm him, forcing a save against spells. If the victim succeeds, the spirit will simply submerge and vanish. If the victim fails, he will become charmed and do his best for 1d4 rounds to join the water spirit by drowning himself. Entranced, the victim will move at only half speed. No manner of speech or even slapping will dissuade him for the duration of the enchantment, and indeed it may anger him. As DM, you might choose to take over the character for the duration of the enchantment. Whether or not you run the character, do not be too intent on drowning the PC. The goal is to show the players that a man alone in the wilderness could easily perish. A close call should suffice.

The villagers know that an evil spirit haunts the mouth of the Shee. No one knows her history, but she appears to be a maiden, washing bloody clothes in the river. If the PCs have agreed to help the village, the villagers will sternly warn the PCs to give the area a wide berth. If the PCs chose not to aid the villagers, the spiteful villagers will provide no warning.

If the PCs come within two miles of where the Shee emerges from the forest, roll 1d6. On a roll of 1, one of the PCs (and only that PC) spots what appears to be a human female, weeping as she washes bloody linens. No one else will see or hear her. If the PCs immediately flee (during the next round), there will be no consequence. Otherwise, the spirit will wail (again, only the one PC will hear it). If that occurs, the PC is certain to become one of the hunted if he encounters the Wild Hunt. Also, all other foes get a +2 bonus on attacks against that PC for the rest of the adventure. A remove curse spell will remove these effects.

D. The Lochs

Five lochs lie in the area around Dun Cumar. Their waters are icy in many places, and snow covers some of the icy spots, but much of the water is not frozen.

Loch Dulnain is about 4,000 feet wide at its widest point, almost five miles long, and 630 feet deep in the center.

Loch Gaur is about one mile wide, two miles long, and 190 feet deep in the center.

Loch Tyne is about 2,000 feet wide at its widest point, almost three miles long, and 420 feet deep in the center.

Loch Shee is about one mile wide at its widest point, almost five miles long, and 540 feet deep in the center.

Loch Fidach is about 2,500 feet wide on average, almost five miles long, and 260 feet deep in the center.

As with the rivers, one water spirit dwells in each loch, and they occasionally try to ensnare wayfarers that come too close. Use the same mechanics described above under The Rivers.

E. The Downs

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This area measures about eight miles at its narrowest point (east to west) and about sixteen miles long (north to south). The land rises about 300 feet in some areas, and Loch Dulnain sits near the center of the Downs like a great gash in the earth. The landscape here is covered in clumps of tall grass, scrub brush, and rocky outcrops. Though rolling hills predominate here, the ground is rocky and uneven. Without the shelter of the trees, PCs in this place are keenly aware of the icy wind. PCs also have a full view of the eerie northern sky. During the day, rolling clouds largely obscure the distant sun. At night, the clouds partially obscure the distant moon, but the red and green northern lights shimmer in the heavens above the clouds.

On the south side of one of the hills, locals have long buried criminals and outcasts in barrow mounds. Several worn, stone monoliths mark the spot. It was here that Magistrate Pertinax executed the warlock and his brigands, burying the bodies in an unmarked barrow and thereby bringing the warlock’s curse down upon his head.

F. The Mad Hermit’s Cottage

A mad hermit (a former magistrate, Pertinax) dwells near the edge of the forest in a ramshackle wooden cottage. The cottage is a single-story affair, measuring about 20 x 20 feet. A rickety porch spans one whole side of the cottage. The most striking feature of the place, other than its amateur construction, is the fact that it sits up high on stilts. Thus, one could actually stand beneath the cottage (not recommended, given its poor construction). The porch is accessible by means of a wooden ladder, which the hermit keeps raised but can lower. The cottage has only one wooden door, which he can bar on the inside. Two small windows, whose shutters he can also bar from the inside, allow him to look out on the Downs. Yet he typically keeps these closed. From a distance, PCs might notice a tiny golden glow escaping from a window of the cottage.

Also of note are scores of amulets, talismans, pendants, and periapts, which hang all about the porch. The hermit collected these over several years, looking for any means to protect himself against the Hunt and the other evil creatures of the wild. Most have no power, but several do. For details on PC interactions with the hermit, see Section IV. Breaking the Curse.

G. The Sacred Grove

Located atop a small triangular hill, northwest of Loch Shee, this oak grove is sacred to the locals. Within this tangled grove is a small glade, wherein dwells a mysterious crone.

The crone has a stone cottage of sorts, set into the hillside. The stones are large, and several menhirs seem to form part of the walls. The strange cottage sits beneath the canopy of a tremendous oak tree, laden with sacred mistletoe. Obviously, she chose to live here because of the presence of the tree. The mistletoe, which she harvests on the night of midsummer’s eve, signifies the holiness of the tree. The mistletoe here is so potent that it doubles the range, duration, and area of effect of any druid spells cast with it (assuming it is greater mistletoe, the DM can use his discretion regarding lesser mistletoe or oak leaves gathered here).

Also located in this glade, not far from the crone’s cottage, is a heavily enchanted pool, sitting beneath a gnarled, 80-foot-tall ash tree. This pool has  tremendous healing powers to those that know its secrets (only the crone in this adventure qualifies). The pool can cure insanity, remove charms, cure disease, and heal wounds. Anyone sitting in the waters for one turn with the crone’s permission will receive 1d8 hit points. Furthermore, the effects of any healing spells cast here are tripled if the recipient is in the pool.

Dwelling in the glade, along with the crone, are her four pet wolves. For stats on them, see Section IV. Breaking the Curse.

H. The Barrow Mounds

Within the heath-covered Downs is a distinctive hill with two gentle humps. Resting quietly on the southern slopes of that hill are dozens of small mounds. Several worn monoliths stand silently among the mounds, forming no discernable pattern. This area has been a burial ground for centuries.

If the PCs walk among the mounds, they will see that small doors were set into each hill, allowing interment. However, dust and wind-driven dirt have accumulated over the years, and most entryways are blocked by about 2 feet of wind-blown sediment. This is not a serious obstacle to determined PCs trying to enter one mound, but for those planning to inspect each mound, the sediment would require hours to remove.

By day, the area is rather dull. The icy wind whips across the moors, rustling the low-lying brush and causing a cascade of light snow across the hillsides. Nothing of interest will occur here during the day, though PCs will get a disturbing feeling that they are being watched. The villagers will warn that entry into the barrow mounds is sure to bring supernatural retribution. Also, if the PCs are trying to break the curse, the villagers will warn that the mound containing the executed brigands is not distinguishable by day. Only at midnight do eerie foxfires glow atop their cursed burial mound (as well as a handful of others, also cursed).

The villagers are correct. By day, there is no way to tell which mound contains the cursed brigands. At night, however, small green foxfires do burn atop the cursed mound (all brigand corpses were tossed inside just one barrow), as well as a few others, also cursed for different reasons. Anyone seeing the foxfires must save against spells or be drawn toward them for 1 turn. When one comes within 100’ of the foxfires, he must make a second save against spells. If he fails, he becomes charmed into inactivity. He will remain motionless and silent for 1d4+1 rounds, as draugar emerge like wisps of black smoke from the mounds to drain his life. After they take on physical form, the draugar need not roll to attack such a helpless creature, but after the first round of attack, the victim gets another saving throw to break free of the enchantment. For details on the draugar and the cursed barrow mound, see Encounter E.

If the PCs wish to break the curse, they must enter the burial mound and cleanse it, as per the instructions of the crone. Of course, draugar, seeking only to drain the life from the living, will try to slay anyone in or around the mound.

I. The Faerie Circle

This ring of ancient stones lies on the northern banks of the Tyne, about two miles upstream from where it flows into the Spey. Sixty stones of various sizes (most are about the size of a backpack) sit on the ground here, arranged in a circle that measures 30 feet in diameter. Inside the circle, the grass is green and lush, with no sign of winter. During the warmer months, large mushrooms grow just outside the stones. They are gone now, and the tall grass and moss outside the circle is currently matted with patches of snow and ice. In all directions, the forest comes within 10 feet of the circle. Ash, hawthorn, and oak trees predominate here. To get to this area, however, one must pass through more than one mile of thick pine trees.

Dark elves always dwell near here, and they harass any wayfarer that is foolish enough to come too close. Should anyone enter the ring of stones, the elves will try to slay the intruder. In addition, the ring itself has certain magical powers and dangers. These are detailed in other areas.

If the PCs are trying to break the curse, they may need to come here at the behest of the crone. In that case, she will instruct them to enter the ring, knowing that it will bring on a fight to the death. For details see Section IV. Breaking the Curse. Likewise, if the PCs have spurned the villagers and are seeking a way home, they will need to come here to fight the elves. For details, see Section VI. Spurning the Villagers.

If the PCs are defending the villagers while they complete their rituals, they are unlikely to come to this place until they are headed home. In that case, they need only display openly the elf-cross pendant that the villagers give to them, and the elves will grudgingly let them pass.

J. The Faerie Fountain

An entrance to an otherworldly, elfin realm lies beneath a giant Hawthorne tree, just north of Loch Tyne. Beneath its canopy sits a stone fountain, which can summon the guardian of that realm. The fountain sits in a large circular glade, about 300 feet in diameter. Though the densely packed pines that surround the area are dusted with snow, the grass in the glade is strangely free of snow and ice. PCs in the glade will also notice that the clouds have opened up a bit. By day, rays of golden sunlight gleam down into the glade, sometimes accompanied by sun showers. At night, the star-speckled sky seems peaceful, with no hint of the eerie northern lights.

The fountain in the glade is about 3 feet high and 10 feet in diameter. The sides of the stone fountain are richly carved with bas-reliefs of stags, trees, leaves, and sleeping human males. The walls of the fountain are about 1 foot thick. Resting atop the fountain is a shallow silver bowl, attached to the stonework by a silver chain. If one dips the bowl into the water of the fountain and then pours it out, an invisible gate will open, and the guardian will appear one round later.

It is likely that the PCs will only come to this place when they are headed home. If they successfully aided the villagers and have received an elf-cross pendant, they need only show it to the guardian here, and he will direct them to a cave, by which they can return to their homeland. If they have spurned the villagers, however, they must defeat the guardian to get home (see Encounter N in Section VI: Spurning the Villagers).

Should anyone drink from the fountain, he must save against spells. If he fails, he will become feebleminded for 1d4 days (1-5 in 6) or die instantly (1 in 6). A remove curse spell will remove the former effect. If he saves, the person will thereafter manifest a touch of magic, regardless of class. In that instant, he will realize that he can somehow produce the effects of a single 1st-level magic-user spell (the DM selects the spell, which will not change). The person can produce the effects once per day (treat the person as a 1st-level magic user when determining effects). The person requires no components, as it is not an actual spell.

III. Merriment and Revelry

The Yule Log. 1878.

Regardless of which adventure path the PCs choose, they will likely spend several nights with the villagers, recovering from wounds, arranging for supplies, and gathering more information. As the adventure unfolds during a holiday season, the villagers will also invite the PCs to join them in a good deal of traditional revelry. Information in this section should help the DM to enhance the desired atmosphere—that of holiday merriment, laced with anxiety and fear.

Local Rumors

When the adventure begins, the PCs have been in the village for over an hour. They have already spoken with many inhabitants, even before they had their meeting with the three village councilors.

If game time is short, the DM can simply divide the rumors below among the PCs. Otherwise, for a richer experience, tell only three rumors to each PC at the start of the adventure to reflect what he learned from talking to the villagers. If they wish to write anything down, they may. As for the other rumors, reserve them for the downtime between encounters, especially those nights when the PCs are making merry with the villagers. If PCs talk at length with the locals, allow them to learn additional rumors. I strongly suggest that the DM avoid relegating this to a mere die roll. Perhaps a PC should learn one additional rumor if the player states that his PC chats up the locals for a few hours on a given night. If, however, the player role-plays the encounter and asks pointed questions of NPCs, he should learn several additional rumors. In any case, try to work each rumor into conversation instead of just reading it off like an item on a shopping list.

(1) A mad hermit lives southwest of the village, on the far side of the forest by the edge of the Downs. Cursed, he lives alone in fear of the many night creatures that stalk the land. The villagers drove him out of the settlement years ago, fearing that his curse would spread to them. He has since dabbled heavily in dark magic, and he has dozens of enchanted items in his magical cottage.

(2) An ancient crone, half-human and half-demon, lives northwest of the village, in a sacred oak grove by Loch Shee. A giantess with only one eye, she descends from a goddess of winter. She is very knowledgeable and powerful. When in good cheer, she will sometimes help kindly mortals, but always for a price. She would surely know how the break the curse.

(3) The sacred oak grove near Loch Shee contains an enchanted pool that can heal any ailment. It can even restore life to the dead. Venturing there is perilous, however, for an ancient witch of tremendous power dwells nearby.

(4) One can escape from the Hunt by reaching holy ground. The sacred grove near Loch Shee probably counts as one of those, but as the Hunt never really goes north of the Moray or west of the Spey, it means the churchyard here in the village. On consecrated ground, the old gods and their Hunt have no power.

(5) The Hunt always races past the mad hermit’s cottage and then, if it has yet to find prey, it continues north or west. It never crosses the Moray or the Spey, however. If you are near the Downs, get across one of those rivers as fast as you can!

(6) Yeth hounds roam the Downs, looking to slay any mortals that they can catch. The elders say that the hounds are the souls of those that died without converting to the worship of St. Cuthbert. The hounds can move from shadow to shadow. In the light of the moon or beneath the northern lights, they are slower, but they can better see their prey. Even the howls of such hounds can kill.

(7) The ‘wrathful host’ roams the night sky, looking to snatch up any mortals that have abandoned the old gods. Any that see the spectral company and hear the Huntsman’s horn must join in the hunt. Siblings have slain each other, and parents have slain their children. Its ancient sorcery is irresistible. Stay indoors at night, but if you are caught outside, shut your eyes tight until the ghastly company passes.

(8) A dozen spectral horsemen accompany the Master of the Wild Hunt. They look for mortals, especially those that have spurned the old gods. When such apostates near death, the horsemen swoop down and carry off their souls to the Hells.

(9) The Master of the Hunt changes form every few years. Sometimes, the Master seems to be one of the old gods, riding on a many-legged steed. Sometimes, the Master takes the form of a black-skinned man of great height, with antlers sprouting from his head. He has even appeared as a pale-skinned woman in a long, flowing, white gown. Whatever the Master’s form, he is deadly. He cannot be killed, but legend says that a hero can vanquish him with a magical blade.

(10) The spectral hounds of the Wild Hunt seem to vanish in the shadows. In such darkness, only their gleaming red eyes are visible—that is until they strike. However, when illuminated by the moon or by the northern lights, the hounds are clearly visible. The northern lights always portend death, and those that can see the hounds clearly are about to die.

(11) The Yule log, cut from an ash tree, holds powerful magic. A man can cut his own log or receive one as a gift, but a purchased log will hold no magic. After dragging it home and bringing it into the house, one must decorate it with lush greenery—especially holly, oak, and mistletoe. One must then sprinkle it with apple cider. Finally, one must use a charred brand from last year’s Yule log to light the new log. It will then burn for twelve nights.

(12) To extinguish a Yule flame in one’s home brings a curse. Likewise, to give away flame from one’s Yule log brings a similar curse, for one does not let fire leave the home. However, if one loses his flame, he can go to the embers of the village fire and try to bring flame from there to relight his Yule log or to light another one. If this is done, the rekindled log or the new log will hold magic.

(13) Yule logs hold powerful magic. Its fire can keep evil creatures from entering the home through the chimney. It can also render ghosts and other evil spirits visible. In some cases, it can even drive them off. A piece of the log is needed to light the next year’s log. The ashes from a Yule log, when scattered in the fields, bring fertility to the next crop. A chip of the charred log, when worn as an amulet, brings protection against disaster.

(14) The Hunt will not go underground. The dead have nothing to fear from the Furious Host. Of course, that is little help to living folk.

(15) A ghostly maiden haunts the mouth of the Shee, where it runs into the Moray. Spying her is an ill omen, portending death. Fleeing immediately is the only way to possibly avoid her curse. To hear her wail is to hear your impending doom.

(16) Restless spirits, cursed by the old gods or the new, haunt the barrow mounds that lie in the Downs, about ten miles to the southeast. Many suspect that they are the spirits of brigands, executed years ago. However, tales of such creatures predate that mass execution. These creatures, called draugar, can drain the life from the living. They have voracious appetites and despise all mortals, attacking anyone that they meet. Mistletoe, freshly cut, can drive them away.

(17) At midnight, restless spirits called draugar emerge from the barrow mounds to the southeast, like black smoke rising from a fire. They take physical form and join the spectral company of the Wild Hunt. They are hideous to behold—blue-skinned, bruised, and rotting. An eerie light burns in their eyes. Against such creatures, normal weapons are useless. Only silver or magical blades can harm them.

(18) For centuries, the barrow mounds to the southeast have been used as burial grounds for criminals and outcasts. Before embracing the faith of St. Cuthbert, the villagers burned their beloved dead. Since adopting the new faith, they have buried them in the village churchyard. Criminals were always interred at the burial mounds, as they lie over ten miles away—far enough that the restless spirits cannot find their way back to the village.

(19) A dark warrior guards the gate to the elfin realm. This powerful champion wields an enchanted blade, given to him by the elfin queen herself. It renders the bearer immune to all manner of sorcery. The elves prize the sword immensely.

(20) The accursed dead frequently walk the earth near the barrow mounds, always at night. Some say that these restless dead, called draugar, cannot be destroyed even with magical blades. One must chop off a draug’s head and burn it to permanently destroy it.  Glowing green foxfires mark the barrow mounds wherein draugar lie.

(21) The trackless forests are home to some of the huldufolk, or ‘woodland folk’. These are not the kindly spirits that some foreigners have in their lands. These highly magical and very intelligent creatures are sometimes aloof and sometimes malevolent. They seldom bother the villagers, but they frequently harass wayfarers. Woe to anyone that comes too close to their forest homes. Normal weapons cannot harm these creatures. Only blades of the finest steel, and those of enchanted swords, can slay them.

(22) A host of demons threatens the village each year, starting on midwinter. One demon is particularly terrifying, taking the form of a seven-foot-tall, wrinkled satyr with gray skin, matted black hair, sharp fangs, goat horns, pointed ears, one human leg, one cloven hoof, a black tail, and a long and pointed red tongue. Authorized to punish all sinners, it tries to bludgeon any mortal into unconsciousness with a birch club. It then snatches up the dazed victim and throws him into a magical sack. When the sack is full, it returns to the Hells with his prize.

(23) Certain demons dwell far beneath the earth, sawing at the World Tree. On midwinter, when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead rips, the creatures emerge from their caves and head toward the hearth fires of the nearest village. These midwinter goblins seek to terrorize and to harm any mortal that they find. They break furniture, spoil food, destroy casks of cider and ale, and frighten children. Yet, those that seek to fight them earn their wrath, and they can tear apart their victims with long talons and fangs. They hate sunlight though and will retire before dawn.

(24) The woodland folk do not really live in the forest. They dwell in an otherworld—invisible to us and accessible through unmarked passages in the forest. Their queen is a powerful enchantress, said to be so beautiful that her looks can kill. This “Beautiful Lady Without Mercy” sometimes enchants mortals to do her bidding. More than one brave knight has been found dead in the forest, paralyzed by her charms until he froze or starved to death. The gate to this otherworldly realm lies near a magical fountain in the forest.

(25) The entry to the elfin realm lies near a magical fountain in the midst of the forest, somewhere near Loch Tyne. To open the gate, one must dip a silver bowl into the fountain and pour its waters upon the ground, either at dusk or at dawn. Know ye that this is extremely perilous.

(26) A magical fountain lies somewhere in the forest. Its waters are enchanted and dangerous. Some tales say that one who drinks from the fountain will vanish into the elfin realm, having lost all memory of his identity. Other tales say that the waters are poisonous. Still others say that the waters bestow magical powers upon the imbiber.

(27) The ring of stones, often called the faerie circle, is dangerous. Only inside the circle can one actually see the elves, but anyone stepping inside it is at their mercy. Some say that spells cast inside this ring are greatly empowered, while others say that magic in this ring is always wild.

(28) In the forest, somewhere west of the Spey and south of the Moray, lies a circle of stones. Locals call this the faerie circle, for large mushrooms do grow around it in the warmer months. Constructed by the elves centuries ago, the place is highly magical, and many suspect that forms a gate to their otherworldly realm. Foolish is anyone that ventures too close to it, for the elves guard it with savage ferocity.

(29) Faerie circles are dangerous places for mortals to tread. More than one foolish wanderer became enchanted in the circle and danced to elfin songs until they died of exhaustion. Only leaving the ring can break the spell.

(30) One can tell that the Hunt approaches by observing the sky. Thunder peals, the winds pick up, and clouds race across the sky. Lightning dances in the distance, and the northern lights shimmer even brighter. When it draws very near, one can hear the clatter of the spectral hooves and the neighing of the spectral steeds. By then it is often too late. Wise folk flee at the first sound of thunder.

Bonfire Divination (optional rule)

The superstitious villagers frequently perform a wide variety of folk practices, designed to give them a glimpse into their futures or to secure minor blessings. Most practices, being mundane, will probably be of little interest to the PCs. Yet the DM can provide extra flavor by mentioning these as occurring in the background. For example, villagers might be studying two walnuts in a roasting pan (representing a boy and girl in the village) to see if they are compatible. A young married woman might also carry a sprig of mistletoe with her to aid in fertility. Someone may mention that young maidens place sprigs of mistletoe beneath their pillows to give them dreams of their future husbands. Villagers might refrain from cutting mincemeat pies, lest they also cut their luck. While making Yuletide pudding, all members of a family might take care to stir the pudding, thereby ensuring that the family will prosper in the coming year.

Two particular customs might be of greater interest to PCs, and the DM can use either one to enhance the existing story. They are both variants on the same theme. In one custom, villagers study the shadows thrown by a Yuletide bonfire to see if any person’s shadow is missing a head. If so, that person will not live to see the spring. In the other, villagers throw marked stones into a bonfire, and, if a stone is missing in the morning, the one that threw it will not survive to see the spring.

To use the latter custom, have the villagers invite one or more PCs to join them in throwing stones into the fire. There must be at least a dozen participants for this to function properly. Each participant scratches his name on a stone and tosses it into a raging bonfire (lit with Yule flame). They then dance around the fire, singing songs. The next morning, the villagers examine the stones. If any stone is missing, the person that placed the missing stone will not live to see the coming spring.

There is a 50% chance that one stone is missing in the morning. If this is the case, jot down the name of each participant and assign him a number. Roll to determine who cast the missing stone. That person suffers a -4 to all saving throws until spring. Worse, should the Hunt appear, the person is doomed to fall under the sway of the Huntsman’s horn. All other participants gain a +1 to all saving throws until spring.

If the bonfire reveals that a villager (as compared to a PC) may not live until spring, simply ignore the bonuses, as they will not come into play. Just note the villager’s name. Later, if a villager must die at some point in the adventure, make it the pre-ordained villager. Use a similar procedure if the PCs inspect the shadows thrown by a bonfire (instead of tossing rocks into one).

The Blizzard (optional rule)

Between the foot of snow on the ground and the low temperatures, the weather of the valley is quite formidable already. The average high temperature is about 40 degrees, and the average low is about 28 degrees. For most of the year, the region is cool, cloudy, and humid. At this time of year, it snows about every other day.

If the DM wishes to challenge the PCs, and to enhance the feeling that the village is isolated, he can arrange for a blizzard to occur sometime during Yuletide. Roll 1d6+5 to determine the day on which it hits. For example, a result of 7 indicates that the storm hits on the Seventh Day of Yuletide. This range ensures that the PCs would have at least two days of uninterrupted play before a potential blizzard. It also prevents a blizzard on the last day, as this could turn a climactic ending into an inevitable failure without any action. Of course, the DM is free to override any roll that makes the scenario less playable or fun.

Regardless of the day, signs of the storm would appear by late morning, and the storm would hit about mid-afternoon. Driving snow would fall through most of the night, reducing visibility to zero. All villagers would secure their livestock and hunker down in their cottages. The storm would end just before dawn.

Effects of the Blizzard

Villagers cannot perform a ritual that night.
Travel becomes almost impossible and very dangerous.
PCs caught outdoors risk death from exposure.
PCs sitting indoors with villagers may learn more rumors.
PCs may participate in a minor folk practice.
PCs resting all day can regain hit points.

It is entirely up to the DM whether the night passes quietly or whether something exciting occurs. Both might be welcome. Note that the excitement need not be supernatural. Perhaps a villager is caught away from home and is trapped in the snowstorm while trying to return home. Perhaps an animal escaped from a barn and the villager that raced after it is now in danger. Perhaps midwinter goblins caused a roof or barn to collapse, trapping a villager inside. None of this need happen (the DM can decide to adjust the pace of  the story, as needed).

Uplifted Hearts (optional rule)

Despite the long hours of darkness and brutal weather, the Yuletide season does bring a certain degree of cheer, perhaps out of necessity. If the DM wishes, he can rule that such cheer is more than window dressing. Perhaps holiday revelry and feasting can actually reinvigorate the PCs, especially because hit points do not represent physical stamina alone.

If using such a rule, a PC that revels without toil for several hours and shares in a Yuletide feast will regain 2d8 hit points. This boost is significant compared to the standard healing rate of 1 hit point per full day of rest. The overall effect should be that players (like the PCs) should welcome any chance for such revelry and rest.

IV. Breaking the Curse

In this adventure path, the PCs will have to travel about the valley gathering resources and information. They will want to visit the mad hermit and the crone, though the order does not matter.

In this section, you will first find the various gifts that the grateful villagers will give to the PCs prior to the start of their quest. After that, several combat encounters are explained. Of course a DM can opt to discard these encounters in lieu of his own.

Gift-Giving in the Village

If the PCs agree to help the villagers by trying to break the curse, Alderman Ealhstan will suggest that they visit the mad hermit and the crone, giving them directions to both. In addition, the grateful villagers will give them several useful items, explaining that it is customary to give gifts during the twelve days of Yuletide. For details on any these items, see Section VIII. Featured Magic Items. Give a handout of each item to the players so they can easily and speedily make use of them.

As for the gifts, Godwine the Vicar will present the PCs with three freshly blessed vials of holy water. Hrothgar the Magistrate gives the PCs the Bough of Yuletide. A cheerful young maiden named Murran provides each PC with three Spice Cakes, telling them to eat them only when they feel weak. Another young maiden named Rhona gives a Crown of Holly to the PC that seems nicest or most eager to help the villagers. A middle-aged woman named Moira gives the PCs the Pendant of Yuletide Luck. Dunstan the smith gives the PCs the Horseshoe of Dunstan. An old spinster named Hilda gives the PCs the Vial of Enchanted Quicksilver. Several children give the PCs their newly made Beast Masks. Finally, the councilors will present the PCs with up to three reindeer-drawn sleighs, which they may use for the duration of Yuletide (PCs can decide how many they want, if any). These sleighs should help them to travel quickly through the snowy wilderness.

Outdoor Movement

Trudging on Foot

About 12” of snow lie on the ground in most places, making travel difficult for anyone on foot. Armored PCs move slower than lightly armored (leather) or unarmored PCs. They also become fatigued more quickly and need rest before continuing (the DM can decide the duration). The PCs will know this from their arduous trek to the village. All speeds given assume a base movement of 12” (adjust accordingly).

Unarmored/Lightly Armored PCs

Speed: 0.66 mph (about 2”)
Fatigue: After two hours (having walked 1.33 miles)

Armored PCs

Speed: 0.33 mph (about 1”)
Fatigue: After one hour (having walked .33 miles).

Trudging with Snowshoes

Once in the village, PCs may think to ask the villagers for snowshoes. If the PCs agree to help the villagers, the grateful inhabitants will provide snowshoes for free. If the PCs refuse to help, the villagers will charge exorbitant prices for snowshoes.

Snowshoes allow PCs to double their speed on foot, and it also doubles the time one can walk before suffering from fatigue. All speeds given assume a base movement of 12” (adjust accordingly).

Unarmored/Lightly Armored PCs with Snowshoes

Speed: 1.33 mph (about 4”)
Fatigue: After four hours (having walked 5.33 miles)

Armored PCs with Snowshoes

Speed: 0.66 mph (about 2”)
Fatigue: After two hours (having walked 1.33 miles).

Reindeer-Drawn Sleighs

Each sleigh, made entirely of wood, is about 8 feet long and 5 feet wide. Each can seat two adult passengers, and a shelf and rack on the back can hold spare gear. Four adult male reindeer, each weighing 250 pounds, pull the sleigh. Trained to such work, they are easy for PCs to control. Each can pull as much as 250 pounds so the team can pull the sleigh and 750 pounds of cargo, including any passengers.

A sleigh can move faster when on flat, open ground. On uneven ground or in the forest, where it must maneuver around large stands of trees, movement is slower. For trips requiring several hours, PCs can take along sacks of moss to feed the reindeer (fresh moss is not readily available because of the snow, and finding it is time-consuming). The reindeer will pull a sleigh no more than twelve hours per day.

For short bursts (less than one turn), a sleigh can travel faster. If pushed to keep this speed for one turn or more, the reindeer will become fatigued.

Though sleighs are faster than walking with snowshoes, the primary benefit of the sleigh is that PCs need not expend any energy on the trip, and they need not recover from fatigue after a few hours. Of course, they must protect the reindeer from wolves (the DM may opt not to have wolves attack the reindeer, but don’t tell the players that).

For One Turn or More

Speed: flat, open ground: 4 mph (about 12”)
Speed: uneven ground/in the forest: 2 mph (about 6”)

For Less than One Turn

Speed: flat, open ground: 5 mph (about 15”)
Speed: uneven ground/in the forest: 3 mph (about 9”)

Encounter A: Mad Hermit in His Cottage

Over the last thirty years, the mad hermit has amassed many powerful items to protect him against the Wild Hunt, but he knows that he has become a coward at heart. He knows that he will never face the Huntsman and his otherworldly host. He would be willing to give all of his magical collection to any would-be adventurers that would deliver him from this evil curse.

Though the hermit will readily share his magical items, he does not know how to break the curse. He believes that only the heathen crone has the answer, but the crone’s reputation is almost as terrible as that of the Hunt. The crone may be found in her sacred grove, to which both the villagers and the hermit can provide directions.

Desperate Gifts

The mad hermit will readily give all of the following items to the PCs (give a handout of each item to the players so they can easily and speedily make use of these items). He will inform them afterwards that by accepting the gifts they have brought his curse down upon themselves (this is true). He will briefly explain what each of the following items can do:

Brand of Agricola Chain of Binding
Lorica of Agricola Talisman of the Sun
Amulet of Preservation Necklace of the Wolf
Periapt of Mistletoe Torc of Donn

A description of each of these treasures is in Section VIII: Featured Magic Items.

Encounter B: Crone in the Sacred Grove

The ancient crone is not known for welcoming strangers, so PCs should be wary when visiting her. Of course, the main reason for visiting her (in this plot path) is to learn how to break the curse. Before anything else, the DM should determine her mood when the PCs arrive near the grove; roll 1d10 to see whether she is feeling benevolent (1-2), indifferent (3-8), or malevolent (9-0).

If the crone is feeling benevolent, she will be welcoming to any strangers that are polite. She will readily tell them that she knows why they have come and that she knows how to break the curse. In a talkative mood, she will also hint that she knows how to heal a person fully and even how to raise the dead.

If asked how to break the curse, she will promise to provide them with the secret, as well as the needed materials to do so—all in return for one favor. The PCs must travel to the faerie circle in the forest and punish the wicked elves that dwell there, for they recently stole one of her items. She already recovered the item, but she decided that they must be punished. The PCs may have moral qualms over punishing elves, but remember that the elves here are neutral at best and often wicked. Remember too that the crone is  not good and could care less about the PCs’ moral qualms. She will state matter-of-factly that the elves are thieves, and if the PCs want her help, they must punish them. Wily PCs might devise a plan to merely beat up the elves, but the crone knows that entering the circle will trigger a deadly battle. In any case, if the PCs accept her offer, she indicates that she will watch their progress in a magical pool. If they perform to her satisfaction and survive, she will give them the two items needed to cleanse the barrow mound—(1) a crystal decanter of sacred water from the pool, and (2) boughs of sacred mistletoe.

She will also offer to heal them in the nearby pool, if necessary, before they go off and brave the restless dead in the barrow mounds. If they agree, she asks them to remove their clothes and to enter the waters of the nearby pool (for more details, see Location G in Section II: Survey of Notable Locations).

If the party asks her (now or later) to raise the dead, she will agree, but she will mention that such a powerful enchantment requires a costly sacrifice (as this may be less likely to occur, information on raising the dead is placed separately below).

If the crone is feeling indifferent, she will be more curt and guarded in her speech, but she will offer them a deal much like that above. The crone will watch their progress against the elves in the enchanted waters of her pool. However, she will not offer to heal them for free after a battle with the elves. If the PCs ask for such healing (now or later), she will indicate that she requires payment. A PC would have to do one of the following to enjoy the curing waters of her sacred pool—(1) leave her a permanent magical item, (2) allow her to leech some life energy from one PC (1d6 permanent hit points), or (3) allow her to leech some strength from a PC (one ability point of strength). If they ask, note that a PC could offer up his own life energy/strength so that a companion can use the pool.

If the crone is feeling malevolent (or if any PC manages to upset her, largely by being rude), she will be curt and rude when talking to the PCs. She will offer them information and needed materials (as mentioned above). Her price, however, is both a battle with the elves AND one of the above forms of payment. She will not freely offer to heal the PCs, but if they ask, she will demand that the group (not each PC) give her two additional forms of payment from the options listed above. For example, the group could leave her two permanent magical items, or two separate PCs could each offer to allow her to leech his strength, etc.

Raising the Dead

The crone knows how to raise the dead. She does this by placing the corpse in a small pool in the grove. Old oaks, draped with sacred mistletoe, surround the pool. The overflow from the pool forms a small stream and trickles into Loch Shee. After the corpse is in the pool, the crone will murmur certain unintelligible words and toss several strange roots and flowers in the waters. After three turns, the deceased will return to life at maximum hit points. However, his alignment may shift, moving one step towards chaos (if not already chaotic). This reflects the wild streak of nature that takes hold in the revived character’s spirit.

The crone will restore any deceased PC to life (unless he was rude to her or disrespectful to her grove). The payment required will depend on her mood. Regardless of her mood, she will warn the PCs that payment is steep.

If she is in a benevolent mood, she will demand one of the following beforehand:

    1. Bring her an adult human sacrifice (she will suggest the mad hermit, not because he is guilty but because killing him would likely remove the Hunt and help others).
    2. Leave her two permanent magical items
    3. Allow her to leech 1d6 permanent hit points from three PCs
    4. Allow her to leech one point of constitution from three PCs

If she is in an indifferent mood, she will require two forms of payment from the list above to raise one dead PC.

If she is in a malevolent mood, she will require three forms of payment from the list above to raise one dead PC.

The Crone

AC: 04, HD: 12+1, HP: 100, MV: 15″, AL: CN (evil tendencies), ATTK/DAM: see below, SA: see below, SD: see below, MR: 25%, XPS: NA

Daily Spells: 1st-level (4), 2nd-level (4), 3rd-level (4), 4th-level (4), 5th-level (4), 6th-level (1)

Spells Available:

1st-level: affect normal fires (diminishing them only), charm person, detect magic, featherfall (like a snowflake), message, precipitation (snow), sleep, ventriloquism
2nd-level: invisibility, locate object, shatter, zephyr
3rd-level: dispel magic, hold person, suggestion, wind wall
4th-level: dimension door, fear, ice storm, polymorph self, polymorph other, stoneskin, wall of ice
5th-level: animate dead, cone of cold, feeblemind
6th-level: control weather, contingency, death spell, eyebite, invisible stalker, reincarnation

Gnarled Staff:

The crone carries a gnarled staff of oak, topped with a human skull. With this grisly walking stick, she can absorb any spells cast directly at her (not area effect spells) and return them immediately at the caster. This costs 2 charges.

The staff also functions much like a wand of frost. The user can create one of three effects each round, and each costs 1 charge.

First, she can create an ice storm to a range of 180 feet (takes only one segment). This can manifest as a flurry of hailstones that deals 3d10 in damage. It can also manifest as driving sleet that covers an area 80 feet in diameter, blinding those within it for that round and icing up the ground. The icy ground slows movement by 50% and gives anyone moving a 50% chance of falling.

Second, she can create a wall of ice, measuring 6 inches thick and having an area of 1200 square feet—for example, 20 x 60 feet or 10 x 120 feet (takes two segments).

Third, she can create a cone of cold up to 60 feet in length, measuring 20 feet in diameter at the greatest range. The temperature is -100 degrees F. It deals 6d6 in damage, but all ones are treated as twos, so it deals 12-36 points (a save against RSW means only half-damage).

The staff has a maximum of 50 charges, and it currently has 25.

The crone, who dwells in a sacred grove near Loch Shee, is feared with good cause. A one-eyed giantess, she is a blood descendent of the heathen immortal named Beira, goddess of winter. She is only partially human. She does not use a name (for names have power), but she prefers to be called ‘Elder Woman’ by polite company. Few villagers could say how much she knows or what she believes, but a handful of lucky and brave souls, who have met her and lived, attest that she occasionally honors a fire god named Be’al (whom she claims to be the source of all things) with human sacrifices on certain nights of the year. The PCs will hear rumors that she did so just days ago, on midwinter’s night (true).

As should be obvious, the crone is here as a source of information and aid. She is a plot device to help PCs along their path. She is not here as a monster, but if foolish players wish to test her strength, so be it. Use all of her powers to kill the offending PCs as quickly as possible. She has no mercy. Not only will she kill those that seriously offend her, she will burn their bodies as a sacrifice to Be’al and then scatter their ashes on the winter wind. In addition to her own considerable powers, the crone also keeps four large wolves as pets (stats below), and these would defend her to the death.

The crone’s divine heritage accounts for her size, her natural armor class of 4, her many hit points, her high movement rate, her magic resistance, and her spell-like powers.

Regarding spells, the crone is a unique creature that combines certain powers and abilities of a druid and a magic-user. Like a druid, she has no spell book and does not study to memorize spells. Likewise, she uses only greater mistletoe as a spell component for any spell that requires them. Unlike a druid, she casts magic-user spells, and she does so as if a 12th-level caster. Likewise, she has the daily spell slots of a 12th-level magic user. Her spells tend to be those involving weather, cold, and enchantment, but she can cast minor divination and necromancy spells too.

4 Wolves

AC: 07, HD: 2+2, HP: 16, MV: 18”, AL: N, ATTKS/DAM: 1bite (1d4+1), INT: Animal, SIZE: M, SA: pack attack, leap, infection, SD: NA, XPS: 89

Pack Attack:

When attacking, several wolves will attack a single target. Each wolf gains a bonus to attack rolls equal to +2 for each extra wolf attacking. So if three wolves attack one PC, each gets +4. If six wolves (the maximum) attack one PC, each wolf gets a +10 bonus.

Leap:

While making its first attack, each wolf can leap at its target. If the attack hits, it not only deals normal damage, but it knocks the target prone. Thereafter, until the victim can get up, he suffers a -4 penalty to attacks and a +4 penalty to his AC.

Infection:

If a wolf scores a natural 20 on an attack, it deals an added 1d4 in damage because the bite is deep. Because of the deep punctures, the wound will become infected 1-2 days later, causing an additional 1d4 hit points per day (cure disease will heal this). If the wolf slays an opponent with its bite attack, describe this by saying that the wolf tore out the victim’s throat.

Encounter C: Elves Near the Faerie Circle

If the PCs travel to the faerie circle, they will see the site itself as described in Location I of Section II: Survey of Notable Locations. During daylight hours, however, they will encounter no elves (the crone will tell the PCs this). Only at dusk is there a chance to see them here, and this becomes 100% at sunset.

If the PCs go slowly, peering about at dusk, they will spot many signs of the elves. As DM, give lots of hints at their presence, from glittering eyes (like those of cats) reflecting light back at them through the trees, small scurrying sounds, etc. When darkness falls, increase the pressure, for the elves will be determined to drive off the big folk that so rudely trespass near their circle. They may use spells to confuse PCs. Should the PCs step into the faerie circle after dark, the elves will immediately attack with ferocity. Their attack will feature a combination of deception, magical attacks, and intelligent battle tactics. To run this encounter smoothly, review the magical circle itself, elfin abilities, and their battle tactics.

Magical Effects of the Faerie Circle

Within the circle, all spells suffer from wild magic. The DM determines the effects. They are never helpful, but they need not be harmful.

In addition, all spells cast within the ring are more powerful in terms of range, area of effect, and damage (if applicable). Thus, wild magic will not cause a spell to fizzle, to falter, to fade, or to have little effect. Instead, spells are much more likely to hit the wrong target, to cause targets to grow instead of to shrink, to take the form of a totally different spell, etc.

Last of all, any human standing in the circle for more than six rounds must save against spells or suffer a curious effect (realize that this may come in the middle of combat!) This saving throw need only be made once. Anyone that fails becomes entranced and begins dancing and frolicking wildly to music that only the entranced can hear. Unable to do anything else (no attacks, no movement besides dancing, no spell casting), the dancer suffers -4 to his armor class and fails any subsequent saving throws while the enchantment is in effect. Fortunately, the elves will not attack anyone that begins dancing, knowing that they are effectively neutralized. If only dancing foes remain, the elves will leave them be, for the enchantment does not wear off. If all PCs are entranced, they will eventually die of exhaustion, thirst, or hunger. An unaffected PC can physically drag a dancing PC out of the circle, thereby breaking the enchantment. This does not require a roll, but it does take one round to accomplish. Also, an unaffected PC can only drag one enchanted PC out of the circle per round.

1d6+6 Dark Elves

AC: 03, HD: 1-1, HP: 6, MV: 12″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 1 shortsword +2 (1d6+1), INT: Very, SIZE: 3’ tall, SA: see below, SD: see below, MR: 50%, XPS: 100.

Move Silently: Gain surprise on a 1-4 in 6

Invisibility: Undetectable except to magic until they attack.

Infravision: 60′

Resist Charm and Sleep: 90%

Immune to Normal Weapons: The elves can only be hit by a +1 or better weapon.

Chainmail +2: Loses the +2 enchantment bonus if removed from the elfin realm for more than 1 week. Sized for a 3′ tall humanoid.

Enhanced Saves: +2 to saving throws against spells and magical items.

Agile: Can move, attack, and move again.

Spell-Like Abilities (1x / day): charm person, dancing lights, faerie fire, and a magic missile that deals only 1 point of damage.

The dark elves, sometimes called ‘woodland folk’ or ‘people of the mounds,’ are malevolent spirits that dwell in their own otherworldly realm. However, mortals only encounter them in the forest, wherein lies the gateway to their shadowy realm. They rarely leave the forest, and they are largely indifferent to humans that remain in villages and towns. Yet they are incredibly hostile to those that intrude on their domain, including wandering peddlers, pilgrims, foresters, hunters, and trappers.

Dark elves stand only about 3 feet tall, and they only weigh about fifty pounds. They are slender in build. They have blonde hair, pale skin, thin features, and dark brown (almost black) eyes. They wear dark garments of coal gray and dark green, making them difficult to spot.

In natural surroundings, elves can move silently (surprise on a 1-4 in 6) and can make themselves invisible (requiring magical means to detect them) as long as they are not attacking. They have infravision up to 60 feet. They speak their own unique tongue, as well as that of most humans.

Elves are 90% resistant to charm and sleep spells of any sort. PCs can only hit them if using +1 or better weapons. They also wear fine magical armor (chainmail+2), made by their own smiths. This armor, if removed from the elfin realm for more than one week, loses all enchantment. Of course, such armor would be an oddity only, as the elves are only 3 feet tall. In addition to their considerable magic resistance, they gain a +2 bonus to all saving throws against spells and magical items.

Being very quick and agile, elves can move, attack, and then move again, as long as they do not exceed their maximum move of 120 feet. They are very adept at using their small swords, receiving a +1 racial bonus to attacks only. They are intelligent foes and will use every manner of trick to gain an advantage. They use deception, feints, and flanking attacks, while also attacking from different levels (ground level, eye level, the treetops, etc.) They will use spell-like abilities and their weapons. Moreover, when fighting foes without head protection, they will aim for the head 50% of the time. (Reminder—PCs with bare heads have AC 10, those with helmets have AC 5, and those wearing great helms have AC 1.) Attacks that hit the head either do double damage (1-2) or aim to stun the victim (4-6). If the latter, the victim must roll beneath his constitution or be stunned enough to miss one round (the next one if he already attacked or this one if he did not).

All elves have the following spell-like abilities, which they can use once per day: charm person, dancing lights, faerie fire, and a magic missile that deals only 1 point of damage.

Elves are weak creatures, and each will flee after receiving any damage. The group will continue fighting though, regardless of how many of their fellows flee, for they are confident in their ability to vanish into the surrounding forest. They also know that they are not far from sources of healing in their own land.

Playing the Elves Intelligently

When running a battle between elves and the PCs, the DM should do everything to avoid a stand-up fight. The elves are small, stealthy, and magical, and they will use these to their advantage. Keep in mind the following:

    1. At least one elf will use faerie fire to illuminate the PCs, thereby giving all elves a +2 bonus to attacks.
    2. Each elf gets one magic missile and one charm person spell.
    3. At least one elf will use dancing lights to draw attacks, to confuse PCs, and to turn them about to expose their flanks.
    4. Elves will deliberately attack flanks, thereby negating shields and dexterity modifiers.
    5. Elves will deliberately attack PCs in the rear, thereby negating shields, negating dexterity modifiers, and gaining a +2 bonus.
    6. Elves will deliberately attack prone PCs, thereby negating shields, negating dexterity modifiers, and gaining a +4 bonus.
    7. Elves will deliberately attack the head of any PC that does not wear a helm or helmet (see below for details). If attacks on a PC’s head manage to stun that PC, elves will deliberately attack that same PC before he can recover.

Encounter D: Wild Hunt in the Wilderness

The DM must think very carefully before throwing this encounter at the PCs, as the Hunt could very well kill the whole party. The Huntsman alone is powerful, but when accompanied by his pack, spectral horseman, and a dozen draugar, he is dreadful. Under no circumstances should the DM have the Hunt attack the PCs before they have obtained all the gifts from the mad hermit. Only after they have these gifts, combined with those from the villagers, would the PCs have a fighting chance. Even then, it would be very dangerous. Of course, this encounter is purposefully terrifying. The Hunt is no simple random encounter for the PCs to swat.

It may be best to have the Hunt appear when the PCs are just within sight of a place to hide or to find refuge. Place them too close to refuge and the encounter will likely be boring, as wise PCs scurry to safety with ease. Place them too far away, and they are doomed. Place them just within reach of refuge, and it can be exciting. If the PCs have sleighs with them, you could get a crazed and memorable chase over snow-covered fields and through barren forest.

What areas could provide safety? The Hunt appears somewhere in the southern part of the Downs and proceeds ten miles to the hermit’s cottage. That course is largely the same and is likely irrelevant. After it passes the cottage, it continues for another ten miles or so in a random direction (up to the DM). This ten-mile-radius circle is the area that matters. Within it, there is only one sacred area that the Hunt will not enter—the churchyard in the village. In addition, the PCs could flee out of the circle. The problem with this idea is that the limits of the safe zone (the area outside the radius) are not obvious. To make matters easier, you can fudge the distance slightly and rule that the Hunt never goes north of the Moray or west of the Spey. Of course, this is only useful if the PCs know about it, so you might have villagers or the hermit mention this to them. This could then lead to exciting chase scenes that culminate at the Cumar Bridge or with PCs plunging headlong into the Moray or the Spey to escape the ‘Furious Host.’ There is one other alternative that desperate PCs might choose to escape the Hunt. If they are at the barrow mounds and have opened the door to a barrow, they could duck inside. The Hunt will not go underground. Of course, the PCs must then face the draugar that haunt the mounds.

Given all of these considerations, the ideal scenario would have the Hunt attack the PCs sometime after they have visited the mad hermit and when they are barely in sight of either the village or one of the major rivers (the Moray or the Spey).

Any chase requires a closer look at speeds. Many players are number crunchers and will demand some math. Officially, the Hunt moves at a speed of 18 inches, which is 180 yards or 540 feet per round (32,400 feet per hour or about 6.1 miles per hour). To know how fast it will close with the PCs, you need to know their speed. There are three likely options. If PCs are standing still (not trying to run), the Hunt will close 540 feet per round. If the PCs break into a run on foot (not terribly wise), they would only move at a rate of 3 inches, which is 30 yards or 90 feet per round. In this case, the Hunt would close 450 feet per round. If the PCs are fleeing headlong in a reindeer-drawn sleigh, the sleigh moves 15 inches, or 150 yards or 450 feet per round. In this case, the Hunt would close 90 feet per round.

What do these speeds and closing rates really mean? If you predetermine a set distance for the Hunt to appear from the PCs, the math is easy enough, but still you may run into troubles. For example, if the Hunt appears one mile from the PCs, it would reach PCs standing still in ten rounds. However, if the PCs were fleeing in a sleigh, it would not overtake them for 59 rounds (hardly dramatic!) Even if you cut the distance in half, it would still take 29 rounds! With all things considered, it is probably wisest to rule that the Hunt need not always run at one speed. Thus, it can appear as far away as you wish and start chasing the PCs. Have it close as fast as needed to make the encounter as dramatic as possible.

If the PCs plan to stand and fight, then let it close quickly. If they plan to race to the churchyard, have the leading hounds catch them just outside the village. Alternatively, you could roll a die to see if the lead hounds catch them or if the PCs just make it to safety. Likewise, if the PCs race to one of the rivers, have the lead hounds catch them just as they reach the bank. Of course, how the PCs respond to the Huntsman’s horn may change everything.

In any case, make the Hunt’s appearance both dramatic and cinematic. Use foreshadowing. Before the Hunt becomes visible, the sky will noticeably darken, lightning will dance in the distance, and thunder will peal. PCs should know what this means if they listened to the rumors and if they spoke with NPCs (villagers and/or the mad hermit). These signs should give them plenty of time to flee, and though this head start will not guarantee their escape, it will guarantee that they have a chance. As the Hunt comes within 100 yards, one can hear the clatter of hooves and the shrieks of horses. Remember that one must both see AND hear the Huntsman’s horn to become ensnared by its magic (DM’s call on how far the sound travels).

Some of the hounds will reach the PCs earlier than the rest of the Hunt. The hounds try to encircle the prey so the draugar and any ensnared PCs can attack the prey first. Perhaps the well-armed PCs have three rounds to deal with four hounds before another two of three arrive. Use your judgment and make it exciting. Bringing two dozens monsters on the PCs in the same round will be fun for no one. Your players may hunt you! Nevertheless, do not be afraid to kill a PC (this is probably a one-shot adventure anyway), and the crone in the sacred grove can raise the dead (for a price). Players whose characters barely survive and escape will have much richer memories than those who escape or vanquish the Hunt easily.

The stats for the various creatures that comprise the Hunt are given in Section VII: The Wild Hunt.

Encounter E: Draugar in the Barrow Mounds

This should be the final encounter if the PCs chose to break the curse. In extended play, however, it is possible for players to try to break the curse AND to assist the villagers in completing the rituals. In any case, to break the hermit’s curse, the PCs must locate the correct barrow mound, open its door, enter the mound, deal with draugar in the process (regardless of any that may have been killed in an encounter with the Hunt), and finally use special items (gained from the crone in Encounter B) to cleanse the interior of the mound.

If the PCs travel to the barrow mounds, they will see the site as described in Location H of Section II: Survey of Notable Locations. Read that carefully before running this encounter.

Entering the Cursed Barrow Mound

The doors to all of the mounds are partially blocked with wind-blown sediment and must be cleared before the PCs can enter. Narrow steps lead down into the barrow so only one person can effectively dig at a time. With a shovel, it would take five rounds to clear. Without a shovel (using improvised weapons and/or shields), it will take ten rounds to clear.

If the PCs are digging at dusk or after (not during daylight hours), draugar may emerge to slay those that disturb their mound. For each round spent digging, roll 1d6. A roll of 1-3 indicates that 1-2 draugar emerge, looking at first like black wisps of smoke, but then materializing into bloated corpses. This transformation takes one round.

If the PCs are digging during the daytime, no draugar will emerge. They will, however, attack the PCs as soon as they enter the dark inside of the barrow mound.

1d6+6 Draugar

AC: 05, HD: 4+3, HP: 21, MV: 12″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 1 fists (1d4), SA: energy drain, SD: only hit by silver weapons or by magical ones (+2 or better), MR: see below, XPS: 700

Energy Drain: Any creature struck by the draug’s fist loses 500xp. A creature slain in this fashion rises as a half-strength Draug after 1d4 turns.

Immunities: Sleep, Charm, Mental attacks, Cold, Poison, Paralysis

Spell-like Abilities:

Once per day (but only during daylight hours), a draug can create the effects of a darkness 15’ radius spell, as if cast by a 3rd level magic-user.

Also, once per day a draug can produce a curse that reduces a victim’s strength by 2 points for one day (a saving throw against spells negates the effect).

Regeneration: 1 HP per turn, even after reaching -10 HP.

Vulnerabilities:

-1 to attacks when exposed to supernaturally bright light.
Holy water inflicts 2d4 points of damage.

A draug is akin to a wight (turned as such). Bloated, the mostly-naked corpse has blackish-blue skin and cherry-red eyes. When emerging from a barrow mound, it rises as wisps of black smoke. The stench of death is powerful and almost overpowering to all within 10 feet. Some draugar rise while astride their undead horses. Strangely, they are unnaturally heavy, weighing about four hundred pounds. Anyone attempting to knock one down will feel as if he hit a tree.

If a draug hits its victim, that victim suffers damage from the supernaturally powerful blow (1d4), and it also loses 500 xps. Draugar are unaffected by sleep, charm, mental attacks, cold, poison, or paralysis. A direct hit with holy water inflicts 2d4 points of damage to them. One slain by a draug’s energy drain rises again as a half-strength draug in 1d4 turns. On subsequent nights, the new draug will have full strength.

Once per day (but only during daylight hours), a draug can create the effects of a darkness 15-foot radius spell, as if cast by a 3rd level magic-user. Also, once per day a draug can produce a curse that reduces a victim’s strength by 2 points for one day (a saving throw against spells negates the effect).

A draug regenerates 1 hit point per turn, rising again even after reaching -10 hit points. Burning a draug’s body will prevent it from ever rising again, as will completely dismembering it and pouring holy water upon the head. Driving an iron spike through its feet will  also keep it from rising, at least for as long as the spike remains.

Draugar shun bright light and hate sunlight. By day, they inhabit barrow mounds, refusing to come into the light. If exposed to supernaturally bright light (continual light), they suffer -1 to all attacks. Draugar, which are intelligent, despise the living, will recognize and attack those that may have stolen from them or those that had a hand in their deaths.

Once the cleansing ritual has been completed, the curse driving the draugar is broken, and they vanish into smoke once again. The remaining barrows remain cursed, however, and their draugar will still arise if disturbed.

Inside the Cursed Barrow Mound

The design of the various barrow mounds is ancient, belonging to a long-forgotten people that predate the villagers or their kin. Many are ‘long barrows,’ featuring one main hallway built into a natural (or man-made) hillside. In several barrows, small side chambers branch off from the main hallway, giving the interior the shape of a cross. Occasionally, a secret chamber is hidden in the rear. In most cases, one must descend by narrow steps about 5 feet below the surface of the opening. Inside, the walls and ceiling are lined with crude stones, most about the size of a cobblestone. The ceiling is only about 7 feet high, making combat difficult (PCs suffer a -2 penalty to hit with longswords and the like, and a -4 penalty with two-handed weapons). The floor is made of packed earth.

In the cursed barrow mound, the main hallway is 20 feet wide and 40 feet long. The narrow stone steps are only 3 feet wide and hug the left wall as one descends. About 20 feet down the hallway (in the middle), one semi-circular alcove, 20 feet in diameter, opens on each side, giving the rough shape of a cross. As above, the floor is packed earth, and the walls and ceiling are lined with stones. The place is pitch dark unless the PCs bring their own light. The air smells of dank, musty earth with a hint of decay.

Twenty-one corpses—the bodies of the executed brigands—were wrapped in linen strips and laid on the floor here. Worms, beetles, and normal rot have completely stripped away the flesh and rotted the linen bandages. The bodies are now mere bony husks, wrapped in the oiled remains of dusty bandages. These bodies cover most of the floor in the T-shaped interior. Any PC engaged in melee combat here must roll beneath his dexterity each round or trip over a body and fall prone.

At the rear of the hallway is a cube-shaped stone pedestal, atop which rests the curious stone statue of a face looking up at the ceiling. It has an open mouth and grotesque bulging eyes. The statue is very old and worn. The mouth is actually hollow, allowing one to put a finger inside. Anyone doing so will feel a stone tongue. If one presses the tongue, he or she will hear a click from behind the pedestal, and the wall behind it will seem to move just a fraction of an inch. This unlocks a heavy, stone, secret door. One can push it open to reveal a secret chamber behind the main hallway.

The secret chamber measures 20 feet deep (measured from the wall holding the secret door) and 40 feet wide. At each end of the chamber lies a stone sarcophagus, featuring an effigy of the warrior buried within. In the center of the room are two large piles of small coins, all very old and worn. At the rear of the chamber is a stone altar, adorned with worn engravings that are barely visible now. The altar was once used for human sacrifice in a heathen ritual, but the body of the victim has long since turned to dust.

This chamber went unnoticed by the villagers thirty years ago, when they briefly examined the barrow. Thinking the mound empty, they deposited the brigands in the main hallway. They did not realize that it held two warriors from long ago.

Each sarcophagus contains the crumbling remains of a centuries-old skeleton, dressed in remnants of a rusted chain hauberk (it is not functional). Engravings on the sarcophagus itself, if somehow shown to the villagers (if they took a rubbing, for example), would reveal that the tomb dates to several centuries ago.

Hidden Treasure in the Barrow Mound

The pile of coins contains 12,000 worn gold pieces (worth a total of 6000 gold). In addition, buried within one pile is a small rotted leather sack that holds twenty-four amber beads (each worth 100 gold).

One sarcophagus contains a wide-bladed, rusted bastard sword, richly engraved and adorned with a large green Chrysolite cabochon in the pommel (alone worth 500 gold). If properly cleaned, the weapon functions as a sword +2, and it also provides the wielder with +2 on saves against spells. The sword is worth 900 xps. Around the skeleton’s neck is a dirt-encrusted bronze torc of fine workmanship. If cleaned and worn, it restores 1 hit point per turn to the wearer, but it only functions for one day each week. The torc is worth 2,000 xps. There is also a gold ring worth 500 gold.

The other sarcophagus contains a rusted battle-axe, finely engraved with spiral designs. If properly cleaned, it functions as a battle-axe +2. Moreover, when a player rolls a natural 20, the axe splits an enemy’s shield, helm, or helmet, rendering it useless. If used against a creature that does not use such equipment, it deals an added 1d6 of damage on a natural 20. The battle-axe is worth 650 xps. This skeleton also wears two ornamental gold armbands. If both are worn, they provide a +2 bonus to AC. As far as stacking magical bonuses, the armbands operate exactly like a shield and in lieu of a shield. They can function with armor, but not with rings and some other devices. These armbands can be used by anyone unable to use a shield (like a magic-user). The pair of armbands is worth 500 xps. Lastly, there is also a very delicate pendant of gold with exquisite workmanship, holding pieces of several gems. The whole piece is worth as much as 2000 gold to a collector (or 200 gold otherwise).

The Villagers Satisfied

If the PCs satisfy the villagers by breaking the curse, the villagers heartily thank the PCs for their efforts. Ealhstan will give them directions home. He will also give them an Elf-Cross Pendant. This circular silver pendant features a simple cross, engraved into one side. Ealhstan will explain that to make such a precious item, Dunston the smith fashioned it according to an ancient rite, shaping it over three successive nights, using nine sources of inherited silver. It had to rest on an altar for three consecutive weeks. In any case, the pendant will ward off the elves at the faerie circle, while showing it to the dark guardian at the faerie fountain should earn the PCs free passage through the elfin realm and back home.

Passing Through the Elfin Realm

The PCs are now effectively finished. Describe their journey to the faerie fountain. Read details on Location J in Section II: Survey of Notable Locations. There is still danger (drinking from the fountain, not treating with the guardian properly, etc.), but wise players should escape without serious harm.

When the PCs pour the water out of the fountain, the dark guardian bursts through the trees on horseback, charging at full tilt, his lance leveled at the PCs. The PCs have one round to react properly, laying down their arms, raising their hands to the air, and holding out the elf-cross pendant for him to see. It  is entirely possible that the PCs will have to weather his first attack before all PCs think to do the above (and this first attack may well kill a PC). If all PCs do the above, he will not remove his helm or converse, saying only, “Be gone.” However, if they insist and hold out the pendant, he will remove his helm and apologize. He will then lead them to a nearby cave, saying that their road home lies within. If the guardian wounded anyone in his attack before the PCs could successfully show him the pendent, he will pull a wineskin from his saddlebag and pour a ruby-colored liquid into the wounded person’s mouth. This will restore the PC fully, even restoring life. It takes one round to take effect.

After entering the cave, they will find themselves returned to the location they were originally taken from.

V. Defending the Villagers

The PCs have entered the village during the twelve-day festival of Yuletide, which starts on Midwinter and ends after Twelfth Night. During this time, the villagers usually perform five year-end rituals to gain some magical protections and to ensure good fortune in the year ahead. Each ritual has its own specified day, but this year several mishaps disrupted the celebrations, threatening to bring misfortune on the village.

In this adventure path, the PCs have agreed to protect the villagers while they complete the five rituals. In this section, you will first find the various gifts that the grateful villagers will give to the PCs once they agree to help. After that, the rituals and their effects are described. Lastly, several combat encounters are explained. Of course, a DM can opt to discard these encounters in lieu of his own.

Gift-Giving in the Village

Once the PCs agree to help, Alderman Ealhstan will give them a quick summary of the five rituals that the villagers need to perform (see details on each ritual below). In addition, the grateful villagers will give them several useful items, explaining that it is customary to give gifts during the twelve days of Yuletide. For details on any unique items, see Section VIII. Featured Magic Items. Give a handout of each item to the players so they can easily and speedily make use of these items.

Godwine the Vicar will present the PCs with three freshly blessed vials of holy water. Hrothgar the Magistrate will give the PCs the Bough of Yuletide. A cheerful young maiden named Murran will provide each PC with three Spice Cakes, telling them to eat them only when they feel weak. Another young maiden named Rhona will give a Crown of Holly to the PC that seems nicest or most eager to help the villagers. A middle-aged woman named Moira will give the PCs the Pendant of Yuletide Luck. Dunstan the Smith will give the PCs the Horseshoe of Dunstan. An old spinster named Hilda will give the PCs the Vial of Enchanted Quicksilver. Finally, several children will give the PCs their newly made Beast Masks.

Procession of Light

Day and Time

This ritual usually occurs on the First Day of Yuletide, also known as Midwinter’s Day. During the day, several men cut down a suitable oak tree and bring it to the “gates” of the village. The ritual itself begins just before dusk.

Purpose

This ritual creates the magical Yule fire for the village. The villagers can take some of this fire inside their homes. A secondary purpose is to create a magical barrier around the village (a minor ward that works to some degree).

Steps of the Ritual

  1. Villagers, dressed in festive clothing of red, green, and gold, gather together at the gate of the village. Many wear beast masks, made of real fur. Most carry unlit candles, and several carry drums or bells. Alderman Ealhstan carries a censor of burning incense. Godwine carries a silver bucket of holy water and an aspergillum. Hrothgar carries a charred bough from last year’s Yule log.
  2. The Alderman usually says a few words, and then villagers use horses or reindeer to drag this year’s Yule log to the village green. The throng of onlookers follows.
  3. Village women then come forth with boughs of holly, oak, and mistletoe and fasten these to the new Yule log.
  4. Several villagers then sprinkle the Yule log with freshly squeezed apple cider.
  5. The Alderman, still carrying the burning censor, wreathes the Yule long with fragrant smoke. The Vicar then sprinkles the log with holy water. The Magistrate then lights the Yule log with the charred bough from last year’s Yule log.
  6. The villagers then sing many traditional carols (for three turns, or 30 minutes).
  7. The villagers then gather some fresh ashes from the new fire, mainly for home use.
  8. The villagers then light candles from the Yule log. Children often carry candles inside hollowed out gourds. Villagers then form into a rough column, three or four people wide. In the front is a young maiden, dressed in a white gown and wearing a crown of lighted candles. The entire group then processes around the village’s perimeter to dissuade evil from entering. The villagers make lots of noise by banging the drums and ringing the bells. Those in beast masks often dance about aggressively to frighten off evil spirits.
  9. When the villagers return to the village Yule log, one person from each household lights a special candle to take some of the magical flame back to his or her home.

Path

The villagers leave the village green and march north to the low bridge near the village hall.  This is the starting point of the protective perimeter. The group then proceeds to the nearby farmstead, just south of the mulberry orchard. They then march northwest to the Moray River, skirting the west side of the mulberry and walnut orchards (to protect the homes of the orchard owner and fishermen). At the mouth of Miller’s Creek, a few villagers usually accompany the Vicar, who crosses the river by boat to bless the homes of the fishermen on the far bank. They then recross the river and join the main procession, which then marches southward between the fallow fields and the winter crop. They then turn eastward and march along the Moray road (the main road in the village) to the end of the winter crop. They then turn south, cut between the apple and apricot orchards, and march just past the hunting cabin. They then turn west and march to Miller’s Creek, finally turning northwest, passing the village green, and returning to the low bridge.

Consequences if Left Undone

Until the ritual is complete, the villagers will lack both the magical protections that the Yule fire brings and the minor ward around the village.

Game Effects

This ritual creates magical Yule fire for the entire village (see below).

The ritual also creates around the village a weak magical barrier that requires evil creatures of 1 HD or less to save against spells to enter. Those creatures that fail may not enter on that given night (they will not be about during the day). Realize that the barrier does not affect those creatures that have already entered. For example, the PCs and villagers may need to deal with the midwinter goblins that appear in Encounter J: Sword Dance. Note that those midwinter goblins hide underground during the day. PCs will not find them, though the DM may wish to make life interesting by allowing them to find several tracks in the snow. However, he should not drag this out for too long, as PCs will not locate them.

If the PCs help the villagers to complete this ritual, each PC gains 100 bonus xps per level (so a 5th-level PCs gets 500 xps).

The Magic of Yule Fire

Each Yule log will burn continuously until the twelve nights of Yuletide have passed.

Once a Yule log is lit, no fire may be transferred from house to house, or the new fire will lack all magical power.

Worse, allowing Yule fire to leave a home brings bad luck to all in the house for the duration of the twelve days (-1 on all attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws and ability checks).

Deliberately extinguishing a Yule flame brings the same curse.

Should a Yule log’s flame be extinguished, one can try to rekindle it by using embers (not the flame) of the village Yule log (10% chance each turn). Doing so does not dampen the fire’s magic or bring any curse.

Yule fire can keep supernatural evil creatures of less than 1 HD from entering the home through the chimney.

Yule fire can render ghosts and other evil spirits visible.

Yule candles, kept in each home, can drive off a supernatural evil creature when presented forcefully. The wielder gains the turning ability of a 1st-level cleric, though with a -2 penalty to the turning roll. Note that this effect is similar to, but less powerful than, that of the Bough of Yuletide (see Section VIII. Featured Magical Items).

Ashes from a Yule log, when scattered in the fields, bring fertility to the next crop.

Wassailing the Orchards

Day and Time

This ritual usually occurs on the Fourth Day of Yuletide, also known as Wassailia.

Purpose

This ritual honors the tree spirits of the orchards, encouraging them remain and to produce flavorful and abundant fruit in the spring. ‘To wassail’ means to offer wassail to the tree spirits, wassail being a special apple cider, prepared with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a piece of toast.

Steps of the Ritual

  1. At dusk, village women prepared the cider over a hearth that burns with Yule fire.
  2. When darkness falls, the villagers gather in the village green, many holding torches.
  3. The company processes out to the first of several orchards.
  4. Once in an orchard, the onlookers sing certain carols to awaken the tree spirit that dwells in the orchard.
  5. A few males then lift a specially dressed maiden into the trees, where she presents a bowl of wassail to the tree spirit that dwells in that orchard.
  6. An elderly villager then scatters a few ashes from the Yule fire around the tree where the maiden made the offering.
  7. The village vicar then blesses the orchard by sprinkling holy water around the base of the same tree.
  8. The company then processes to the next orchard, wassailing each one in turn.

Path

The villagers leave the village green, march northwest to the low bridge near the village hall, and then proceed clockwise around the orchards that lie west of Miller’s Creek. When they return to the bridge, they often refill their mugs and then march eastward to the orchard nearest the church. They then march clockwise around the orchards that lie east of Miller’s Creek, ending at the church.

Consequences if Left Undone

For each day that the ritual is not performed, next year’s apple crop will yield up to 15% less fruit (1d6+9). This is cumulative so a delay of three days could lead to a loss of 45% of the crop.

Game Effects

If the PCs help the villagers to complete this ritual, each PC gains 100 bonus xps per level (so a 5th-level PCs gets 500 xps). The DM should cut this in half if next year’s crop is reduced by 50% or more (this rewards hustle).

Sprinkling the Fields

Day and Time

This ritual usually occurs on the Sixth Day of Yuletide, also known as Taenellu (which means ‘sprinkling’ in an older local tongue).

Purpose

This ritual honors the corn spirits of the fields and drives off any wicked spirits that might cause blight.

Steps of the Ritual

  1. Before dusk, the village vicar adds a few drops of properly prepared wassail from this year’s Wassailia to a basin of holy water. Each farming family also stacks wood at the edges of their fields for the night’s bonfires.
  2. When darkness falls, the villagers, dressed in festive garb, gather in the village green. Many wear beast masks, made with real fur, to protect them against evil spirits.
  3. The villagers, carrying torches or mugs of mulled cider, march from the village green to the nearby fields (the torches must burn with Yule fire). As they march, several villagers beat drums and crude cymbals to frighten off wicked spirits.
  4. The villagers use Yule fire to light bonfires next to each field. Villagers spend the next hour or so singing merrily and drinking hot mulled cider.
  5. When the bonfires begin to die down, the village vicar progresses from field to field, blessing the corners of each field with the prepared holy water, using an aspergillum. Several male villagers follow him, sprinkling their best wine onto the snow-covered fields (some suggest that centuries ago, the villagers did not use wine).
  6. Finally, as the embers of the bonfires cool, female villagers gather ashes into several iron cauldrons. They then spread ashes over the fields, while the men sing carols.

Path

The villagers leave the village green, march north to the low bridge near the village hall, and then proceed clockwise around the summer crop. Then they cross the bridge again, march to the southwest corner of the fallow fields, and then march clockwise around the fallow fields and winter crop, finishing at the church.

Consequences if Left Undone

For each day that the ritual is delayed, there is a cumulative 15% chance that blight will ruin next year’s crop. Thus, a delay of three days means that there is a 45% chance of blight in the coming year.

Game Effects

If the PCs help the villagers to complete this ritual, each PC gains bonus xps equal to 100 per level (so a 5th-level PC gets 500 xps). The DM should cut this in half if the crops will suffer blight in the coming year (this rewards hustle).

Feast of the Dead

Day and Time

This ritual usually occurs on the Eighth Day of Yuletide, also known as Kinstide.

Purpose

The purpose of this ritual is to placate the spirits of the villagers’ restless ancestors and thereby preserve food stocks for the winter. The villagers believe that some restless ancestors, if not given tribute in food and drink, will spitefully spoil their winter supply of food.

Steps of the Ritual

  1. Before dusk, villagers erect several tables in the village hall.
  2. At dusk, the villagers gather in the village green.
  3. The village alderman then announces that it is fitting and just to show respect to the village ancestors. He loudly orders a fire to be lit for them.
  4. Chosen villagers then take Yule fire and light a fire in the hearth of the village hall.
  5. The assembled villagers then sing several traditional songs to cheer the spirits of their dead kin.
  6. Villagers from each household, one group at a time, then process into the hall, carrying platters of food and decanters of wine or mulled cider. They heap the food and drink on the tables, as someone from the family loudly announces the family name and the offerings that they bring for their ancestors.
  7. One chosen villager then remains in the hall to tend the fire. Villagers will rotate in this duty until the end of Yuletide (it is not a desired chore, especially if the ritual is delayed—the villagers may ask PCs to fill this duty as part of their deal).
  8. The village vicar then leads the villagers to the village graveyard. Families then separate and visit the graves of their ancestors, pouring milk or wine on the graves and placing small white candles on the headstones. One member of each household then recites the names of their deceased ancestors. This can take some time. A few read from scrolls, while most have the list memorized. If the night is calm, not all families will crowd in at the same time. Some will wait until there is more room. On blustery nights, however, just a few people from each family perform the ritual as fast as they can, with all families entering the graveyard at once.
  9. The village vicar then concludes the ritual by sprinkling each grave with holy water.

Consequences if Left Undone

If the ritual is not completed during the night of Kinstide, a few restless and angry spirits manifest at sundown on the following night (the Ninth Day of Yuletide). Their translucent forms appear in the village green, where they stand motionless and silent all night.

If the ritual remains incomplete by sundown on Eleventh Day of Yuletide, one or more of the restless spirits will touch some piece of food in the village, causing it to spoil (a warning). A villager may not see the spirit do this, but he or she will find the spoiled food and cause quite a stir.

If the ritual remains incomplete by sundown on the Twelfth Day of Yuletide, the angry spirits rampage, spoiling all food in the village (which would spell certain doom for the villagers).

Game Effects

PCs will not be able to communicate with the spirits, but the DM may wish to know their motivations to play them properly. Most spirits of the deceased do not trouble their living kin. The spirits in question here are the very selfish ones that lived in the village over the last few centuries. These spirits have no compassion. They are not murderous, but they are selfish and demand their due.

If the spirits materialize after sundown on the Ninth Day of Yuletide, they will not look at or converse with anyone. They are barely visible in the moonlight, and if a torch is brought near, their images fade (but they are still there). Certain magic items may detect them.

Anyone coming within 5 feet must save against spells or become held in place, unable to move until the ritual is complete. He will be catatonic. Though eyes are open and blink, there will be no intelligent response. No communication is possible. The DM may give the player of such a PC a note, indicating that the PC’s mind is clouded by a ravenous hunger. ESP or a similar spell might detect this, but it will detect no sentient thoughts. Though one can pick up such a person and bring him indoors, he will remain catatonic until the ritual is complete.

Each person so ensnared will permanently lose 1 hit point per day (deducted from the character’s maximum hit points)—the lasting effects of the unnatural hunger. Of course, if the ritual remains incomplete, this hunger can kill those ensnared.

If finally released by the completion of the ritual, a character will be exhausted until gaining a good night’s rest. The temporary effects of exhaustion include (1) non-lethal damage equal to 25% of maximum hit points, and (2) a -4 penalty to all attacks and damage.

If PCs attempt to turn the spirits, treat them as specters. If turned, they will vanish for one night only.

Just as no villager would attack the spirits, the spirits will not attack any villager. However, they have no reservation about attacking outsiders. Yet they will only do this if provoked. On the first night that they appear, they will do nothing, not even if attacked. However, on subsequent nights, if provoked by the PCs, a spirit will lash back once at its attacker, automatically hitting and permanently draining 1-2 points of damage from the victim’s maximum hit points (1 if the victim saves against spells; 2 otherwise). Victims of this effect will feel a gnawing pang of hunger that they will never forget.

If the PCs help the villagers to complete this ritual, each PC gains 100 bonus xps per level (so a 5th-level PCs gets 500 xps). Obviously, if the spirits rampage and spoil all of the food, the PCs receive no xp bonus. Worse, some panicked villagers, driven to anger, will blame the outlander PCs for the predicament (however unfairly) and bring a minor curse upon their heads. The DM can determine the details.

Sword Dance

Day and Time

This ritual usually occurs on the Eleventh Day of Yuletide, also known as Sunsbirth. This usually falls on or near the winter solstice, though the date has changed over the centuries.

Purpose

The purpose of this ritual is to recall the distant sun, thereby quickening the coming of spring.

Steps of the Ritual

  1. All participants gather in the village green, preferably with a clear view of the night sky. While only six village men will perform the Sword Dance, all other able-bodied villagers must be present for the dancers’ blessings to have full effect. They usually stand in a large circle to watch the dance.
  2. Certain villagers provide the needed music for the dance by beating drums, playing flutes, and sounding horns. The music (and the dance) begins slowly, but it grows in speed and intensity as it progresses.
  3. Toward the end, as the dancers whirl about, many onlookers take up a chorus, calling for the sun to return. They call out to the night sky in unison. The dance ends with all six dancers interlocking their swords so as to form a six-sided star, or sun, and one dancer holds the ‘sun’ aloft.

Consequences if Left Undone

For each day that the ritual is not performed, winter lasts up to one week longer (1d4+3 days).

Game Effects

The six dancers use matching ceremonial longswords of average quality during the Sword Dance. Afterwards, each blade so used gains a temporary enchantment for the remainder of the winter (assuming that the dancers successfully complete the dance without interruption). Imbued with solar fire, each sword gains a +2 bonus to attacks and to damage. Furthermore, each can hit creatures that are otherwise immune to non-magical weapons. Lastly, each will keep its wielder warm in even the coldest weather conditions, essentially acting as a Ring of Warmth. It loses all power in mild weather (for details, see Section VIII. Featured Magic Items).

If the PCs help the villagers to complete this ritual, each PC gains 100 bonus xps per level (so a 5th-level PCs gets 500 xps). Furthermore, if the PCs enjoy good relations with the villagers (if the PCs actively helped them or saved the lives of any villagers), the villagers may give one or more of these blades as parting gifts to the PCs.

Recent Mishaps

This is a brief history of what befell the village from the First Day of Yuletide through the Third.

First Day of Yuletide

Wolves attacked the men that went to cut down the village Yule log. The Procession of Light did not occur as planned that night.

Second Day of Yuletide

The men managed to cut down the tree, but when they went to perform the Procession of Light, the Hunt just happened to appear near the village that night, disrupting the ritual (bad luck).

This same night, a villager spotted Krampus, and a child went missing. Perhaps an hour later, some villagers had midwinter goblins come down their chimneys and attack their homes. All this is possible because the magical Yule fires are missing.

Late that night, the village vicar, Father Falkirk, died of a heart attack. Most say that he died when he spotted the Hunt, but they cannot be sure.

Many villagers were panicked. Half wish to proceed with the ritual immediately, while the other half are too terrified to go outdoors.

Third Day of Yuletide

Brother Godwine assumed the office of village vicar.

The PCs stumbled into the valley and made their way to the village at dusk. After speaking with several villagers, the PCs rested for a short while in the village hall. At the start of the adventure, they must decide what they will do (will they help the village or not?)

Encounter F: Procession of Light

This encounter shall occur at night, during the Procession of Light, as the villagers march around the perimeter of the settlement. A wicked, demonic creature called Krampus will bound out of the darkness to surprise and to terrorize the villagers. If the PCs are guarding them, they will likely come to blows with Krampus. However, note that this encounter is only the first appearance of the creature so do not make it fight to the death.

Krampus*

AC: 02, HD: 8+3, HP: 39, MV: 18″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 2 x birch club +3 (1d6+9), SA: capture, stuns, SD: regeneration, only hit by magical weapons (+2 or better), MR: 20%, XPS: 2,068

Birch Club: The birch club will not function as a magical weapon for anyone else. Any victim hit by Krampus’ birch club must save against paralysis or be stunned for a single round (attacks against a stunned foe get a +4 bonus and ignore the victim’s dexterity bonus and shield, if they exist).

Regeneration: 1 HP per turn.

Vulnerable to Holy Water: A direct hit with a quarter-pint vial (4 oz) will cause 1d6+1 points of damage to it (a splash from an indirect hit causes 2 points).

This wicked, old-world spirit manifests as a seven-foot-tall, wrinkled satyr with gray skin, matted black hair, sharp fangs, goat horns, pointed ears, one human leg and one cloven hoof, a black tail, and a long and pointed red tongue. Chains hang from iron manacles about its wrists. In one hand, it carries a bundle of gnarled birch rods, which it wields like a club. In the other hand, it holds large homespun sack, the opening of which glows like hellfire.

Tradition holds that this demonic figure is unleashed at midnight on the winter solstice, authorized to punish wrongdoers. In many cases, it simply beats the daylights out of its victims with its club, but it can bludgeon the worst offenders into submission, envelop them completely with its magical sack, and take its victims back to the Hells.

When the villagers perform the ritual of lights on midwinter’s day (before sunset), as tradition demands, there is little reason to fear Krampus. The ritual provides the villagers with magical Yule fire, which keeps most wicked spirits at bay until the spring. However, as wolves and the Hunt both interrupted the ritual this year, Krampus is currently free to roam the village at night, terrifying villagers.

The birch club will not function as a magical weapon for anyone else. Any victim hit by Krampus’ birch club must save against paralysis or be stunned for a single round (attacks against a stunned foe get a +4 bonus and ignore the victim’s dexterity bonus and shield, if they exist). In combat, Krampus wields its birch club against a single opponent until that foe reaches zero hit points. If that occurs, Krampus immediately snatches the downed victim as if he were ragdoll, stuffing him in his magical sack.

Krampus is considered an evil outsider so protection from evil spell will prevent one from being snatched and placed into the magical sack, though it will not prevent club damage. Holy water can form a barrier against Krampus, and a direct hit with a quarter-pint vial (4 oz) will cause 1d6+1 points of damage to it (a splash from an indirect hit causes 2 points)

If wounded, Krampus regenerates 1 hit point per turn. If reduced to zero hit points or less, Krampus will screech and disappear in an acrid cloud of brimstone that fills a 10’ x 10’ area. If Krampus had anyone in its magical sack when it is slain, the terrified victim will be lying on the ground when the smoke clears.

If Krampus defeats its enemies and has one or more people in its sack, it will continue on its rounds until it has six such victims in tow, after which it will speedily return to the Hells to deposit them. Anyone so taken is effectively dead.

*Krampus approved by random Finnish-American (Peter Hyvonen) so it must be authentic!

Playing Krampus Intelligently

Fighting against many armored men in the sight of dozens of onlookers is not how Krampus likes to operate. However, on this night, Krampus spotted the torch-carrying villagers and decided to seize the opportunity to spread fear.

It will first move to the edge of the villagers’ torchlight, just out of sight, to get a better look. This will occur when the procession is marching northwards past the mulberry and walnut orchards. Tell one of the PCs that he thought he saw a tall, hunched, humanoid shadow in the distance. If asked to describe what he saw, the PC’s best description would be ‘something akin to an old man—but big—wrapped in bundles of fur, perhaps with a goat, as silly as that sounds.’ In any case, Krampus will notice that it is too close and will move away in a circular pattern.

If the PCs investigate, perhaps moving closer with torches or lanterns, they will see nothing. A closer look might reveal a set of strange tracks on the ground—human footprints and what seem like goat tracks, but they seem intermixed. A ranger can discern that they are fresh tracks and that the human tracks came from only one left foot!

The party will likely be on the alert now, but the carols of the villagers make listening difficult, while their torches ruin the PCs’ night vision (unless move out of the torchlight and into the darkness). After several minutes pass, allow a different PC to hear the crunching of snow, coming from just outside the torchlight (perhaps when a carol has just ended). Again, allow the evil creature to evade any reasonable search, though PCs may again find tracks. A detect evil spell will indeed detect its presence nearby, but it does not act like a homing beacon so the PC will not be able to discern its direction or distance. After either one of these episodes (or both), the PCs may decide to track the creature. However, Krampus frequently moves, so even though they can easily follow its tracks, they will not catch up to it, barring some unforeseen event.

The party will likely be on high alert now. Krampus will continue to stalk the villagers, waiting until the procession is about half complete. When the procession is marching along the Moray Road past the winter crop, where it lies adjacent ot the apple orchard, Krampus will rush out from the darkness, moving at full speed to attack the weakest looking PC. It will choose an unarmored target if it can move directly to it without going through others. If any PC separates himself from the group, it will choose that PC (even if armored). It will attack for as long as it has the upper hand. In this encounter, if it sustains more than 10 points of damage, or if four or more armored men attack it, it will flee into the night, plowing through the thick snow.

Terrain Notes: 

Darkness: PCs and villagers suffer penalties for fighting in darkness, whereas Krampus sees perfectly (see DM’s Calendar for the moon phase and darkness penalty on any given day). Torchlight will negate the problem, but remember that torchlight will also ruin their night vision (they will not be able to see anything outside the torchlight).

Deep Snow: Remember that foot-deep snow covers the ground, cutting tactical movement in half. A PC in chainmail might normally move 9 inches (90 feet per round when in combat outdoors). This is cut to 4.5 inches (45 feet per round). Likewise, an unarmored figure normally moves 12 inches (120 feet per round), but the snow will cut this to 6 inches (60 feet per round). Krampus normally moves 18 inches (180 feet per round). This is cut to 9 inches (90 feet per round).

Trees: The trees in the orchard have many gnarled, low-hanging branches. PCs with two-handed weapons will find them difficult to use, suffering a -2 penalty when within 5 feet of a tree. For simplicity, the DM can rule that the PCs are always within 5 feet of a tree, unless the DM specifically maps out a clearing.

Encounter G: Wassailing the Orchards

This encounter shall occur at night, during the Wassail Ritual. A dozen small wicked creatures, dubbed ‘midwinter goblins,’ having spotted the villagers’ torches, moved in for a closer look. They will ambush the villagers among the snow-laden trees. If the PCs are guarding them, they will likely come to blows with the goblins, whose primary aims are to frighten the villagers and to taste the blood of the living.

The DM can choose any spot for this attack. One logical spot is on the western edge of the village, where the southern edge of the cherry orchard touches a patch of thick forest at the base of a hill. Some may emerge from the forest and rush down the hill, while others emerge from the orchard.

12 Midwinter Goblins

AC: 04, HD: 1-1, HP: 6, MV: 12″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 2 bites +3 (1d4), SA: see below, SD: hit only by +1 or better weapons, MR: –, XPS: 25

Special Attack: During its attack, a goblin rolls against AC 08 (it needs to roll a 12) to claw its way onto its victim’s shoulders. If it fails, it may not attack again this round, but it can still move. If it succeeds in getting atop a victim’s shoulders, it will wrap a scrawny, corpse-like arm around the victim’s neck and use its other hand to claw the victim’s neck or head, dealing 1d4 in damage. Each round thereafter, it will continue to attack, hitting automatically with teeth and claws for 1d4 points of damage.

Once a goblin is on a victim’s back, that victim must make a successful attack (at -4) to knock him off (a companion could also try to do so with the same penalty). Otherwise it will continue to attack until it brings down the victim.

Vulnerabilities

In very bright light, such as a continual light spell (not a light spell), they attack at -1 and their foes gain a +1 on their attacks against them.

A good cleric, if armed with both burning incense in a censor and an aspergillum filled with holy water, can turn them as ghouls. However, only 1d6 are affected, and they are merely driven off, not destroyed.

Black-skinned and hairy, these foul creatures have large heads, blood-red tongues, red eyes, pointed ears, long talons, and long tusks. They stand about 2 feet tall. They dwell underground for most of the year, emerging only at midwinter to terrify mortals. They hate sunlight and will retreat underground when false dawn first becomes visible. After the twelve night of Yule, they disappear until next year. The goblins seek to enter homes by doorways and chimneys. Once inside, they break all the furniture, ruin the food and water, and attack the inhabitants. Legend says that a burning Yule log in the fireplace will keep one from descending the chimney, while a cross of St. Cuthbert upon the door will keep one from entering thus.

Distraction

Before anyone notices the midwinter goblins, allow one PC to hear crunching snow, about 20 feet away, just outside their torchlight. If he investigates, he will quickly spot a tall, hunched humanoid form moving among the trees, perhaps 30 feet away. This is indeed Krampus, who also spotted the villagers’ torches and came for a closer look. If the PC does not react, have a villager also spot the shadowy figure and call out in fear. Regardless of who calls out, the assembled villagers will panic and shout in fear. Many will cluster together in terror, but a few of the men will rush to and fro, looking to find the danger and to be of some use. Then, all at once, various villagers and several PCs will spot small, dark, humanoid shapes in the nearby trees—perhaps only 2 feet tall. Many small red eyes will become visible in the darkness—some in the trees and some near ground level.

Have the midwinter goblins launch their attack just as the villagers panic. Six or eight villagers, overcome by terror, will then break and run, scattering in different directions. As Krampus is not the intended foe in this encounter, assume that it rushes off to capture one or more of the fleeing villagers. As it is unseen, it will be successful. You may later mention that one or two villagers failed to return.

Playing the Midwinter Goblins

Midwinter goblins are not intelligent creatures, but they have an animal cunning so do not portray them as mindless. Their first attacks will be on hapless villagers or unarmored PCs. They will likely claw their way onto their victims’ shoulders, making it difficult for PCs or other villagers to attack them without hurting the victims.

Each goblin will retreat into the trees after sustaining 4+ hit points in damage. If chased, one or two will climb a tree and leap from tree to tree. Others will scurry away, moving easily over the crusted snow.

Terrain Notes: 

Darkness: PCs and villagers suffer penalties for fighting in darkness, whereas the goblins see perfectly (see DM’s Calendar for the moon phase and darkness penalty on any given day). Torchlight will negate the problem, but remember that torchlight will also ruin their night vision (they will not be able to see anything outside the torchlight).

Trees: The trees in the orchard have many gnarled, low-hanging branches. PCs with two-handed weapons will find them difficult to use, suffering a -2 penalty when within 5 feet of a tree. For simplicity, the DM can rule that the PCs are always within 5 feet of a tree, unless the DM specifically maps out a clearing.

Deep Snow: Remember that foot-deep snow covers the ground, cutting tactical movement in half. A PC in chainmail might normally move 9 inches (90 feet per round when in combat outdoors). This is cut to 4.5 inches (45 feet per round). Likewise, an unarmored figure normally moves 12 inches (120 feet per round), but the snow will cut this to 6 inches (60 feet per round). The goblins can move across the crusted surface of the snow and suffer no movement penalties.

Dynamic Descriptions

Have fun with your combat descriptions. Make them as dynamic as possible and incorporate terrain whenever possible. Goblins scurrying in the trees might send showers of snow down onto the PCs. PCs attacking and missing goblins in  the trees might also bring down flurries of snow, which sting the face and the eyes. If a PC misses an attack, perhaps his sword deflected off a low-hanging branch. Goblins in the trees might also leap down onto unsuspecting PCs or villagers. PCs or villagers that are wrestling with goblins atop their shoulders might need to make a dexterity check or tumble into the snow. Make things as dynamic as possible, but never let rolls or modifiers slow up the game too much. Finding that balance is one true mark of a good DM.

Encounter H: After Sprinkling the Fields

This encounter shall occur at night, soon after the villagers completed the Sprinkling of the Fields without incident. The villagers have just returned to the village and are moving toward their separate cottages. Krampus, which was skulking about the mulberry orchard, has just ambushed a 12-year-old boy, who was fetching more firewood not far from his home. The terrified boy lets out several piercing screams, alerting any within earshot.

The boy lives in the nearby farmer’s cottage, just southeast of the village hall (right on the Moray Road, just south of the mulberry orchard). The PCs are likely staying in the village hall so they will hear the boy’s cries. The boy is northeast of his cottage, near the edge of the orchard, by a thicket of rowan trees and a small frozen pond. The PCs can rush to the scene, if they wish. Deep snow cuts movement in half, but recent traffic along the Moray Road has packed down the snow a bit. They start about 200’ away, but if they run on the road, they can get there after three rounds. Though unable to escape, the boy eluded Krampus for at least two rounds. Only one round before the PCs arrive does Krampus strike the boy down with its bundle of birch rods, causing him to crumple into the snow. Krampus’ goal is to capture the boy in his magical sack.

Krampus*

AC: 02, HD: 8+3, HP: 39, MV: 18″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 2 x birch club +3 (1d6+9), SA: capture, stuns, SD: regeneration, only hit by magical weapons (+2 or better), MR: 20%, XPS: 2,068

Birch Club: The birch club will not function as a magical weapon for anyone else. Any victim hit by Krampus’ birch club must save against paralysis or be stunned for a single round (attacks against a stunned foe get a +4 bonus and ignore the victim’s dexterity bonus and shield, if they exist).

Regeneration: 1 HP per turn.

Vulnerable to Holy Water: A direct hit with a quarter-pint vial (4 oz) will cause 1d6+1 points of damage to it (a splash from an indirect hit causes 2 points).

For full details on the creature, see Encounter F above. Combat-related stats are replicated here for convenience.

Though Krampus wishes to capture the boy, it will not pass up the opportunity to capture a few adults too. In general, it will attack unarmored or lightly clad PCs first. If it sustains 20+ hit points, it will flee along the edge of the pond. If cornered, it will fight to the ‘death.’ As the first PCs arrive, they will see the creature looming over the boy and holding aloft its birch club. The terrified boy will throw his armload of twigs at the creature and scramble to get to his feet, while Krampus prepares to attack again. Roll initiative. Armored PCs may not arrive for another round or two.

Terrain Notes: 

Darkness: PCs and villagers suffer penalties for fighting in darkness, whereas Krampus sees perfectly (see DM’s Calendar for the moon phase and darkness penalty on any given day). Torchlight will negate the problem, but it will also ruin the PCs’ night vision (they will not be able to see anything outside the torchlight).

Deep Snow: Remember that foot-deep snow covers the ground, cutting tactical movement in half. A PC in chainmail might normally move 9 inches (90 feet per round when in combat outdoors). This is cut to 4.5 inches (45 feet per round). Likewise, an unarmored figure normally moves 12 inches (120 feet per round), but the snow will cut this to 6 inches (60 feet per round).

Trees: The snow-covered rowan trees have many low-hanging branches. PCs with two-handed weapons will find them difficult to use, suffering a -1 penalty when within five feet of a tree.

Frozen Pond: The ice here is thin in places, and the deep snow on the ground disguises the edges of the pond. The DM should determine the edges on his own map and see if the combat spills into that area. An armored PC that steps on the pond has a 50% chance of cracking the ice. If this occurs, tell the PC and any others within 5 feet that they hear a popping noise. Ask the players what they do. Give them only a few seconds to respond. Some may run in the wrong direction, while others scramble to safety. If any remain in place, the ice cracks beneath the PC and sends other cracks in several directions. Have each nearby PC make a dexterity check or start to fall through the ice. A PC that fails will fall chest-deep, and his legs will feel as if daggers are plunging into every square inch. The near freezing water deals 1 point of damage per round to anyone that goes more than knee-deep in the water (see ‘Condensed Swimming Rules’ for more detail). Such a character will not be able to pull himself out of a crack in the ice. Krampus may attack PCs that try to aid their companions, but remember that its goal is to capture victims, not to cause others to drown.

Dynamic Descriptions

Have fun with your combat descriptions. Make them as dynamic as possible and incorporate terrain whenever possible. Krampus might hit and paralyze the boy, but being distracted by PCs, it might not be able to fetch its victim immediately. The boy might fall face down into the snow, giving PCs something else to worry about. If Krampus has even one round of free action, it will bound over to the boy, snatch him up, and stuff him into his magical sack, glowing eerily with Hellfire. Any PCs trying to grapple with the large creature and failing might receive a goat’s hoof to the chest or face (1d4 damage), in addition to any normal attacks. In battle, Krampus tends to target a foe’s legs (this is just flavor, as the paralysis effect is the same). If the ice of the pond cracks, describe this vividly. Have sheets of ice shift and upend as any PCs try to claw their way to safety.

Encounter I: Feast of the Dead

This encounter shall occur at night, during the Feast of the Dead, as villagers are travelling to and from the church graveyard to honor their ancestors. Krampus will bound out of the darkness to surprise and to terrorize the villagers. If the PCs are guarding them, they will likely come to blows with Krampus. If the creature has tangled with the PCs before, it will be more alert and more cunning in how it attacks the villagers. As this will probably be the final encounter with Krampus, make it dramatic.

If the PCs defeat Krampus, the DM may wish to have several victims lying on the ground when the acrid smoke clears.

Krampus*

AC: 02, HD: 8+3, HP: 39, MV: 18″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 2 x birch club +3 (1d6+9), SA: capture, stuns, SD: regeneration, only hit by magical weapons (+2 or better), MR: 20%, XPS: 2,068

Birch Club: The birch club will not function as a magical weapon for anyone else. Any victim hit by Krampus’ birch club must save against paralysis or be stunned for a single round (attacks against a stunned foe get a +4 bonus and ignore the victim’s dexterity bonus and shield, if they exist).

Regeneration: 1 HP per turn.

Vulnerable to Holy Water: A direct hit with a quarter-pint vial (4 oz) will cause 1d6+1 points of damage to it (a splash from an indirect hit causes 2 points).

For full details on the creature, see Encounter F above. The stat block is repeated here for convenience.

In general, Krampus will attack unarmored villagers first, and when PCs arrive on the scene, it will attack unarmored or lightly clad PCs first. If it sustains 20+ hit points, it will flee, using trees and other brush as cover. If cornered, it will fight to the ‘death.’

Terrain Notes: 

Darkness: PCs and villagers suffer penalties for fighting in darkness, whereas Krampus sees perfectly (see DM’s Calendar for the moon phase and darkness penalty on any given day). Torchlight will negate the problem, but it will also ruin the PCs’ night vision (they will not be able to see anything outside the torchlight).

Deep Snow: Remember that foot-deep snow covers the ground, cutting tactical movement in half. A PC in chainmail might normally move 9 inches (90 feet per round when in combat outdoors). This is cut to 4.5 inches (45 feet per round). Likewise, an unarmored figure normally moves 12 inches (120 feet per round), but the snow will cut this to 6 inches (60 feet per round).

Restless Spirits: If the ritual has already been delayed, then several restless spirits may already stand silently in the village green. As explained in Feast of the Dead (see above for more details), anyone coming within 5 feet of a restless spirit must save against spells or become held in place, unable to move until the ritual is complete. Ensnared victims are essentially catatonic and lose hit points each day. If PCs attempt to turn the spirits, treat them as specters. If turned, they will vanish for one night only. The spirits will not attack any villager, but they have no reservation about attacking outsiders if provoked. On the first night that they appear, they will do nothing, not even if attacked. However, on subsequent nights, if provoked by the PCs, a spirit will lash back at once at its attacker, automatically hitting and permanently draining 1-2 points of damage from the victim’s maximum hit points (1 if the victim saves against spells; 2 otherwise). Victims of this effect will feel a gnawing pang of hunger that they will never forget. Again, see Feast of the Dead (above) for full details.

Krampus is familiar with the spirits’ powers and will avoid coming near them or provoking them.

Encounter J: Sword Dance

This encounter shall occur at night, during the Sword Dance in the village green. Around three-dozen small wicked creatures, dubbed ‘midwinter goblins,’ will descend on the village to cause mayhem, to frighten the villagers, and to taste the blood of the living.

Six adult males normally perform the ceremonial dance in the village green, thereby ensuring that the sun will return, bringing the warmth of spring and new crops. Though these dancers perform the ritual on behalf of all villagers, every healthy adult male must watch the dance for it to have its desired effect. The villagers do not consider this some silly folklore. They believe it heartily, and thus they will ensure that every male (save for any sick or dying) is in attendance. The importance of the ritual, as well as the requirement for all healthy adult men to attend, has two important consequences.

First, the PCs must protect the dancers, as the fate of the village hangs in the balance. Though the villagers will not know that midwinter goblins plan to attack, they will take every precaution, especially given the events of the previous days. Many militia members will be armed to help to protect the assembly, including the dancers. However, not trusting the effectiveness of the militia, the three councilors will specifically ask the PCs for their aid.

Second, the councilors will mention that with all of the men watching the ritual in the village green, the women and children will be virtually defenseless in their homes. The councilors will ask the PCs to help with their defense. No militiamen will be able to assist them here. Hopefully, the Yule fires that burn in each hearth will help to keep goblins out of the homes, but there are no guarantees.

This encounter may occur, as scheduled, on the Eleventh Day of Yuletide. For a more exciting conclusion to the adventure, the DM might allow something to delay the ritual on the scheduled day, thereby forcing the villagers to try again on the final night of Yuletide. In such a case, it would be do or die for the villagers. Given this, the weather is important. Whenever the DM arranges for this ritual to occur, the weather must be mild enough to allow its completion. Snow can fall, but avoid a blizzard—at least on the final night.

How does this encounter begin? Perhaps some goblins scaled a few roofs and plugged up the chimneys, causing smoke to build up inside the cottages. Coughing and choking, the families instinctively doused the Yule fires with water, incurring bad luck. The goblins then descended the chimneys and began wreaking havoc inside the homes. Outside, the men watching the dance became aware of the trouble when several women and children ran screaming out of their homes, brooms in hand, in some cases with goblins on their shoulders. If the PCs do not react quickly (within two rounds), a few villagers will rush home, thereby ruining the ritual. During that tense period, the councilors will beg the PCs to help and will command the villagers to remain in the green. Some militiamen may even wrestle a villager or two to the ground. If the PCs hesitate, unsure of what to do, Magistrate Hrothgar will shout for them to get the goblins out of the homes.

Note that the ritual need not last for the entire combat. After six or eight rounds, the dancers may finish, allowing the militia to join the fray. As with the house spirits, do not worry about stats and rolling attacks for every villager. Describe the chaos, keeping it dynamic and desperate. Allow several villagers—men, women, and children alike—to suffer cuts, bruises, and bites. Superficial wounds often look far worse than they are so do not shrink from describing the victims as covered in blood. They need not die to make the scene dramatic.

36 Midwinter Goblins

AC: 04, HD: 1-1, HP: 6, MV: 12″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 2 bites +3 (1d4), SA: see below, SD: hit only by +1 or better weapons, MR: –, XPS: 25

Special Attack: During its attack, a goblin rolls against AC 08 (it needs to roll a 12) to claw its way onto its victim’s shoulders. If it fails, it may not attack again this round, but it can still move. If it succeeds in getting atop a victim’s shoulders, it will wrap a scrawny, corpse-like arm around the victim’s neck and use its other hand to claw the victim’s neck or head, dealing 1d4 in damage. Each round thereafter, it will continue to attack, hitting automatically with teeth and claws for 1d4 points of damage.

Once a goblin is on a victim’s back, that victim must make a successful attack (at -4) to knock him off (a companion could also try to do so with the same penalty). Otherwise it will continue to attack until it brings down the victim.

Vulnerabilities

In very bright light, such as a continual light spell (not a light spell), they attack at -1 and their foes gain a +1 on their attacks against them.

A good cleric, if armed with both burning incense in a censor and an aspergillum filled with holy water, can turn them as ghouls. However, only 1d6 are affected, and they are merely driven off, not destroyed.

For full details on the creatures, see Encounter G above. Combat-related stats are replicated here for convenience.

Playing Midwinter Goblins

Midwinter goblins are not intelligent creatures, but they have an animal cunning, so do not portray them as mindless. The goblins will largely ignore the men in the village green, though a handful might try to cause disruptions. Some might let loose a horse and send it in the direction of the dancers, while others hurl rocks, snowballs, or roofing tiles at the dancers from the rooftops, where villagers cannot easily reach them. As for the others, their primary targets are the women and children in the homes. Remember that they aim more to frighten and to disrupt than to kill everyone. However, if PCs begin attacking them, they will seek blood.

Terrain Notes (Outside): 

Deep Snow: Remember that foot-deep snow covers the ground, cutting tactical movement in half. A PC in chainmail might normally move 9 inches (90 feet per round when in combat outdoors). This is cut to 4.5 inches (45 feet per round). Likewise, an unarmored figure normally moves 12 inches (120 feet per round), but the snow will cut this to 6 inches (60 feet per round).

Rooftops (high ground): Anyone on a rooftop that attacks someone on the ground gains a +1 to all attacks.

Rooftops (slippery tile roofs):  Nicer cottages have steeply sloped tile roofs to keep the heavy snow from causing a collapse. The ice and snow make these roofs very slippery. Any human moving on a rooftop or engaging in melee on a rooftop must roll beneath his dexterity score just after moving/fighting, with those that fail falling down. If one should fall, roll 1d6 to see what occurs (a roll of 1 = he slides clear off the roof, suffering 1d6 in damage, a roll of 2-5 = he slides to the edge of the roof and catches himself as he dangles over the side, and a roll of 6 = he catches himself immediately, though no other movement is possible this round). With regard to fighting, a PC must check when attacking and/or when defending himself from a melee attack (not missile fire). Thus, one might have to check several times in one round (fighting on such a roof is generally not a good idea, but you never know what circumstances may require).

Rooftops (thatched roofs): Most cottages have steeply sloped thatched roofs. The soft surface makes it far less slippery, but there are weak spots. As with tile roofs, anyone moving or engaging in combat while on the roof must roll beneath his dexterity score after they move or fight. If anyone should fail, roll 1d6 to see what occurs (a roll of 1-2 = the character falls through the roof and lands inside, taking 1d6 in falling damage; a roll of 3-4 = the character falls through the roof up to his chest, making him effectively prone until he can climb out; a roll of 5-6 = the character’s foot goes through the roof, meaning that he suffers some minor penalty to movement [like half movement] or to combat [like -1 penalty to attacks and to AC]).

Vines: Some cottages (especially the larger ones) have ivy or other such vines covering part of the walls. This makes it easier for a PC to climb to the roof. Thieves receive a +25% to their climb walls checks, and even non-thieves have a 33% chance of success.

Terrain Notes (Inside): 

High Ground: When any combatant has higher ground, he receives a +1 to any attacks (melee or missile). Higher ground for PCs might include an upper floor or a tabletop, while goblins may also run along the thick rafters.

Furniture: All homes have trestle tables and heavy wooden benches. These can provide cover (+2 to +10 bonus to AC). Rather than describe the combat effects of every household item, this section will simply suggest that the DM use his imagination and be creative. You can use just about any item found in a peasant cottage—tables, benches, stools, fire irons, Yule logs, bowls, platters, mortars and pestles, bread boards, large knives, ladles, pots/cauldrons, clay crockery, candle sticks, candelabras, wooden chests, boughs of greenery, etc.

Dynamic Descriptions

The desired effect for this encounter is a chaotic melee that starts outside but eventually spills into several homes.

The DM should think three-dimensionally, allowing goblins to scurry across rooftops, to jump down on villagers or PCs, to scramble up or down stairs, and to climb up or down chimneys. Indoors, the goblins can scurry along thick oaken rafters, swing on chandeliers, and emerge from cellar doors.

All manner of breakables exist inside the cottages. Feel free to wreck the places. Goblins may throw water on the Yule log (if they didn’t already do so), throw earthenware crockery, try to brain PCs with fire irons, knock over furniture, break the few glass windows that exist, set fire to greenery, smash children’s toys, and claw their way through thatch roofs.

The DM should maximize the sense of chaos. Describe lots of quick movement and flying items. Describe a variety of loud noises—screams, shrieks, hisses, crashes, bangs, thuds, rips, etc. In addition to the goblins running amok, have terrified women and children running back and forth, screaming and waving brooms. Moreover, a few homes may have house spirits residing within, and mention those as joining in the fray as well, helping their human benefactors to drive off the goblins. For this, don’t bother with stats and formal attacks. Just describe the mayhem and how the house spirits are ferociously fighting to defend their homes.

Do keep in mind that the goblins’ goal is not to slaughter everyone while razing the village to the ground; it is to cause chaotic mischief. Keep it fun.

House Spirits

These look much like garden gnomes, standing only 2 feet high. Most have white beards, bright blue eyes, and very wrinkled and ruddy skin. They have immense strength for their size. If treated well by the owners of the cottage (they like porridge on Midwinter), they are very loyal. If ignored by the owners, they can be mischievous. Again, don’t worry about stats. If the PCs spot one in a house, just narrate its actions. You may wish to keep them loyal, fighting the goblins. If PCs spot one that is joining in the chaos, they may wish to fight it, which will only slow combat with more rolls. The final decision is the DM’s.

Encounter K: Wild Hunt Above the Village

Almost everything necessary to run this encounter is found in Encounter D in Section IV: Breaking the Curse You should read that carefully, along with Section VII: The Wild Hunt.  In this plotline, the Wild Hunt is not meant as a climactic finale, but more of a terrifying curiosity.  It will appear over the village just after sunset.  As there is an abundance of shelter available, the PCs should be able to scramble to safety before the spectral hounds are upon them.  The interesting twist here is that the Hunt’s bewitching aura might affect not only PCs but several villagers too (who may then need rescuing).  

There is no single night on which the Hunt must appear.  As DM, use your judgement.  Do not plan this for the final night of Yuletide unless the PCs have successfully completed all of the rituals.  Realize that the Hunt’s appearance will ruin any ritual that is planned for that night (villagers will be too spooked to return outdoors, even after the Hunt has gone).  If the Hunt appears on the night of a ritual, do not have the other monster(s) appear as well.  For example, if the Hunt appears on Kinstide (the eighth day of Yuletide, when villagers are celebrating the Feast of the Dead), do not have Krampus appear on that night as planned.  Instead, save Krampus for when the villagers try again to complete that ritual.  

On the night that the Hunt appears, Magistrate Hrothgar and his son Wulfstan will have six members of the village militia on hand to defend the villagers (either during the night’s ritual, if there is one, or because someone spotted wolves within the village).  In fact, keeping a half-dozen militiamen on hand may be his habit during most rituals.  In any case, the militiamen are ready to defend their kin from wolves, elves, goblins, or even a sudden appearance of Krampus.  They are not prepared, however, for the Wild Hunt.  Most will flee in terror at the sight of the Hunt, though Magistrate Hrothgar and his son will bravely try to ensure that the villagers find safety.  

The Hunt will appear in the sky, either to the south or to the east.  When it appears, you will need to decide which villagers fail to get indoors before spotting and hearing the Hunt.  If there is a ritual this night, 3d6 villagers and Magistrate Hrothgar will still be outside. If there is no ritual, then only 1d4+1 villagers remain outside. In either case, Wulfstan and 1d6 militiamen will remain outside until the last of the villagers is safe, dead, or enchanted.

Make a save against spells for each NPC.  Those that save manage to find shelter before the Hunt’s enchantment takes effect, while those that fail become ensnared by its magic.  Roll 1d6 for each ensnared NPC; a 1-3 indicates that the victim becomes prey and flees in terror from the Hunt.  A roll of 4-6 means that the victim joins the hunters in chasing the hunted.  

There is only one sacred area near the village that the Hunt cannot enter—the churchyard.  However, it is also 90% unlikely to enter a cottage. In the off chance that it will, a hound may leap through a window or may claw its way through the roof’s thatching (remember that they run on the wind).  Though the PCs are unlikely to be near a river, keep in mind that the Hunt never goes north of the Moray or west of the Spey.  This may come in handy if the PCs end up joining the chase.  This could then lead to exciting chase scenes that culminate at the Cumar Bridge or with PCs plunging headlong into the Moray or the Spey to escape the ‘Furious Host.’  

Remember that the Hunt begins by looking for just one kill.  If others join the hunted (by failing their saves), then the spectral host has multiple quarries.  It will hunt down each one of these until they are killed OR until all prey finds refuge (in the graveyard, in a cottage, or across the rivers). 

Stats for the militiamen and common villagers are below.  

The stats for the various creatures that comprise the Hunt are given in Section VII: The Wild Hunt.

Magistrate Hrothgar  

AC: 07, HD: F2, HP: 16, MV: 12”, AL: varies,  ATTKS/DAM: 1 longsword +1 (1d8+2), INT: above average, SIZE: M, SA: weapon specialization in longsword (+1/+2), SD: — 

S 15,  I 10,  W 13,  D 12,  C16 (+2),  CH 16 

SAVES: Poison: 14, Petrification: 15, Rods: 16, Breath: 17, Spells: 17

 

Village Militiamen (including Wulfstan) 

AC: 08 (heavy furs), HD: F0, HP: 6, MV: 12”, AL: varies, ATTKS/DAM: 1 glaive or fauchard or club (1d6), INT: average, SIZE: M, SA: NA, SD: NA, XPS: NA

SAVES: Poison: 16, Petrification: 17, Rods: 18, Breath: 20, Spells: 19

 

Hapless Villagers 

AC: 10, HD: F0, HP: 3, MV: 12”, AL: varies, ATTKS/DAM: 1 dagger (1d4), INT: average, SIZE: M, SA: NA, SD: NA, XPS: NA

SAVES: Poison: 16, Petrification: 17, Rods: 18, Breath: 20, Spells: 19

Remember that any bloodshed may have repercussions afterwards.  If the Pcs slay a villager, the elders will not press charges, for they will recognize the power of the Hunt, but the villagers may be less willing to trust the PCs after that.  Conversely, if the PCs manage to save one or more villagers, the elders will be more willing to help the PCs in any way that they can.  

The End

If the PCs satisfy the villagers by helping them to complete the rituals with minimal loss of life, the villagers react just as described above in Section IV. Breaking the Curse. In that section, read The Villagers Satisfied and Passing Through the Elfin Realm.

VI. Spurning the Villagers

In this adventure path, having spurned the villagers’ requests for aid, the PCs will find themselves angrily escorted out of the settlement. A lone maiden will take pity on them and point them in the direction of the dreaded crone’s sacred grove. If the PCs are polite, the crone will agree to show them the way home—for a price. Below are explanations for the various encounters that the PCs will likely have.

The DM should note that without the use of the villagers’ reindeer-drawn sleighs, the PCs face a tortuous journey through the snow and freezing cold. A crude estimate of the path from the village to the crone’s grove, then back to the village, and then to the faerie circle is over 50 miles! A brief look at speeds on foot (even with snowshoes) will reveal that it would take the PCs at least two weeks to make this journey (if they don’t freeze along the way). The stubborn PCs that choose this path may come to regret their lack of holiday spirit.

Encounter L: Crone in the Sacred Grove

The ancient crone is not known for welcoming strangers, so PCs should be wary when visiting her. Of course, the main reason for visiting her (in this plot path) is to learn how to get home. Before anything else, the DM should determine her mood when the PCs arrive near the grove; roll 1d10 to see whether she is feeling benevolent (1-2), indifferent (3-8), or malevolent (9-0).

If the crone is feeling benevolent, she will be welcoming to any strangers that are polite. She will readily tell them that she knows why they have come and that she knows how to get home. In a talkative mood, she will also hint that she knows how to heal a person fully and even how to raise the dead.

If asked how to get home, she will promise to provide them with the secret in return for one favor. The PCs must travel to the faerie circle in the forest and punish the wicked elves that dwell there, for they recently stole one of her items. She already recovered the item, but she decided that they must be punished. The PCs may have moral qualms over punishing elves, but remember that the elves here are neutral at best and often wicked. Remember too that the crone is not good and could care less about the PCs’ moral qualms. She will state matter-of-factly that the elves are thieves, and if the PCs want her help, they must punish them. Wily PCs might devise a plan merely to beat up the elves, but the crone knows that entering the circle will trigger a deadly battle. In any case, if the PCs accept her offer, she indicates that she will watch their progress in a magical pool. If they perform to her satisfaction and survive, she will use her magic to show them the way home. She does warn that a guardian blocks their path and that they must overcome him with force. She will not reveal any more, however, until the PCs tackle the elves.

She will also offer to heal the PCs in the nearby pool, if necessary, before they go off and brave the mysterious guardian. If they accept her offer of healing, she asks them to remove their clothes and to enter the waters of the nearby pool (for more details, see Location G in Section II: Survey of Notable Locations).

If the party asks her (now or later) to raise the dead, she will agree, but she will mention that such a powerful enchantment requires a costly sacrifice (as this may be less likely to occur, information on raising the dead is placed separately in Encounter B in Section IV: Breaking the Curse. Should they be needed, the crone’s stats (and those of her pet wolves) are in the same section.

If the crone is feeling indifferent, she will be very curt and guarded in her speech, but she will offer them a deal much like that above. The crone will watch their progress against the elves in the enchanted waters of her pool. However, she will not offer to heal them for free after their battle with the elves. If the PCs ask for such healing (now or later), she will indicate that she requires payment. A PC would have to do one of the following to enjoy the curing waters of her sacred pool—(1) leave her a permanent magical item, (2) allow her to leech some life energy from one PC (1d6 permanent hit points), or (3) allow her to leech some strength from a PC (one ability point of strength). If they ask, note that a PC could offer up his own life energy/strength so that a companion can use the pool.

If the crone is feeling malevolent (or if any PC manages to upset her, largely by being rude), she will be curt and rude when talking to the PCs. She will offer them information as mentioned above. Her price, however, is both a battle with the elves AND one of the above forms of payment. She will not freely offer to heal the PCs, but if they ask, she will demand that the group (not each PC) give her two additional forms of payment from the options listed above. For example, the group could leave her two permanent magical items, or two separate PCs could each offer to allow her to leech his strength, etc.

Encounter M: Elves Near the Faerie Circle

Everything necessary for running this encounter is found in Encounter C in Section IV: Breaking the Curse. Only the aftermath is different.

As in Encounter C, the crone will watch the PCs’ progress in her enchanted pool. If the PCs overcome the elves, she will use her magic to communicate with them. They will not see her, but they will hear her voice. If they are still inside the faerie circle, they will hear her clearly. If they are outside it, they will hear her voice faintly. In this case, allow them to follow the noise until they step inside the circle.

Whether or not she offers healing to the PCs depends on her mood when the PCs visited her. If the PCs need healing (or if any PC has perished and needs to be raised), they must return to the crone’s sacred grove. That will take several days (but what else do they have to do?) Remember that wild wolves roam the forest, as do elves (the DM can decide whether to throw another encounter at the PCs).

When the PCs are ready to move on towards home, she will describe a stone fountain beneath a huge hawthorn tree, which sits in a glade near Loch Tyne. She will tell them that they need only stay on the western bank and walk upriver to find the glade. At the fountain, she says that the PCs must fill a silver bowl with water and then pour it back into the fountain. A dark guardian will appear. By defeating him and taking his sword, the PCs can return home, for the elves will certainly watch the fight with the guardian. They treasure his sword so PCs can trade it for the location of the gateway back to their world (this is true). She will not tell them anything about the nature of the guardian, nor will she help them further.

Encounter N: Dark Guardian at the Fountain

If the PCs travel to the faerie fountain, they will see the site itself as described in Location J of Section II: Survey of Notable Locations. Carefully read that and the text below before running this encounter.

To get to the glade, the PCs must first push through densely packed pine trees and a maze of large trees—gnarled, devoid of their leaves, and dusted with snow. Thick snow and ice lie upon the ground. Yet as they push their way into the glade, the snow thins and the icy ground gives way to snow-dusted grass. The air here will feel noticeably warmer, and rays of golden sunlight even stream down through openings in the clouds.

When the PCs pour the water from the silver bowl, the wind picks up, and thunder peals loudly. A few minutes later, one-inch hailstones begin to batter the glade. Just then, the dark guardian appears, bursting through the trees on horseback, charging at full tilt, his lance leveled at the PCs. The hail stops just before he reaches the PCs. He will not negotiate, stopping his attacks only when he has defeated the PCs.

Dark Guardian

221,000 xps (needs to get to 300,001; no xp bonus)
STR 18/76 INT 10 WIS 12 DEX 17/25 CON 18 CHA 12
AC: -03, HD: Cavalier 5, HP: 54, MV: 09″, AL: N

Weapon Proficiencies (or -3 penalty): 5
heavy lance, longsword, horseman’s mace, horseman’s flail, great sword

Weapons of Choice: lance, longsword, flail

Saving Throws:
P/DM:11 PAR/PET:12 R/S/W:13 BW:13 SPELLS:14

ATTK/DAM:
1 x heavy lance +5* (4d4+15) OR
2 x longsword+6* (1d8+7) OR
2 x flail +3* (1d4+5)

*SA: all attacks from horseback made as if 6th level (so +2)

SD: see below, MR: special (see the sword below)

Elfin Chainmail: +5

Enchanted Blade: +3. Magic Resistance 50%. If the magic resistance roll is 50 or under, the sword absorbs some of the energy (protecting the guardian), while the rest goes wild in some cinematic fashion (it need not be harmful). Once per turn, some of its stored energy can be unleashed by dealing an added 1d6 of damage. Lastly, the wielder will be completely ignored by the Wild Hunt. He is also immune to all attacks by the hounds, the apparitions, and the draugar. Only the Huntsman could harm the wielder of the sword (but the Huntsman would only attack if the wielder attacked him first). The Master’s horn has no effect on the wielder either.

Enchanted Cloak: 50% chance to hide in shadows and to move silently. Displacement—The wearer appears 2′ from his actual position. The first missile or melee attack against the wearer will automatically miss. +1 to saves against attacks (breath weapons, gaze attacks, spells, etc).

Enchanted Heavy Lance: +2. Breaks upon impact, giving off a burst of magical energy. Anyone struck by the weapon must save against spells with a -2 penalty to the roll or fall to the ground unconscious for 1d4 rounds, appearing to be dead.

XPS: 874

This human knight fell under the spell of an elfin queen many years ago (for him, only a few have passed). He fell in love with her and has served her faithfully as consort and guardian, protecting the hidden gateway to her dark realm. He knows how to enter and to exit that realm, and he also knows the cave (not far from the faerie fountain) that leads back to the PC’s home world. He is courageous and strong, but he performs his duty with extreme prejudice. Having slain many adventurers that sought to kill or to enslave his queen, he has learned to attack first and talk later.

The guardian wears blackened, elfin chainmail +5 and carries a normal large shield, painted black. The guardian carries an enchanted blade, which functions as a +3 weapon. It also gives the wielder magic resistance of 50%. As usual, if the magic resistance roll is 50 or under, the sword absorbs some of the energy (protecting the guardian), while the rest goes wild in some cinematic fashion (it need not be harmful to the PCs). Once per turn, he can unleash some of its stored energy by dealing an added 1d6 of damage. Lastly, the wielder will be completely ignored by the Wild Hunt. He is also immune to all attacks by the hounds, the apparitions, and the draugar. Only the Huntsman could harm the wielder of the sword (but the Huntsman would only attack if the wielder attacked him first). The Master’s horn has no effect on the wielder either.

The guardian also wears a short, lightweight, enchanted cloak, made of a rough, coal-grey material. Fastened to his breastplate, it does not choke him in combat. The cloak somewhat muffles sound and bends light, such that the wearer has a 50% chance to hide in shadows and to move silently. This only works in the forest, and he must be still or moving very slowly to do this. For example, the guardian can stand alone, or even sit astride his horse, and go unnoticed, but he cannot charge into battle unseen. The cloak also acts much like a cloak of displacement, making the wearer appear to be about 2’ from his actual location. Any missile or melee attack against the wearer will automatically miss the first time. This can apply to multiple opponents as long as they did not see their comrades miss clearly and inexplicably. It also gives the wearer a +1 bonus to saving throws against attacks directed at him (breath weapons, gaze attacks, spells, etc.).

For his first attack, the guardian uses an enchanted heavy lance. This functions as a +2 weapon and breaks upon impact, giving off a burst of magical energy. Anyone struck by the weapon when it bursts must save against spells with a -2 penalty to the roll. Those that succeed take only normal damage, but those that fail fall to the ground unconscious for 1d4 rounds, appearing to be dead. Just tell the player that all goes black for the PC. Until the effect passes, the victim will appear dead in all respects, even if someone uses magic to detect life.

In a saddlebag, he carries a wineskin containing just a swallow of a magical healing elixir. If consumed, this ruby-colored liquid will fully heal a PC, even restoring life. It takes one round to take effect. He carries this only for emergencies, mainly to aid others (such as a valiant foe that he vanquished and is near death).

The Guardian Defeated

If the PCs defeat the guardian, they can remove his helm to reveal the face of the very handsome knight. They are free to gather his equipment. The PCs do not have long to look through his goods, however, for at least two dozen elves were watching the combat. They will cry out when he falls. After a few minutes, the elves will come to the edge of the trees, staring at the PCs. If the PCs follow the crone’s advice and take the guardian’s sword, they can hold it up and offer it to the elves in return for safe passage home. If they do this, the elves will slowly emerge, looking solemn and gloomy.

Just at that moment, thunder will rumble, and clouds will roll across the sky. The golden light that fell upon the glade will vanish, replaced with a gray gloom (in the case of nighttime, the clear night sky is replaced by the eerie glow of the northern lights). The elves will look skyward and quickly say to the PCs that their way home lies nearby. They pledge to lead the PCs to this place with no tricks if the PCs throw the sword in the fountain immediately. They warn the PCs to hurry if they would escape the Wild Hunt.

Give the players about ten seconds to decide what they do. If the PCs hesitate, the elves shrug and hide as the Hunt approaches. When the Hunt has gone, the elves plan to take the sword from the dead PCs or to fight them in a weakened state. If the PCs toss the sword in the fountain, the elves shout that a magical cave lies just a dozen feet off the left side of the road in the distance (they will point). Indeed, there now seems to be a wide path that the PCs did not notice before (as it leads into the elfin realm). If the PCs make it to the cave, they can enter and escape the Hunt. If they fight and survive, they can leave at their leisure. Regardless of the PCs’ action, go now to Encounter O below.

Encounter O: Wild Hunt on the Threshold

Almost everything necessary to run this encounter is found in Encounter D in Section IV: Breaking the Curse. You should read that carefully, along with the Section VII: The Wild Hunt. The aspect that makes this encounter special is that it takes place on the borderland of the magical elfin realm. If the PCs flee, they do not flee over frozen fields and snow-covered heather. Here they flee down a 20-foot-wide dirt road, through a snow-covered forest of towering, gnarled trees. The glade, the road, and the forest all border the elfin realm. Together, these areas have special magical properties.

The Wild Hunt will not fly over the trees here. All participating creatures will run along the ground. Also, each PC has 50% magic resistance to the magical effects of the Huntsman’s horn. The northern lights are not visible in this area. When the Hunt comes, the area will become shrouded in shadow. When using the lighting conditions table that follows the statistics for the Hunt in the next section, use the last entry. Lastly, should a PC cast a spell in this area, he does so as if two levels higher. This may also apply to the effects of magical items (DM decides).

Also important is the location of the cave mouth that the PCs are seeking. It will be plainly visible from the road, but only if the PCs know of its existence and are actively seeking it (only possible if they threw the sword in the fountain). Otherwise, they will never find it and will die in the forest from some combination of elfin attacks, madness, thirst, and hunger. Assuming that the PCs know of the cave and are fleeing toward it, you might wonder its distance. No matter. The thrill of the chase is paramount.

The cave cannot be that far away because the PCs will most likely be on foot here. If the PCs are fleeing, the Hunt can close about 450 feet per round. Keep that in mind when you tell the players how far they run before seeing the cave mouth. In any case, allow the leading hounds to catch them right outside the cave. This could create interesting dilemmas if some members have made it inside and then others fall outside. Let the end be wild and messy. If the PCs choose to stand and fight to the death, so be it. Perhaps the strange magical nature of the area will work to their advantage, though they will sorely miss all the magical gifts that they could have received from the villagers and from the mad hermit had they decided to help them.

Passing Through the Elfin Realm

If the PCs survive, they have effectively finished the adventure. After entering the cave, they will find themselves back where they were before the adventure started.

VII. The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt can play a role in any path that the PCs choose. The DM must be careful with this, however, as the spectral troop can be quite deadly. Worse, they do not aim to intimidate or to take prisoners. Victims of the Hunt are fought until either hunters or prey perish. The DM should thus delay the Hunt’s appearance as long as possible, lest the adventure end before it starts. The DM should give the PCs plenty of information on the Hunt, especially its capabilities and limits. Be sure to mention any weaknesses or ways of taking refuge from the spectral company. Build tension as much as you can before the Hunt actually attacks the PCs.

The Wild Hunt consists of a spectral Huntsman, his many spectral hounds, a troop of mounted apparitions, and lastly, a band of draugar that will emerge from the barrow mounds to join the spectral company. According to local legends, the Wild Hunt plagues the northlands on the twelve nights following midwinter’s day, which locals call the twelve nights of Yuletide. The Hunt chases and tries to slay anyone cursed by the executed warlock, anyone that steals from a barrow mound, anyone that agrees to aid the mad hermit, and anyone that previously attacked the Wild Hunt. In this adventure, the Hunt always appears somewhere south of the barrow mounds, and it passes by the mad hermit’s cottage, before traveling in a random direction for another ten miles.

Along its route, the Hunt may sweep up others into its deadly business. Each mile, the Huntsman will blow his horn. Those hearing its unearthly call AND seeing the Wild Hunt in person must save against spells (a Wisdom bonus applies) or somehow join the hunt. The DM shall roll to determine whether the enchanted PC becomes hunter or prey. Those that join the hunters lose control of their characters for a time, for they must hunt with the pack (the DM should let the players roll their attacks, but he should move them as aggressively as possible toward the prey). Those PCs that become prey will know instantly and intuitively that they are now among the hunted.

When chasing their prey, the hunters (including any enchanted PCs) usually run on the ground, but they have the power to run right into the air to climb over obstacles or difficult terrain. They can thereby seem to run across the treetops of a forest, but they will only do this when no other path is available. PC hunters on foot will find that they can somehow keep up with the mounted hunters.

If the Hunt catches any prey (either the intended target or anyone swept up into the Hunt), the pack, while barking incessantly, will surround the prey and allow any draugar and charmed PC huntsmen that are present to attack. Should the draugar and PCs fail to bring down the prey, the hounds will attack. They fight to the death, vanishing into thin air when brought to zero hit points. If the hounds fail, the Huntsman himself will attack until slain.

If the Hunt reaches its primary prey for the night (having failed to sweep up anyone in its business), it will attack if possible. If its primary prey (the hermit-magistrate in this adventure) is protected, it will then continue on for another ten miles in a random direction. If it has still not found prey, the Hunt will turn on a wild animal and slay it.

Once marked as prey, one’s only ways to escape the Hunt are (1) to run out of the ten-mile radius, (2) to reach holy ground (such as the village churchyard or the crone’s sacred grove), (3) to survive until daybreak, or (4) to slay the Master (it is not necessary to slay the hounds and draugar first).

1 Master of the Hunt

S18/00, I18, W18, D18, C18, CH15

AC: 02, HD 15, HP: 66, MV: 18″, AL: N, ATTK/DAM: 1 spear+6 (1d6+3), SA: horn charms, SD: Only hit by +3 weapons or better, MR: 25%, XPS: —

Black Hunting Leathers +3 (can only be worn by creatures similar in stature to the Huntsman).

Spear +3

Standing 7 feet tall (sometimes mounted on a large black steed), the Master has jet-black skin and glowing green eyes. A set of stag antlers seems to sprout from his head, and his eyes glow cherry red. He seems to wear black hunting leathers (leather +2), and he carries a spear +3.

1d6+6 Spectral Hounds

AC: 04, HD 7+3 (attack as HD8), HP: 30, MV: 18″, AL: N, ATTK/DAM: 1 bite (1d4) and two claws (1d2), SA: Hit knocks one prone (-4 to attacks and -4 to AC), SD: nearly invisible (-4 to hit with melee weapons) and immune to some weapons (requires +3 or better weapons to hit), MR: 15%, XPS: 950

The precise number of spectral hounds varies (the DM can determine the size of the pack). The spectral hounds stand about 4 feet high at the shoulder. Under the northern lights, they appear to be ghostly, shimmering figures. In any other light, they are nearly invisible. In the shadows, they appear as inky, hound-shaped shadows with cherry-red eyes and flickering tongues of cherry-red flame.

Changing light conditions affect how well the PCs can see or hit the spectral hounds. For details, see The Mysterious Night Sky below.

1d4+8 Mounted Apparitions

AC: 02, HD: 8, HP: 32, MV: 18″, AL: N, ATTK/DAM: see below, SA: NA, SD: only hit by silver weapons or by magical ones (+2 or better), MR: 15%, XPS: 1320

Vulnerabilities: Can be turned as a spectre.

Attack: An apparition’s attack does no damage and requires no attack roll. The apparition swerves toward the target PC and thrusts out its bony arms to grab him. The victim must roll 1d20. If the roll is beneath his intelligence, the PC is immune to that particular apparition’s attacks (the DM may determine that a bold show of faith gives a bonus of -1). A roll equal to or greater than the intelligence means that the PC must roll 1d20 again. If the total is less than the PC’s constitution, the PC flees in terror for 1d4 rounds (and may be attacked again in so doing). If the roll is equal to or above the PC’s constitution, the PC has a heart attack and dies. Anyone looking will see a ghostly form of the limp PC in the apparition’s arms or lying across his saddle. 

The dozen or so mounted apparitions that ride with the Huntsman are grayish-black shadows with pale white eyes. Some seem to have captives in their arms, draped across the saddles of their mounts. It is difficult to focus on these, as the horsemen are moving quickly, but a keen eye will notice that the victims are in bedclothes, as if the horsemen plucked them from their very beds. These otherworldly spirits will not attack the PCs unless first attacked. If they do attack, use the stats above.

An apparition can be turned as a specter. An apparition cannot actually cause physical harm, though PCs may not know this. Even if they did discover the fact, the suggestion is immensely strong. If an apparition swoops down to grab a PC, no attack roll is needed. The apparition seems to successfully swerve right toward the target PC and thrust out its bony arms to grab him. The victim must roll 1d20. If the roll is beneath his intelligence, the PC is immune to that particular apparition’s attacks (the DM may determine that a bold show of faith gives a bonus of -1). A roll equal to or greater than the intelligence means that the PC must roll 1d20 again. If the total is less than the PC’s constitution, the PC flees in terror for 1d4 rounds (and may be attacked again in so doing). If the roll is equal to or above the PC’s constitution, the PC has a heart attack and dies. Anyone looking will see a ghostly form of the limp PC in the apparition’s arms or lying across his saddle.

1d6+6 Draugar

AC: 05, HD: 4+3, HP: 21, MV: 12″, AL: CE, ATTK/DAM: 1 fists (1d4), SA: energy drain, SD: only hit by silver or magical weapons (+2 or better), MR: 05%, XPS: 700

Energy Drain: Any creature struck by the Draug’s fist loses 500xp. A creature slain in this fashion rises as a half-strength Draug after 1d4 turns.

Immunities: Sleep, Charm, Mental attacks, Cold, Poison, Paralysis

Spell-like Abilities:

Once per day (but only during daylight hours), a draug can create the effects of a darkness 15’ radius spell, as if cast by a 3rd level magic-user.

Also, once per day a draug can produce a curse that reduces a victim’s strength by 2 points for one day (a saving throw against spells negates the effect).

Regeneration: 1 HP per turn, even after reaching -10 HP.

Vulnerabilities:

-1 to attacks when exposed to supernaturally bright light.
Holy water inflicts 2d4 points of damage.

A draug is akin to a wight (turned as such). Bloated, the mostly naked corpse has blackish-blue skin and cherry-red eyes. When emerging from a barrow mound, it rises as wisps of black smoke. The stench of death is powerful and almost overpowering to all within 10 feet. Some draugar rise while astride their undead horses. Strangely, they are unnaturally heavy, weighing about four hundred pounds. Anyone attempting to knock one down will feel as if he hit a tree.

If a draug hits its victim, that victim suffers damage from the supernaturally powerful blow (1d4), and also loses 500 xps. Draugar are unaffected by sleep, charm, mental attacks, cold, poison, or paralysis. A direct hit with holy water inflicts 2d4 points of damage to them. One slain by a draug’s energy drain rises again as a half-strength draug in 1d4 turns. On subsequent nights, the new draug will have full strength.

Once per day (but only during daylight hours), a draug can create the effects of a darkness 15’ radius spell, as if cast by a 3rd level magic-user. Also, once per day a draug can produce a curse that reduces a victim’s strength by 2 points for one day (a saving throw against spells negates the effect).

A draug regenerates 1 hit point per turn, rising again even after reaching -10 hit points. Burning a draug’s body will prevent it from ever rising again, as will completely dismembering it and pouring holy water upon the head. Driving an iron spike through its feet will also keep it from rising, at least for as long as the spike remains.

Draugar shun bright light and hate sunlight. By day, they inhabit barrow mounds, refusing to come into the light. If exposed to supernaturally bright light (continual light), they suffer -1 to all attacks. Draugar, which are intelligent, despise the living, will recognize and attack those that may have stolen from them or those that had a hand in their deaths.

The Mysterious Night Sky

Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) https://fshoq.com/

More than anything else, the night sky in this northern land should bluntly remind the PCs that they are far from home. The sky here looks nothing like the serene sky of their homeland. Even at midnight, the snow-blanketed landscape seems surprisingly well lit. The full moon, clearly visible—at least when not obscured by rolling blankets of thick gray cloud— looks very distant and strangely bright—almost like the sun itself. Yet, it is not this small disk that so illuminates the landscape. The awe-inspiring northern lights seem to shimmer and dance above the clouds, like illumination from some heavenly battle being waged between the gods. Dazzling expanses of red and green light seem to form giant towers that squat upon the clouds and stretch to the very stars.

The PCs will hear several people mention that the northern lights signify impending death. The legends say that most heroes see them clearly just before their doom. Some legends say that the lights are the reflections of ghostly riders, coming to bring them to the afterlife. Still others say that the lights are gods battling in the Heavens. In all cases, being outside when they shine unobstructed is dangerous. In this adventure, the legends have a basis in fact. The clearer the northern lights shine, the greater the lure of the Huntsman’s horn, the greater the chance of becoming the hunted, and the easier the pack will spot the PCs. Yet the PCs can clearly see the spectral hounds (approaching death!) and can fight without penalty.

During any encounter with the Wild Hunt, heavy dark clouds race across the night sky, occasionally obscuring the northern lights. Roll 1d6 every round and consult the following table to see the lighting conditions and their effects.

Roll of 1-2 The northern lights are clearly visible.

Anyone seeing the Hunt AND hearing the Huntsman’s horn must save against spells or join the Hunt. The save is made with a -1 penalty to the roll. If the save is failed, the victim has a 75% chance of becoming the hunted.

The spectral hounds are clearly visible so PCs suffer no penalties on attacks.

Roll of 3-4 The northern lights are partially visible.

Anyone seeing the Hunt AND hearing the Huntsman’s horn must save against spells or join the Hunt. The save is made normally. If the save is failed, the victim has a 50% chance of becoming the hunted.

The spectral hounds appear translucent so PCs suffer a -2 penalty on attacks.

Roll of 5-6 Thick clouds obscure the northern lights.

Anyone seeing the Hunt AND hearing the Huntsman’s horn must save against spells or join the Hunt. The save is made with a +1 bonus to the roll. If the save is failed, the victim has a 25% chance of becoming the hunted.

The spectral hounds are effectively invisible so PCs have only a 2-in-6 chance to see the hunters (rangers have a 3-in-6 chance). PCs also suffer a -4 penalty to hit the hounds.

VIII. Featured Magic Items

Several unique magic items appear in the course of the brief adventure. While most are designed specifically for this adventure, they may be somewhat valuable afterwards.

Amulet of Preservation

This amulet is a silver disk, measuring 3 inches in diameter. On one side, it features a protective pentagram, surrounded by strange runes inside a circle. On the reverse, it features interlocking triangles, at the center of which sits a large crude diamond, almost half an inch in diameter. The whole hangs from a braided silver chain.

This powerful amulet protects one against the vile, draining touch of a draug (and other undead). It will also save one from the bony clutches of a mounted apparition of the Wild Hunt. It will only function thrice per night. Upon a fourth touch in the same night, the wearer suffers normal effects of the undead while the amulet crumbles to dust. The amulet is worth 3,000 xps and 30,000 gold.

Beast Mask

This frightful mask, made with real animal skins, fangs, and tails, is designed to drive away ghosts and other supernatural beings. The villagers usually make them at the start of winter and wear them on some of the twelve days of Yuletide, usually when performing certain ceremonies.

A beast mask provides a +1 bonus to AC against demons, ghosts, and other night creatures (just about every monster in this adventure). Also, the wearer of a mask gains a limited turning power over such creatures. Treat the wearer as a 1st level cleric. If the turning attempt is successful, it affects only one creature. Of course, the mask cannot be worn with a helm or helmet (remember that those fighting without such head protection have a 1-in-6 chance of suffering a head shot, while those facing intelligent foes have a 50% chance, as per DMG 28; the DM can determine the added penalties for such hits). The mask is worth 100 xps and 200 gold (to locals only).

Bough of Yuletide

This magical branch, cut from one of last year’s Yule logs, is about 2 feet long and about 2 inches wide. It is crude but relatively straight. Legend says that this enchanted branch can render the spectral hounds of the Wild Hunt visible when they skulk in the shadows.

When touched to fire, the branch lights easily, burning for the duration of twelve nights. If a spectral hound of the Wild Hunt comes within 20 feet of the burning branch, it becomes plainly visible, meaning that the PCs suffer no attack penalties.

The bough, when presented forcefully, can drive back draugar that are within 10 feet. To attempt this, the bearer makes a turning attempt as if a cleric of the same level. If the bearer is already a cleric, the bough provides a +3 to his turning attempt roll. The bough is worth 500 xps and 2,000 gold (locals only).

Brand of Agricola

This centuries-old, silver, gladius (short sword) is the most effective weapon known against the Wild Hunt. Legend has it that centuries ago Agricola, a conquering general from a distant land, had this sword made for him when he learned of the dangers of the Wild Hunt. The blade itself is 2 feet in length, not counting the hilt. Tiny block-style letters of a largely forgotten tongue are engraved into the blade’s broad fuller.

The Brand is a rather poor weapon against any physical creature, providing no bonus to attacks or to damage rolls because of the blade’s softness. Upon rolling a natural 1, the blade nicks, bringing a -1 penalty until fixed (a white smith is required to fix it, and the cost is 50 gold). However, against undead and lycanthropes, it functions as a +3 sword. Against the spectral hounds, the mounted apparitions, and the Master of the Wild Hunt, it serves as a +5 weapon and deals triple damage (3d6+15) with each hit. When functioning as a +3 or +5 weapon, any existing nicks do not matter.

When drawn, the blade sheds a soft pale light, like that from a full moon, illuminating a 2.5 foot radius (5 foot diameter). In the presence of one of the creatures noted above, the blade shines with brilliant white light, illuminating a 10 foot radius (20 foot diameter). The Brand of Agricola is worth 2,000 xps and 9,000 gold (to locals only; half that to others).

Chain of Binding

This heavy chain is made of a strange, silvery metal. Each link has several tiny runes engraved into it. The chain measures 20 feet in length.

Effectively a special variant of a rope of entanglement, this is the only item that can bind a spectral hound or mounted apparition of the Wild Hunt. The user must make a normal attack roll against AC 10. If this roll scores a hit, the chain magically loops around the creature, which becomes hopelessly entangled for the duration of the melee (or until the user commands it to release). In the case of a spectral hound, the hound will eventually vanish if the Master is slain. While bound, the hound is helpless and can be killed with ease if one has something that will hit it. Otherwise, weapons pass through the hound. In the case of a mounted apparition, the chain will ensnare the horseman and cause him to vanish for that night. If the horseman has a victim in its grasp, the chain will lash about the victim and the horseman and drag both to the earth, whereupon both will vanish. However, the victim of the apparition will be saved from certain death and will instead lie in a coma until he receives magical healing of some kind. The chain is worth 3,000 xps and 15,000 gold.

Crown of Holly

This simple wreath, made of small, twisted, freshly picked holly branches, contains power from the old gods. When worn upon the head, it provides the wearer (only) with the equivalent of a protection from evil spell, as if cast by a 3rd-level caster. Its power lasts for all twelve nights. The crown cannot be worn with a helm or helmet (remember that those fighting without such head protection have a 1-in-6 chance of suffering a head shot, while those facing intelligent foes have a 50% chance, as per DMG 28; the DM can determine the added penalties for such hits). The crown is worth 500 xps and 3,000 gold (to locals only).

Horseshoe of Dunstan

This blessed iron horseshoe, forged by Dunstan the smith, appears at first to be a typical one, but closer examination will reveal that the groove that normally holds the nails contains inlaid silver, marked by small crosses.

The bearer of the shoe gains 50% magic resistance to elfin magic. Spells that fail because of the horseshoe will seem to go into the shoe, causing it to glow with golden light. Also, if held aloft in one hand while fighting wicked elves, the bearer gains a +2 to all attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and ability checks. The horseshoe is worth 3,000 xps and 21,000 gold (to locals only; half that to others).

Lorica of Agricola

This heavily enchanted shirt of silvered mail, made centuries ago, falls to the middle of the wearer’s thigh. Two broad bands of added mail cover the wearer’s shoulders. A silver brooch, about the size and shape of a horseshoe, connects the two shoulder bands in the front. Tiny runes are engraved into the brooch. The same legend cited above (under the Brand of Agricola) says that a foreign general had this enchanted mail shirt made as protection against the Wild Hunt.

Against the mounted apparitions, the draugar, and the Master of the Wild Hunt, it functions as chainmail +5 (AC0). More importantly, the shirt provides the wearer with full immunity to the claws and fangs of the spectral hounds of the Wild Hunt, as they will not penetrate the shirt (though the PC should not know this with certainty). Against all other creatures, the shirt acts as chainmail +2. The lorica is worth 1500 xps and 8,500 gold.

Necklace of the Wolf

This enchanted necklace consists of a simple leather thong, on which hang two silver magical rune stones and several wolves’ teeth, fastened by silver rings.

The necklace protects the wearer from normal wolves. They will not attack the wearer unless first attacked. The necklace is worth 100 xps and 500 gold.

Pendant of Yuletide Luck

This simple charm, measuring about 2 inches across, is a simple piece of charred wood from last year’s Yule log. Wrapped tightly in thin leather cord, it hangs from a simple leather thong.

The enchanted pendant still carries some of the Yule log’s magic within it. It lasts for the remainder of the twelve days. It does not provide any bonus, but it prevents the typically bad effects of a naturally rolled 1. Thus, the wearer will not fumble terribly, drop a weapon, snap a bowstring, etc. The pendant is worth 250 xps and 1,000 gold (to locals only).

Periapt of Mistletoe

This charm is simply a tiny sprig of freshly cut mistletoe, about 3 inches long, wrapped tight with leather cord. It hangs from a leather thong.

During the twelve days of Yuletide, the charm reduces damage that non-human evil creatures deal to the wearer. For each die of damage dealt to the wearer (regardless of the type), subtract 1 point of damage. The periapt is worth 250 xps and 1,000 gold (to locals only).

Spice Cake

These traditional cakes are made with many spices and covered in thick frosting. Each of these small, baked, doughy treats heals 1d4+1 points of damage. The cake takes effect 1d4+1 segments after it is consumed. Each cake is worth 100 xps and 200 gold.

Talisman of the Sun

This talisman is a thick, heavy, golden disk that measures about 3 inches in diameter. On each side is engraved an ornate sun symbol, with tiny runes around the edge. At the center of the sun symbol on one side is a large fire opal. The disk hangs from a thick leather thong.

This powerful talisman allows the wearer to unleash bolts of brilliant sunlight at any foe within sight. If the wearer is a cleric that worships a sun deity, or if the wearer participated in the most recent ritual to recall the distant sun, the bolts automatically hit, striking for 1d6+1 points of damage. Otherwise, the user must make an attack roll with no modifiers (if used against the Master of the Hunt or the spectral hounds, their MR applies). Each bolt of sunlight takes three segments to unleash and costs one charge. A maximum of two bolts can be unleashed in one round. The talisman can hold up to 60 charges and may be recharged. Roll 2d10+20 to determine the number of charges when found. The talisman is worth 4,000 xps and 35,000 gold.

Torc of Donn

This ancient, thick, ornamental collar, crafted from beaten iron, has the look of a twisted rope with two bulbous, silver end caps, each adorned with ornate engravings. Set into each end cap is a large gem—a red carnelian and a green chalcedony.

Among its other powers (known only to the crone), this enchanted torc provides one with immunity to the bewitching charms of the horn carried by the Master of the Hunt, and it also prevents the wearer from becoming the prey of the spectral hunt. The torc is worth 1,000 xps and 5,000 gold (valuable to locals only).

Vial of Enchanted Quicksilver

The contents of this clay vial can be used to create magic circle on the ground (5′ radius), beyond which the Master of the Hunt, the spectral hounds, the mounted apparitions, and the draugar will not cross. The circle must be unbroken. Moreover, the one making the circle must not pass out of it, lest the protective ward be broken. If someone or something uses physical means to disturb the circle, the spectral host can attack. The power of the circle lasts until dawn.

Alternatively, one can hurl the contents of the vial at any of the aforementioned creatures, dealing 3d6+3 in damage on a direct hit or 6 points from a splash. The vial is worth 2,000 xps and 10,000 gold (locals only).

Appendix 1: Pre-generated Player Characters

Brother Berandin (LG Cleric 6)

30,000 xps
Needs to get to 55,001; xp bonus of +10%Strength 11 Intelligence 16 Wisdom 17 Dexterity 10 Constitution 08 Charisma 14HP: 38 (08+06+06+06+06+06) MV: 09”

AC: 02 (chainmail+2, small shield, no dexterity)
AC: 03 (chainmail+2, NO shield, no dexterity)
Head AC: 05 (helmet, no dexterity)

Attack/Damage Options (pick one for the round):
1 x horseman’s mace +2 (1d6+2)—he has one OR
1 x morning star (2d4)—doesn’t have one OR
1 x horseman’s flail (1d4+1)—doesn’t have one

Weapon Proficiencies (or -3 penalty): 3
horseman’s mace, morning star, flail

Saving Throws: add +3 wisdom bonus v. mental attacks
Poison: 09, Paralysis: 12, Rods: 13, Breath Weapon: 15, Spells: 14

Bernadin, a cleric of St. Cuthbert, is a member of the Order of the Sunburst Mace. As such, he is a missionary. Though recently arrived at Berwick Abbey, Bernadin was experienced enough to convince the abbot to allow him to explore the Master Maze of Zagyg, outside of town. Though not as patient as he would like to be, Bernadin prides himself on being a man of action. He is extraordinarily practical, a trait that has aided his rise in the hierarchy. He has a strong and genuine faith, but he is very tolerant of the weakness in others. His strategy for conversions combines persistence and a light touch. Bernadin hails from a petty noble family, a fact that helped to secure several appointments in his career. He feels no guilt over such favoritism (that is how the world works), but he has tried to prove himself worthy of each appointment.

At age 32, Bernadin stands 6 feet tall and weighs a lean 175 pounds. He has pale blue eyes and close-cropped brown hair. He is clean-shaven. He wears the red surcoat of the order of the sunburst mace, as well as a matching wool cloak with the cross of St. Cuthbert on the shoulder. He speaks Frangian, the High Tongue (a dialect known only to Frangian nobility), and Zeelander.

Special Characteristic (choose one):

Charming: He has an easy way that makes people comfortable. He gets a bonus of +10% to all reaction rolls (if with a party, he must be out front and taking the lead in conversation for this bonus to apply.
Iron-Willed: He has penetrating insight and an iron will with regard to spells, gaining a bonus of +1 to saving throws against all mental attacks (spells or psionics).

Daily Spells (includes those from his wisdom bonus):
1st-level (5), 2nd-level (5), 3rd-level (3)

Current Chance of Spell Failure: 0%

Custom Spell List for Clerics of St. Cuthbert: 

1st-Level: Bless, Ceremony, Combine, Command, Comprehend Languages, Create Water, Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Endure Cold/Heat, Light, Protection from Evil, Purify Food and Drink, Remove Fear, Sanctuary

2nd-Level: Aid, Augury, Chant, Holy Symbol, Know Alignment, Slow Poison, Spiritual Hammer (they call it Spiritual Mace)

3rd-Level: Cause Blindness/Deafness, Continual Light, Create Food and Water, Cure Blindness/Deafness, Cure Disease, Cure Moderate Wounds (cures 2d6+1), Death’s Door, Detect Curse, Dispel Magic, Glyph of Warding, Magical Vestment, Prayer, Remove Curse, Remove Paralysis

Calling: Upon becoming a member of the Order of the Sunburst Mace, a cleric recognizes his ‘gift of the Saint.’ The player may choose either Protection or War for Bernadin. He casts certain spells as if one level higher. If you choose Protection, the enhanced spells are protection from evil, remove fear, sanctuary, and magical vestment. If you choose War, the spells are bless, remove fear, aid, and chant.

Wealth on Hand: 0 gold, 10 silver, 10 copper

Normal Gear on Person: conical iron helmet with nose guard, small wooden shield, red surcoat, high soft leather boots, leather belt, silver holy symbol (around neck), leather belt pouch with a few coins

Normal Gear Carried: leather scroll tube with strap, leather haversack with strap (contains three tallow candles, tinderbox with flint and steel, three crystal vials of holy water, a small sack, and a whetstone)

Special Items: Chainmail +2, Horseman’s Mace +2, Sacred Scroll of Prior Declan

Sacred Scroll of Prior Declan

This bleached parchment, penned in special silver ink, contains sacred text from the Cuthbertine scripture entitled Tales of the Wise Fool. The scroll’s illuminated borders feature depictions of several sheep, a shepherd, a brilliant sun, and the equal-armed cross of St. Cuthbert. The scroll contains five cleric spells: cure moderate wounds x2, negative plane protection x2, and cure serious wounds. Bernadin has a 5% chance of spell failure when casting cure serious wounds because it is a 4th-level spell, and he would normally need to wait until 7th level to cast those. Any spell that takes effect does so as if cast by an 8th-level cleric. This was a gift from the prior of Berwick Abbey.

Jehan Ironsides (LG Fighter 5)

30,000 xps
Needs to get to 35,001; no xp bonusStrength 16 Intelligence 10 Wisdom 11 Dexterity 08 Constitution 17 Charisma 14HP: 50 (13+10+09+09+09) MV: 09″

AC: -01 (chainmail+2, medium shield+2, no dexterity)
AC: 03 (chainmail+2, NO shield, no dexterity)
Head AC: 05 (helmet, no dexterity)

Attack/Damage Options (pick one for the round):
1 x longsword (1d8+1)—he has one OR
1 x dagger -2 (1d4+1)—he has one OR
1 x short sword (1d6+1)—doesn’t have one OR
1 x horse.’s mace (1d6+1)—doesn’t have one OR
1 x spear (1d6+1)—doesn’t have one OR
1 x horseman’s flail (1d4+1)—doesn’t have one

Special: Can make five attacks against creatures <1HD

Weapon Proficiencies (or -2 penalty): 5
longsword, shortsword, mace, spear, flail

Saving Throws:
Poison: 11, Paralysis: 12, Rods: 13, Breath Weapon: 13, Spells: 14

Jehan is a third son from a petty noble family. His father was too poor to arrange for his knighting. Though Jehan respects the clergy, he did not want to take holy orders, as is the tradition for third sons. However, he agreed to serve the Abbot of Berwick Abbey whenever he calls. Recently, Father Seward asked him, on behalf of the abbey, to explore the dangerous Master Maze of Zagyg, located outside of town. Always adventurous, he readily agreed. Jehan rarely uses his family name, for poverty has been a source of shame to them all. Instead, he uses a nickname that his childhood friends gave to him because of his unshakable health and endurance. He tends to be a bit slow and clumsy.

At age 29, Jehan stands 6 feet tall and weighs a solid 185 pounds. He has close-cropped curly brown hair, a cleanshaven chin, bright blue eyes, and a square jaw. He speaks Frangian and the High Tongue.

Special Characteristic (choose one):

Brave: He gains +3 to all saving throws against fear (this is not included in the Saving Throws in the stat block above).
Defensive: He has a knack for defending himself, gaining a special +4 to AC for one round if he opts not to attack that round and goes completely defensive.

Wealth on Hand: 0 gold, 19 silver, 12 copper

Normal Gear on Person: conical iron helmet, soft high boots, leather belt, longsword and leather sheath, dagger and leather sheath, leather belt pouch containing a few coins and whetstone

Normal Gear Carried: leather backpack (contains two torches, tinderbox with flint and steel, two flasks of oil, one large sack of iron rations for one week, wineskin containing red wine, two large sack and three small sacks)

Special Items: chainmail +2, medium heater shield +2, potion of protection against witchcraft

Potion of Protection against Witchcraft

This gives the imbiber 10% magic resistance against charms or mind-affecting magic of any kind—from spells or from magical items. If the effect overpowers the magic resistance, the imbiber still gains +4 to his saving throw against the enchantment. If he fails his saving throw or the enchantment goes into effect anyway to some degree, the duration is cut in half, rounding down. One must drink the entire potion at once to get the effect. It takes 1d4+1 segments after consumption to take effect.

Roland the Careless (LN Fighter 5)

30,000 xps
Needs to get to 35,001; xp bonus of +10%Strength 17 Intelligence 10 Wisdom 08 Dexterity 11 Constitution 16 Charisma 14HP: 40 (12+07+07+07+07) MV: 09″

AC: 01 (chainmail+2, medium shield, no dexterity)
AC: 03 (chainmail+2, NO shield, no dexterity)
Head AC: 05 (helmet, no dexterity)

Attack/Damage Options (pick one for the round):
3/2 x longsword +5 (1d8+5)—he has one OR
1 x horse.’s mace +1 (1d6+1)—he has one OR
1 x spear +1 (1d6+1)—doesn’t have one OR
1 x dagger -2 (1d4+1)—doesn’t have one

Special:
Can make five attacks against creatures <1HD

Weapon Proficiencies (or -2 penalty): 5
longsword (3 slots), horseman’s mace, spear

Saving Throws:
Poison: 11, Paralysis: 12, Rods: 13, Breath Weapon: 13, Spells: 14

Roland hails from a wealthy family of the landed gentry. Rich in farmland and coin, his father greatly aspires to nobility, but he has been unable to convince his betters to sell him a noble title. Though devoted to his family and its elevation, Roland has never shared his father’s petty desire for titles. He does, however, desire recognition for his deeds. He has devoted several years to making a name for himself, trying to earn the knighthood that his father cannot purchase. He will not use his family name until someone recognizes his prowess and merit. His friends readily use a nickname that he has earned—often by rushing headlong into battle. Since he cannot get them to desist, he simply interprets careless as fearless. Roland is certainly no coward, and he aims to prove it. His masterwork longsword is a treasured and bejeweled family heirloom, named Wistrilde. Inspired by the history of this blade, Roland has spent most of his training time specializing with the longsword.

At age 28, Roland stands 6 feet and 1 inch tall and weighs a muscular 210 pounds. He has close-cropped blonde hair, a clean-shaven chin, blue eyes, and aquiline features. He has a scar on his left cheek from an ill-considered duel when he was only sixteen. He speaks Frangian, and some Zeelander.

Special Characteristic (choose one):

Tough: He remains conscious at even -3 hit points. When between 0 and -3, he cannot attack or run. He can move at quarter speed and can bind wounds.
Furious: In the midst of battle, he tends to attack with fury, dealing +1 in damage to one attack per round (this is not factored into the combat stats above).

Wealth on Hand: 0 gold, 12 silver, 15 copper

Normal Gear on Person: conical iron helmet, medium heater shield, soft high boots, leather belt, dagger and leather sheath, leather belt pouch (containing a few coins and a whetstone)

Normal Gear Carried: leather backpack (contains two torches, tinderbox with flint and steel, two flasks of oil, one large sack of iron rations for one week, wineskin containing red wine, two large sacks, and three small sacks)

Special Items: chainmail +2, Wistrilde, horn of heroism

Wistrilde

Masterwork longsword +1. The hilt contains three hematite stones and three lapis lazuli, worth a total of 500 gold.

Horn of Heroism

Twice per month, the horn, when sounded in a particular way, will give him +10 temporary hit points (deduct these first in battle) as well as a bonus of +2 to all attacks and damage; these effects last for one turn.

Edelmir the Tracker (CG Ranger 5)

30,000 xps
Needs to get to 40,001; no xp bonusStrength 14 Intelligence 13 Wisdom 16 Dexterity 10 Constitution 17 Charisma 08HP: 54 (22+08+08+08+08) MV: 09″

AC: 02 (chainmail+2, buckler, no dexterity)
AC: 03 (chainmail+2, NO shield, no dexterity)
Head AC: 05 (helmet, no dexterity)

Attacks Options/Damage (pick one for the round):
1 x longsword +1 (1d8+1)—he has one OR
1 x spear (1d6)—he has one OR
1 x hand axe (1d6)—he has one OR
2 x longbow (1d6)—doesn’t have one (or arrows)

Special:
Does +5 damage to goblin kind (includes elves)
Can make five attacks against creatures <1HD

Surprise:
Surprises opponents 50% of the time
Only surprised on 1-in-6 (or 1-in-6 less)

Weapon Proficiencies (or -2 penalty): 4
longsword, spear, hand axe, longbow

Saving Throws:
Poison: 11, Paralysis: 12, Rods: 13, Breath Weapon: 13, Spells: 14

An avid hunter, trapper, furrier, and guide, Edelmir loves being outdoors. He cherishes the simple life and the satisfaction that comes with living off the land. Though his outdoor activities always bring him new excitement, he was drawn to the mysterious Master Maze outside of his hometown, especially when some told of its tunnels being a path to another land. Overcome by curiosity, he decided to join the next band making an excursion into the Maze.

Edelmir was not blessed with a fine visage, and his extensive time in the wilderness has left him somewhat wanting in social graces. However, the few that get to know him find him to be a dependable and interesting soul. Edelmir’s time in the wild has brought him some knowledge and much wisdom. Aside from his outdoorsman activities, he enjoys listening to old stories, folklore, and myths. He suspects that they contain more truth than many sages suspect. Though he honors St. Cuthbert, he secretly honors older gods as well (particularly those connected to the forest)—just to be safe.

At age 28, Edelmir stands 5 feet and 11 inches, and he weighs 210 pounds. He has long, wiry brown hair that falls past his shoulders, a matching full brown mustache and beard, and deep green eyes. His skin is weathered and tanned from spending a great deal of time outdoors. He has crow’s feet from squinting outside, and his nose is often red. He speaks Frangian, Norsk (Varangian), and bits of Zeelander.

Special Characteristic (choose one): 

Tough: He remains conscious at even -3 hit points. When between 0 and -3, he cannot attack or run. He can move at quarter-speed and can bind wounds.
Keen-Eyed: He gets a bonus of +4 (or 20%) to any chance of spotting something. He also gets a bonus of +1 to attacks with his bow (this is not factored into the combat stats above).

Ranger’s Skills/Restrictions:

Outdoor Tracking Ability:

Base chance (UA21): 60%
Terrain Modifier (snow): +20%
Other Modifiers:

Each additional creature: +02%
Hours that have passed: -05%
Every hour of precipitation fallen: -25%
If prey has covered tracks: -10% or -05%

Move rate while tracking:

71-00%, good lighting: 3/4 normal
71-00%, poor lighting: 2/3 normal
31-70%, good lighting: 2/3 normal
31-70%, poor lighting: 1/2 normal
01-30%, good lighting: 1/2 normal
01-30%, poor lighting: 1/4 normal

Identification of Tracks:

Same base chance as tracking (above)
If successful, he can determine: Prey’s identity, direction, number, and pace if the prey is common, uncommon, or rare.

Alignment: Any change to a non-good alignment immediately strips the character of his abilities.

Loner: He may not hire henchmen, hirelings, or men-at-arms until he reaches 8th level.

Rule of Three: No more than three rangers can operate together at any one time.

Travels Lightly: A ranger must not own more than he can carry on his backs or on his mounts. He must give away all else to a good, charitable organization.

Wealth on Hand: 0 gold, 9 silver, 21 copper

Normal Gear on Person: conical iron helmet, buckler (hangs from belt by a strap), high soft boots, leather belt, leather sword belt, leather belt pouch containing a few coins and a whetstone

Normal Gear Carried: leather backpack (contains sack of iron rations for one week, wineskin with red wine, one flask of oil, two torches, tinderbox with flint and steel, and a small silver mirror)

Special Items: chainmail +2, masterwork longsword+1, potion of clear sight

Potion of Clear Sight

This gives the imbiber the ability to see all hidden, illusionary, invisible, astral, ethereal, and out-of-phase things within viewing range—including the spectral hounds of the Wild Hunt; it lasts for 1d4+4 turns, but he can take a half dose for half duration, onset time 1d4+1 segments.

Réné of Whitewood (CN Magic-User 5)

30,000 xps
Needs to get to 40,001, +10% xp bonusStrength 08 Intelligence 17 Wisdom 14 Dexterity 11 Constitution 16 Charisma 10HP: 24 (06+05+04+05+04) MV: 12″

AC: 04 (bracers AC6, ring+2, no dexterity)
Head AC: 04 (bracers AC6, ring+2, no dexterity)

Attacks Options/Damage (pick one for the round):
1 x staff (1d6)—he has one OR
1 x dagger -5 (1d4)—he has one

Weapon Proficiencies (or -5 penalty): 1
staff

Saving Throws:
Poison: 12, Paralysis: 11, Rods: 09, Breath Weapon: 13, Spells: 10

Réné hails from the village of Whitewood, not far from Albanton. His parents were the wealthiest notables among the landed gentry there. From an early age, Réné had a gift for academics so his parents found him the finest tutors. One eventually took him on as an apprentice, sharing with him the secrets of alchemy and sorcery. His fearful parents disapproved of these pursuits, but Réné persevered, and just seven years ago, he finally became his own master. Looking to start fresh, he moved to Albanton. Rents from his family’s lands support him comfortably, but he finds himself hard pressed to fund his studies. He has grown tired of tutoring, copying scrolls for the town council, and binding books. He recently decided to explore the newly discovered Master Maze of Zagyg, located outside of town. He hopes to obtain enough wealth to sustain his studies for many years.

Coming from a small village, he had little choice in the type of magic that he learned. His master was something of a jack-of-all-trades. His prized possession is his late master’s ring (the ring of augmentation, below), which the old man sent to him as a gift, just before his death.

At age 32, Réné stands 5 feet and 9 inches tall, and he weighs a pudgy 200 pounds. He has long, straight, blonde hair, a clean-shaven chin, ice-blue eyes, and high cheekbones. Years of study have left him rather weak and overweight for a man of his age, but a healthy diet often keeps him from sickness. He speaks Frangian, Zeelander, Norsk (Varangian), and ancient Aquilonian.

Special Characteristic (choose one): 

Magical Affinity: He has a natural affinity for arcane casting, finding it easier to channel magical energy than most. This means that he can cast one extra 1st-level magic-user spell per day (this is not factored into the spell count below).
Magical Spell Mastery: Due to a great deal of practice, when casting magic missile or burning hands, he casts the spell with slightly better effects. Thus burning hands deals 7 points of damage (not 5) to everyone within the area of effect, and magic missile yields four missiles (not three) that each deal 1d4+1 damage.

Chance to Learn a New Spell: 75%

Daily Spells: 1st-level: (4), 2nd-level (2), 3rd-level (1)

Spell Book:

1st-Level: Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Firewater, Magic Missile, Melt, Read Magic, Write
2nd-Level: Deeppockets, Detect Invisibility, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Locate Object, Mirror Image, Pyrotechnics, Rope Trick, Wizard Lock
3rd-Level: Blink, Dispel Magic, Fly, Infravision

Wealth on Hand: 0 gold, 21 silver, 11 copper

Normal Gear on Person: fur-lined robe, belt, high soft boots, hooded cloak, dagger, belt pouch (containing spell components), and leather belt pouch (contains a few coins)

Normal Gear Carried: leather backpack (contains two small sacks, wineskin with red wine, tinderbox with flint and steel, six tallow candles, two flasks of oil, and a standard spell book (he has a copy at home)

Special Items: bracers of protection (AC 6), ring of protection +2 (included in saves above), scroll of protection from demons, ring of augmentation (6 charges remaining)*

Ring of Augmentation

This thick, heavily enchanted, bronze ring has many tiny symbols on the inside of the band. Close inspection by a knowledgeable person will reveal an ancient language and several magical glyphs. When worn by a magic-user, the ring can enhance the wearer’s spells in various ways, each of which expends one charge. The ring holds a maximum of fifty charges and can be recharged once all charges are gone (the ring will not lose its power). The wearer may change each spell in only one way—range, duration, area of effect, or potency. A spell’s range can be increased to 200%. A spell’s duration can be increased to 200%. A spell’s area of effect can be increased to 200% (DM’s call on how to adjudicate this, but in general, the ring will double the square feet or HD affected). As for potency, the wearer can enhance the spell so that the target suffers a -4 penalty to any applicable saving throws.

Nicholas Fletcher (CN Archer 5)

30,000 xps
Needs to get to 11,001, +10 xp bonusStrength 16 Intelligence 08 Wisdom 14 Dexterity 17 Constitution 13 Charisma 10HP: 36 (12+06+06+06+06) MV: 09″

AC: 00 (chainmail+2, NO shield, dexterity+3)
Head AC: 02 (helmet, dexterity +3)

Attacks Options/Damage (pick one for the round):
1 x hand axe (1d6+1)—he has one OR
1 x dagger -2 (1d4+1)—he has one OR
2 x longbow+1—has one
Point-Blank Range (up to 30’): bow+6 (2d6+3)
Short Range: bow+5 (1d6+2)
Medium Range: bow+1 (1d6)
Long Range: bow-2 (1d6)
The above all assume non-magical arrows

Special:
Can make five attacks against creatures <1HD if using a bow

If he starts a round with an arrow nocked, string pulled back, and target in sight, he can loose the arrow before initiative is rolled

Weapon Proficiencies (or -3 penalty): 5
longbow (3 slots), handaxe, dagger

Saving Throws:
Poison: 11, Paralysis: 12, Rods: 13, Breath Weapon: 13, Spells: 14

Nicholas grew up in the village of Whitewood, not far from Albanton. His father was a furrier, who taught young Nicholas how to hunt. The boy took to the bow at a young age. He had no schooling and cannot read. He is sometimes slow of wit, and his thoughts are seldom profound, but he has a good dose of common sense. He has also become quite deadly with a bow. As an adult, he moved to Albanton, where he still works as a fletcher for the town’s guard. Many guardsmen have noted his skill with a bow and have tried in vain to recruit him. Though thankful for the steady work that puts food on the table, Nicholas has grown bored. Occasional competitions provide only brief respite from his boredom. Thus, when he heard of the newly discovered Master Maze of Zagyg, he decided to explore its mysteries. Though a touch of a loner, he joined an adventuring band before entering the Maze, for he knew that he might need support in close quarters.

At age 29, Nicholas stands 5 feet 9 inches tall, and he weighs about 175 pounds. He has light brown eyes, a matching full beard, and short-cropped, mousy brown hair. His prized possession is his longbow, which he won in a ducal archery competition years ago. He speaks Frangian (poorly).

Special Characteristic (choose one):

Fleet of Foot: During combat, he can move up to 15 feet (not 10 feet) and still attack normally. He can also move 20 feet further in a round (for example, 110 feet per round indoors, not 90 feet).
Steady-handed: His poise grants him +1 to hit with any bow or crossbow, and this stacks with any racial bonus (it is not figured into the combat stats above or below).

Archer Skills/Restrictions:

The archer, a homebrew PC class, is a fighter sub-class in all ways, unless otherwise noted.

Archers must have 15+ in strength and dexterity. Those with a 16+ in both get +10% to xps.

They cannot use bulky or fairly bulky armor types—magical armor is an exception.

Archers get four weapon proficiency slots to start but must dedicate three proficiency slots to their bows. Thus, they get only two weapons to start (a bow and a backup weapon). Their non-proficiency penalty is -3. They get additional slots every four levels after first.

Like fighters, when in combat with creatures of less than 1 HD, archers get a number of attacks equal to their level, but only if they are using a bow.

Archers use the ranger’s level progression table (xps)

As with a regular fighter using bow specialization (UA 18), archers have a point blank range up to 30 feet. Like others, they deal double damage within that range, but their attack bonuses are +3 to hit and to damage. They are +2 at short range (as compared to a bow-specialized fighter’s +1). They are +1 at medium range (as compared to a bow-specialized fighter’s -2). At long range, they are +0 (as compared to a bow-specialized fighter’s -5).

Wealth on Hand: 0 gold, 9 silver, 22 copper

Normal Gear on Person: conical iron helmet, soft high boots, leather belt, handaxe in belt loop, dagger in leather sheath on belt, wineskin (contains honey mead) on strap around shoulder, and leather belt pouch (contains a few coins, whetstone, two spare bow strings, and string wax)

Normal Gear Carried: two leather quivers (each holds 20 arrows), 23 regular arrows, and small sack containing two days of iron rations

Special Items: chainmail +2, masterwork longbow +1, 16 arrows +2, one +3 arrow of slaying (knights)

Arrow of Knight Slaying

This enchanted arrow, crafted of hickory and tipped with a bodkin arrowhead of meteoric iron, is over a century old. It gives a +3 bonus to attacks and damage, but if it strikes a knight (DM decides what qualifies), it will kill him instantly.

Appendix 2: Winter Festivals in Northern Europe

Inspiration for Your Game

Martinmas

St. Martin by Albrect Durer, c. 1494

Celebrated on November 11, the Feast of St. Martin, also called Old Halloween or Old Hallowmas Eve, is the funeral day of St. Martin of Tours, a fourth-century Roman soldier. The most famous legend surrounding St. Martin tells of how he cut his cloak in two with a sword to save a beggar in Amiens from severe cold. In the sixth century, Church councils began to demand fasting from St. Martin’s Day (Dec 11) to the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6). They later shortened this fasting period and called it Advent.

Martinmas was considered the first day of winter. It thereby marks the end of autumn as well. It also coincides with the octave of All Saints, as well as with harvest time. It is much like Thanksgiving in this sense. Some people began celebrations on the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of this eleventh month, while others began the celebrations on St. Martin’s Eve (the night of November 10).

As this day occurs just before the start of the religious fast, St. Martin’s Day featured much feasting. In France, the goose became a symbol for this day, partially because geese were ready for slaughter around this time. Slowly the custom of eating goose spread throughout northern Europe. The wealthy often ate geese, while the poor ate duck or hen instead. Though St. Martin had no actual connection to wine making, he somehow received credit for planting vineyards. Thus, people often drink the first of the new wine on this day. In many countries, people lit bonfires at night, while children carried lanterns through the streets and sang songs, for which they received candy.

In Estonia, the day marked the end of a period in which people honored the souls of their dead ancestors. In the northernmost countries, where the sun seemed to abandon the land, scouts went to distant peaks to search for the first streaks of returning light. In parts of Belgium, children traditionally receive presents from St. Martin on Nov 11 instead of from St. Nicholas on December 6 or from Santa Claus on December 25.

According to legend, St. Martin rode across the landscape on a white horse each year, with the first snows falling from his fluttering cloak.

St. Andrew’s Day

Celebrated on November 30, this is the feast day of Andrew the Apostle (Simon Peter’s brother). Andrew is the patron saint of several countries, and this day is obviously popular in such places (including Scotland, Russia, and the Ukraine).

Some suggest that the ritual slaughter of animals, long associated with the pagan festival of Samhain, was moved to this holiday after Christianity became prevalent.

In some countries, St. Andrew’s Day began the period when vampires were most active, a period that lasted until the Eve of St. George on 22 April. In some countries, legend held that the restless dead rose from their graves and fought each other at crossroads on this night. In many countries, young girls believed that they could use magic to learn something of the future or of their future husbands.

St. Nicholas’ Day

Celebrated on Dec 06 (sometimes starting on the evening of December 5) in Western Europe, this feast honors Nicholas of Myra (sometimes called Nicholas of Bari or Nicholas the Wonder Worker), a fourth-century bishop in Asia Minor. Historians know very little about his life, as most accounts were written centuries after his death. The most famous legend about the saint tells that he secretly gave gold to a poor man so that his daughters would not be forced into prostitution. Caught in the act, the saint unwittingly became the role model for secret gift giving. Another legend tells that a storm nearly destroyed his ship during a visit to the Holy Land, but Nicholas rebuked the waves and calmed the storm, thereby becoming a patron saint of sailors.

Over the centuries, legends grew that St. Nicholas traveled about and brought gifts to good children, sometimes accompanied by elves. Eager children left fodder for St. Nicholas’ horse. In pre-Christian days, it was Odin the All-Father that made his rounds on Sleipnir, and hopeful children left fodder for that magical steed.

In Belgium and Germany, children leave their shoes in front of the chimney, hoping for presents, and they leave carrots or hay for the saint’s horse. Dressed in red bishop’s robes, the saint (called Sinterklaas) arrives with gifts for good children, accompanied by several black-skinned mischievous helpers. One of the helpers, ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (Black Pete), takes the naughty children, putting them in sacks. The whole group then returns to Spain, from whence it came.

In France, a legend arose that a wicked butcher killed three children that had wandered off. The saint supposedly restored the children to life and returned them to their parents. Ever since, when the saint makes his rounds to give presents, the evil butcher, Péré Fouettard, follows him as part of an ongoing penance. He often carries switches to threaten children, but the saint keeps them from harm.

In the Holy Roman Empire, legends say that the saint travels with Knecht Ruprecht. Some say that he was a farmhand, while others claim that he was a foundling, raised by the saint. Dressed in a brown or black robe, and walking with a limp, he carries a staff and a bag of ashes. Sometimes he wears bells on his clothing, and sometimes he rides a white horse. In some legends, the saint and Knecht Ruprecht travel with elves, while in others they travel with black-skinned men in women’s clothing. In some stories, Knecht Ruprecht asks children if they can pray, rewarding them with gingerbread and nuts if they can, and hitting them with his bag of ashes if they cannot. In other stories, he gives naughty children sticks, stones, or lumps of coal. In others, he leaves a switch or a rod for naughty children so that their parents can beat them with it. In the Mittelmark, people called the saint’s companion Hans Ruprecht or Rumpknecht, while in Mecklenburg they called him Ru Clas (Rough Nicholas). In the Altmark and in East Friesland, they called him Bur and Bullerclas. In Switzerland, St. Nicholas (called Samichlaus) travels with Schmutzli, a frightening helper that is similar to Knecht Ruprecht, for he wears a brown monk’s robe. However, in that region (showing the Protestant influence of Martin Luther), it is the Christ-Child himself (Christchindli) that brings gifts, not St. Nicholas.

In the alpine regions of Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Hungary, and Northern Italy, St. Nicholas and Knecht Ruprecht travel with a terrifying goat-like demon called Krampus. This creature seeks to terrorize those children that the saint identifies as misbehaving. Krampus is thought to strike children in the legs with a birch switch, to stuff them into a large sack or basket, and even to throw them in an icy river.

St. Lucia’s Day

Celebrated on Dec 13 (often the Winter solstice), this feast honors Lucia of Syracuse, a fourth-century Sicilian martyr, killed during the reign of Diocletian. The day is also called Lucinatta, Lucia-Day, and Lussimass. According to legend, she convinced her mother to cancel her plans to wed her to a pagan, instead donating the dowry to the poor. The angry suitor reported her to the authorities for being a Christian. The authorities then threatened her or even tried to kill her in various ways, all to no avail. She was able to die only after receiving last rites. In a different story, St. Lucia (whose name means ‘light’), brought food to Christians that were hiding in catacombs. She wore a candle-lit wreath on her head to light her way, thereby leaving her hands free to carry as much food as possible. In the fourteenth century, before the Gregorian calendar reforms in 1582, her feast day was also the shortest day of the year (the winter solstice, or very close to it). Thus, many people, continuing old pagan traditions, celebrated this day as a festival of light.

St Lucia, by Agostino Carracci, c. 1577

This feast is most popular in Italy and Scandinavia. In Norway, Sweden, and Finland, people depict her as wearing a white baptismal robe, a red sash to denote the blood of her martyrdom, and a wreath of candles on her head. Young girls, dressed as St. Lucia, process with cookies or saffron buns, representing Christ bringing light into a world of darkness.

There are several pre-Christian traditions that have seeped into the celebrations. In Sweden, the Lussi Night (Lussinatta) marked the time when Lussi, a female witch or demon, rode through the air with her followers. This is similar to the myth of the Wild Hunt, known in many northern Europeans countries (called Oskoreia in Scandinavia). It was a night of powerful magic. Between Lussi Night and Yule, evil creatures and spirits were especially active. Legends say that it was dangerous to be out on this night, and the Lussi could come down the chimney to kidnap children. Other tales said that this spectral company kidnapped any mortals that it could find. Some never reappeared, while others turned up dazed and manhandled. People believed that certain tasks had to be completed before this night—threshing, slaughtering, cleaning, and spinning yarn—or the Lussi would smash their chimneys. There arose a tradition, called Lussevaka, of staying awake on this night to guard against evil. They often hung iron implements—axes, knives, and scissors—over doors and painted crosses everywhere as wards against evil. They lit ‘Lussi fires’ as well to drive off evil. The saffron buns (called Lussekatt), served with mulled wine by children to their parents, were originally called Devil’s Cats, designed to ward off evil. Similarly, in Norway, from the longest night of the year (Lussinatten) until Christmas, spirits, gnomes, and trolls roamed the earth. Lussi, a feared enchantress, punished anyone that worked during this time.

It is entirely probable that there was no connection between St. Lucia and the Lussi, save for the sound of the name. In time, people likely conflated them. Yet the conflation is understandable, given the connections to light. In Norse myth, a goddess named Sol or Sunna drove a chariot across the sky, fleeing from darkness that ever tried to devour her. People praised this sun goddess for the return of light and warmth. The legends of both St. Lucia and the Lussi dovetail into this old theme.

Christmas Eve and Christmas

Celebrated on December 24/25, this feast honors the earthly birth of Christ. The word, which literally means ‘Christ Mass,’ dates to the twelfth century (Cristesmaesse in 1038, and Cristes-messe in 1131). Surprisingly, there is no evidence that first-century or second-century Christians celebrated this feast. Indeed, early Christian fathers chastised pagans for celebrating birthdays. Yet, a record called the Chronography of 354 notes that a Christmas celebration occurred in 336 AD. In the Eastern Roman Empire, Christians typically celebrated Jesus’ childhood on the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), but the focus was on his baptism. In Western Europe, several early traditions linked Christ’s birth to the spring, especially the equinox on March 25. In any case, the fourth-century Pope Julius I (r. 337-352) formally established the celebration on December 25. The reason for celebrating the Nativity in Western Europe on that particular day has become a topic of some dispute.

One school of thought posits that Christians decided for their own religious reasons to celebrate on December 25. Indeed, a third-century historian, Hippolytus of Rome (170-236 AD) suggested in his work that Christ was conceived on the vernal equinox, his birth naturally occurring nine months later. Another contemporary historian, Sextus Julius Africanus, did likewise. In the fifth century, many decades after the date had been fixed, St. Augustine of Hippo advanced a slightly different line of reasoning for the change. He wrote that it was fitting to celebrate the birth of Christ on the winter solstice, when light begins to increase again in the world. A few biblical passages, linking Jesus to the sun, seemed to lend support to Augustine’s idea.

A competing school of thought posits that the Church fixed the date of the celebration on December 25 to stamp out several popular pagan festivals. At that time, the Roman Julian calendar featured the winter solstice on December 25. The most popular Roman holiday around that time of year was a feast in honor of Saturn, an earth-god of agriculture, wealth, plenty, and renewal. The famous festival, called Saturnalia, was ancient. To some, it was a harvest festival and a temporary release from labors. To others, it was a festival of lights that led up to midwinter. Surprisingly, no one source describes it in full, and what we know is pieced together from various sources. According to the Julian calendar, it began on December 17. Its duration fluctuated with time, ranging from three to seven days. In any case, it featured feasting, gift giving, gambling, role reversal with regard to many customs, and, during the Empire, gladiatorial games in honor of the sun god (Christian critics denounced this as a form of human sacrifice). Saturnalia remained popular for many centuries, and it seems entirely possible that Christian clerics grew distraught at reports of Christians continuing to participate in the festival.

In the late third century, December 25 was also the day that many Romans celebrated the birth of a sun god, named Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun). In 274 AD, the Emperor Aurelian elevated the Sol Invictus cult, instituting a holiday called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun (Dies Natalis Sol Invictus). Indeed, the popularity of this sun god led the Emperor Constantine in 321 AD to rename the first day of the week in his honor. Though there are many disputes as to the exact nature and origin of Sol Invictus, his cult became extremely popular and remained so into the fifth century, for St. Augustine himself preached against its devotees. It is thus possible that the Church sought to replace pagan festivities with Christian ones. Yet, the issue remains clouded, for some argue that Aurelian specifically chose December 25 for Sol Invictus because the Christian celebration of Christmas (perhaps mingled with remnants of Saturnalia) was becoming popular.

Regardless of motive, the change took place before 352 AD. Yet, in the Early Middle Ages, even after Christmas celebrations took root in Western Europe, they were still overshadowed by the Feast of the Epiphany. It was during the ninth century that its popularity rose rapidly, and by the High Middle Ages, it was one of the most popular holidays, incorporating many of our familiar, modern customs.

Not only did Christmas become more popular in Western Europe over time, but it became longer too. In 567 AD, the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive season, thereby ending a dispute over which day was holier—Christmas or the Epiphany. It also established Advent fasting, in preparation for the feast. Thereafter, Christmas and other year-end celebrations are sometimes referred to as ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ (the English call this Christmastide). For the last night, Twelfth Night, people in many cultures developed special festivities.

Quite separate from Roman year-end festivals, Christmas also became conflated with the Norse midwinter festival of Yule. The white-bearded god-king, Odin the All-Father, played the dominant role in this festival, and the name itself supposedly derives from one of Odin’s names. The earliest references to Yule indicate not just a multi-day festival, but also the months in which it fell so Yule can indicate, in its loosest sense, modern December and January. Records of the festival date to the fourth century, but it is likely much older than that.

According to a tenth-century saga, the Norse festival of Yule once lasted only three days, starting at midwinter (the winter solstice). It involved animal sacrifices to Odin, feasting, idol worship, the lighting of bonfires, and toasts to the dead. Another common feature was a Yule goat, a symbol with many variations, but one that may be connected to Thor’s two magical goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr. There was also the Yule log, which produced magical fire with many supposed qualities. It was also at this time that the Wild Hunt (or ‘Wild Host’ or ‘Furious Host’) sometimes appeared in the night sky, according to legend. Though it has many variations, this spectral company was an ill omen, or even a mortal danger, to anyone that beheld it. The Norse Yule celebration may also be related to the Anglo-Saxon pagan celebration called the Night of the Mothers (Modraniht or Modranicht). The eighth century English historian, Bede, cites this festival in his work.

Holly: Ancient Ward against Evil Spirits

It seems to have been the tenth-century King Haakon I of Norway that brought Christianity to his country and eventually moved the native Yule celebration to occur at the same time as the Christmas celebrations. Thus, Yuletide became synonymous with Christmastide. A century later, the term Christmas mostly replaced Yule, at least in England, but the latter lingered in a few areas.

As far as Christmas traditions go, the intended focus was the Nativity, of course. Nativity scenes date as far back as the tenth century. The colors red, green, and gold predominate in decorations, the red symbolizing the blood of Christ, the green symbolizing the evergreen tree (eternal life), and the gold recalling one of the gifts of the magi. The custom of decorating an actual tree for Christmas (as compared to hanging greenery) dates to sixteenth-century Germany.

Of course, a host of pagan elements have seeped into the Christmas celebration, largely overshadowing the Christian elements. These pagan elements came from Saturnalia, from the celebrations of Sol Invictus, from the Norse Yule celebrations, and from other local less-famous traditions.

Since the Middle Ages, Christians have given symbolic meaning to the holly plant, the red berries symbolizing the spilled blood of Christ, and the thorny leaves representing the crown of thorns. Of course, holly had been sacred to Celtic druids in ancient times.

Mistletoe: Ancient Symbol of Peace and Fertility

Likewise, Christians used mistletoe as holiday decoration, ascribing to it powers of fertility and of protection against evil. There also grew a custom of kissing under a sprig of mistletoe. Of course, the Celtic druids had considered mistletoe to be sacred, imbued with magical powers of fertility. They had called it the ‘soul of the oak’ and had dubbed its white berries the ‘semen of Taranis’ (a thunder god). Norse legend had explained how the plant became a token of peace beneath which enemies could declare a truce or bickering spouses could kiss and make up. The Romans had also hung mistletoe over doorways as part of their Saturnalia festival.

It seems that for much of its history, Christmas was a holiday aimed primarily at adults. Devout Christians likely focused on the Nativity, while less religious folks inwardly gave thanks for the temporary halt of their labors, and superstitious folk clung to old customs to bring them through the darkest time of the year. Most feasted, drank, and even relaxed certain social restrictions.

Gift giving was always a part of the festival, though it certainly lacked the modern emphasis. Christian interpretations were there from the start, of course. Jesus is both the ultimate gift and the ultimate gift-giver, and then there were the Magi, who presented the Christ child with kingly gifts. Yet, gift giving on Christmas was not emphasized for many centuries. Gifts tended to be much smaller—mere trinkets that may have reflected the simple tokens given by the Romans as part of Saturnalia. Nevertheless, by the fourteenth century, giving gifts in the name of St. Nicholas had become fairly common in many parts of Europe (though usually on his feast day, not on Christmas). It was probably around this time that people conflated various centuries-old, pagan figures with St. Nicholas. For example, In Finland, on St. Knut’s Day in January (Nuutinpaiva), young men once dressed as goats (Nuuttipukki), wearing inverted fur coats, birch-bark masks, and horns. They wandered from house to house, demanding food, especially leftover alcoholic beverages. In this way, they were somewhat akin to the German Krampus. In time, this legend became conflated with Saint Nicholas (and in modern times with Santa Claus). This mysterious figure, called Joulupukki (the name means ‘Yule goat’), wears warm red robes, uses a staff, and travels in a reindeer-drawn sleigh. Meanwhile, in parts of Germany there developed a cranky, fur-clad, solitary figure called Belsnickel, who served as both gift-giver and punisher of wicked children.

Later, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many Protestant reformers moved the tradition of holiday gift giving from St. Nicholas’ Day to that of Christmas Eve. They also changed the gift giver from St. Nicholas to the ultimate gift giver, the Christ Child (Christkind in German). The date change eventually took root in much of Europe. Finally, in Victorian times, the holiday became more family-friendly—the result of a concerted effort by authors (Charles Dickens is an example). Children increasingly became the focus, and the St. Nicholas character (whatever his variation) became ever more jolly and welcoming.

As for the emblematic Christmas tree, the custom seems to have begun in medieval Livonia and Germany. Upper class Protestants began using the tree as an alternative to the Catholic Nativity scene (indeed many historians attribute the use of lighted candles to Martin Luther himself). Perhaps due to its Protestant origins, the Catholic Church largely resisted the use of decorated trees. Nevertheless, the trees became more popular in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria of England brought the tree to England for good. Until this time, non-German Christians largely frowned on the practice of bringing trees indoors like pagans. Indeed, in some eras it had even been illegal, for the authorities did not wish to replicate those ancient Norse trees bedecked in honor of Odin, or those Roman trees bedecked during Saturnalia with small idols. Until the Early Middle Ages, Germanic people had venerated sacred trees and sacred groves, while Christian missionaries had targeted these trees for destruction (the eighth-century tale of St. Boniface is an example). In the nineteenth century, however, Queen Victoria’s influence decisively changed the Christian attitude in England, and the custom eventually gained ground in other areas of British influence. The Vatican finally erected its first Christmas tree in 1982.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

Cultures all around the world have different New Year’s dates and traditions, but since this adventure is based on northern Europe, we should start with ancient Rome. The earliest Roman calendar had ten months, starting with March (the month of Mars) so March 1 was the first day of the year. An early Roman king created the months of January and February, inserting those at the end of the year, but the Romans eventually saw them as the first and second months (curiously leaving December, or ‘Tenth Month’, as the twelfth and final month). In 153 BC, the Romans began the practice of inaugurating their new consuls on the kalends (first day) of January. The Roman two-faced god, Janus, for which January was named, was the god of thresholds, of beginnings and ends, of past and future. Thus, it made sense to inaugurate magistrates in the month of Janus—at the end of one year and at the start of the next. In 45 BC, Julius Caesar established his Julian calendar, which deemed the kalends of January to be the first day of the year, though many people still used March for private and religious holidays. Before long, family gatherings and festivals accompanied the kalends of January. In 567 AD, the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the first day of the year. The result was a bewildering variety of dates used. Depending on where and when we look, the year began on 25 December (Christmas and the winter solstice), March 1 in the old Roman style, or March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation and of the spring equinox). The Council of Tours in 755 even suggested that Easter be used as the first day of the year, though I see no evidence of this being adopted. Regardless of which date was chosen, most calendars continued to show the year running from January through December.

In the seventh century, Flemish and Dutch pagans still exchanged gifts on the first day of the year (January 1)—a custom hotly denounced by St. Eligius, a bishop and advisor to the King of France, who worked for twenty years to convert the Flemish. In some places in Western Europe, gift giving on the first day of the year (January 1) became popular and accepted because it fell within the twelve days of the Christmas season; after all, Christ and the Magi both set a Christmas example for gift giving. Frances and Joseph Gies underscored the bewildering diversity of New Year’s dates in medieval Europe with this hilarious passage from their book, Life in a Medieval City: “A traveller setting out from Venice on March 1, 1245, the first day of the Venetian year; finding himself in 1244 when he reached Florence; and after a short stay going on to Pisa, where he would enter the year 1246. Continuing westward, he would return to 1245 when he entered Provence, and upon arriving in France before Easter (April 16) he would be once more in 1244.”

By the sixteenth century, many Western European nations had already moved New Year’s Day to January 1 (Feast of the Circumcision). The Holy Roman Empire did so in 1544. In Tudor England, New Year’s Day (January 1) was one of the three main festivities during the twelve days of Christmastide. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the Roman Julian calendar, and the resulting Gregorian calendar officially restored January 1 (the Feast of the Circumcision) as the first day of the year (this is sometimes called ‘Circumcision dating’, as compared to ‘Lady Day dating’ for those still using March 25). Of course, some countries were slow in adopting the new calendar. Prussia adopted it in 1612, and Denmark followed in 1700, while Sweden strangely adopted it over the course of forty years, ending in 1740. The British Empire, including its American colonies, celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25 until 1752.

As for New Year’s traditions, they varied in time and place. In twelfth-century France, people celebrated the Feast of Fools on January 1. This actually started as a minor clerical celebration but quickly grew into a raucous festival, featuring heavy drinking, gambling, and even cross-dressing. It spread beyond France too. Medieval clerics thundered against the abuses of this festival until the Church finally banned it in 1431. Of course, it took centuries to disappear completely. Though similar to the old Saturnalia by some appearances (role-reversal, drinking, and gambling), there was no discernible connection between the two.

In Ireland, people banged on walls and doors to scare off evils spirits. They placed lighted candles in windows and left doors unlocked to welcome the spirits of ancestors that had died in the last twelve months. They cleaned their homes until they were spotless so they could start off the year fresh. In earlier times, before Christianity took root, the Celts held Samhain (meaning summer’s end) as their new year, celebrated on October 31. On that day, they held a general assembly, in which they passed laws and recorded births and deaths. Spirits were thought to roam the land on this night, and priests went into the woods to collect sacred mistletoe, which they later gave out as charms against evil. People also lit bonfires to drive away evil.

In Scotland, New Year’s took on new meaning in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, when Protestant reformers largely banned Christmas celebrations as being too Papist. People simply transferred many of their Christmas customs to New Year’s, inventing a few customs along the way (the new celebration became known as Hogmanay). To this day, New Year’s is more popular than Christmas in Scotland.

In Poland on New Year’s Day, people baked bread and hid a ring or cross inside. One that found a ring would marry, while one finding a cross was destined for the clergy.

Twelfth Night

In 567 AD, the Council of Tours established a twelve-day period, running from Christmas to the Epiphany, as a sacred festival season. It also created the period of Advent, leading up to this festive season. Variations evolved in how to count the twelve days. Some counted Christmas as the first day, while others started with the day after. Thus, the last day, celebrated on January 5th or 6th, became Twelfth Night. In some places, this marked the end of the Christmas season, which was followed immediately by Epiphanytide, which ran to Candlemas. In other places, however, the Christmas season ran straight through for forty days, from Christmas to Candlemas. In any case, twelfth Night marked the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Traditions for Twelfth Night vary greatly. In the fourteenth century, the English developed a form of holiday singing called wassailing. Revelers visited homes and exchanged drinks for gifts. Starting as early as the sixteenth century in England, people went into the fields and orchards to bring wassail (a toast of good health) to the apple trees. The trees supposedly housed faerie spirits, and men, splashing apple cider on the trees, called upon the spirits to awaken. A wassail king or queen led the procession from one orchard to the next. The revelers then lifted the wassail queen up into the branches of a tree, where she offered the tree spirit some pieces of toast, soaked in wassail. Then the people recited an incantation.

Wassail was a hot mulled punch, drunk from a wassail bowl. The earliest versions were made of mulled mead, into which crabapples were dropped. They called this concoction ‘lambswool’, though the origin of the name is uncertain. Sometime later, wassail became cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, topped with pieces of toast.

Twelfth Night used to fall on January 17 (before England adopted the Gregorian Calendar). Many people there still perform wassail ceremonies on that date.

St. Brigid’s Day

Celebrated on February 1, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, this feast generally marked the beginning of spring. This day was initially a Celtic feast called Imbolc, one of the four major fire festivals, or ‘quarter days’ (along with Beltain, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). On this day, the Cailleach—a hag in Celtic mythology— gathered her firewood for the winter. The Celts believed that the hag occasionally desired a longer winter and thus created fair weather on this day so she could gather more wood. Celts therefore hoped for foul weather on this day, as it would promise an early spring. In a strange way, it seems a bizarre forerunner of Groundhog’s Day.

As this day ushered in the spring, it became associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid (also known as Brig or Brigit), a goddess of spring, fertility, poetry, and metalworking. Stories also credit her with inventing the art of keening—producing a high-pitched song of mourning for the dead.

Just to make things more confusing, legends tell of an Irish nun, named Brigid, born in the fifth century. She supposedly became an abbess, performed several miracles, and founded a monastery/church at Kildare in Ireland. She built that church on the site of a pagan shrine, where priestesses of Brigid maintained an eternal flame. The legend tells that the Irish nun (later sainted) saw the flame as the light of Christianity arriving in Ireland. At some point, Christian chroniclers conflated this historical figure (if she ever really existed) with the pagan goddess of the same name. Thus, the early Church seems to have transformed a pagan goddess into a Christian saint. Old Father Christmas with a Bowl of Wassail Either as fire goddess or as Christian saint, she represented the arrival of the lighter half of the year.

As St. Brigid’s Day is immediately followed by Candlemas on February 2, Imbolc is sometimes mistakenly conflated with Candlemas.

On St. Brigid’s day, people sometimes lit candles to call forth the light of spring. Legends also told that St. Brigid walked the earth on Imbolc Eve. Thus, before going to bed, each member of the house could leave a piece of clothing outside for Brigid to bless. The head of the house would smother the fire and rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, people would look for signs of Brigid’s passage in the ashes. If she passed, the blessed pieces of cloth supposedly held powers of minor healing and protection. Such a piece of blessed cloth was called ‘Bratog Bride’.

Each girl and unmarried woman in the village could also make a corn doll called the Brideog. On St. Brigid’s Eve, men visited homes and treated each doll with great respect. The next day, people paraded their figures from house to house, while adult women remained at home to greet each band of visitors, often giving them coins or a snack.

Another tradition related to this day is that of St. Brigid’s cross. One of the faithful could gather some rushes, form a distinctive cross from them, and hang it in the home. In older days, the symbol welcomed Brigid into the home. In later centuries, it supposedly protected the home against fire. A Christian legend recounts the origin of the cross (at least the Christian variation). St. Brigid supposedly traveled to the home of a pagan chieftain, whose servants asked for her to come to teach their lord about Christ. When she arrived, he lay delirious and dying. She formed such a cross from rushes and placed it above the man’s bed. When he inquired about the cross, she explained and piqued his interest. Before he died, he asked to be baptized. Since that time, crosses made of rushes have been very popular in Ireland, alongside the shamrock and the harp.

Appendix 3: Lingering Effects of Pagan Magic

Optional Campaign Rules

Though this module is designed as a stand-alone adventure, a DM could easily incorporate this into his own world, especially if that world contains magical portals, like the one that the PCs supposedly encountered before they stumbled into the valley. In any case, if the players decide to keep the pre-generated characters OR if they use their own characters for this adventure, you can decide whether the characters suffer any lingering effects from their dalliance with pagan magic during this adventure.

In most D&D campaign settings, a polytheistic world is considered standard. Clerics and paladins may choose a god, but they usually recognize the existence of other deities and may even show respect for several gods besides their own patron. However, this need not be the case. If it is not, or if a PC cleric or paladin worships a jealous god, that PC may have to answer for his actions during the adventure, especially if he and his companions made use of pagan magic items to save their skins—at least those that somehow relate to the power of the Old Gods. For example, in my own campaign, Pholtus of the Blinding Light would be highly displeased if a PC cleric (devoted to him) were to use or to allow his companions to use any of the following items: Beast Masks, the Bough of Yuletide, the Crown of Holly, or the Periapt of Mistletoe. Of course, a DM could be even stricter, ruling that such a god disapproves of ALL magic that he does not somehow sanction. That is a bit extreme for standard D&D, but it is possible.

If the DM decides that a cleric or paladin is in trouble with his deity, allow him to learn of this in one of several ways. If the PCs is a cleric, he may not be able to cast any spells. Alternatively, he may not gain anything above 1st-level spells. Another option is to give him his full allotment of spells but assign a 50% chance of spell failure. Of course, any combination of these is also possible. If the PC is a paladin, he may not be able to detect evil or may not project his aura of protection from evil. Regardless of what the DM chooses, the PC should learn of his condition pretty quickly. Upon learning of his god’s displeasure, the PC might learn that he must convince a superior of his own faith to cast an atonement spell on him. If the god is displeased enough, he may also require the PC to undertake a quest for the faith.

Of course, the DM is also free to rule that PC clerics and paladins shall not be penalized for dabbling with pagan magic. The PC’s superiors may preach that the True Faith must overcome the Old Gods in any way that it can.

These options, which allow DMs and players to flesh out their campaigns a bit further, fit with the atmosphere that pervades the entire adventure—one that reflect the centuries-long struggle of the Christian faith to displace the lingering paganism in Northern Europe. During this whole period, pragmatists clashed with purists. For example, Pope Gregory I (540-604), who dispatched missionaries to convert the heathen Anglo-Saxons in England, urged his subordinates to oversee a slow transition from paganism to Christianity. In 597 A.D., in his letter to Abbot Mellitus, he ordered that temples be preserved, blessed, and rededicated as churches. He also ordered Mellitus to allow the pagans their traditional feasts, simply substituting Christ for ‘the Devil.’ In contrast, St. Boniface, called by some the ‘Apostle to the Germans.’ had little respect or patience for heathen holdovers. Born in recently Christianized England, Boniface led missionary expeditions to Frisia and Germany. According to one source, he ventured into what is now central Germany circa 724, seized an axe, and hacked down a sacred oak tree, using the wood to build a church on the site, which he then dedicated to St. Peter. With the aid of the Carolingians and their Frankish armies, he also took part in the Christianization of the Saxons, becoming the Bishop of Mainz circa 745 A.D. The story has a brutal end, for in 754 A.D., when Boniface was in Frisia, a band of vengeful pagans attacked the missionary’s camp and slaughtered them. The Old Gods did not always go quietly.

Credits

Design
Michael Garcia

Editing
Michael Garcia
Keri Garcia
Bryan Ray (website version)

Cover Art (print version)
Jim Roslof

Interior Art
XXX
Greg Parisi
Bryan Ray (website version)

Maps
Michael Garcia
Bryan Ray

Website Layout
Bryan Ray

Inspiration
Doug Smestad for the mad hermit, and for his insistence on making magic both mysterious and unique.

James Ward, Robert J. Kuntz, and Jim Rosloff for the Wild Hunt as it appears in Deities and Demigods (1980)

Design Feedback/Contributions
Greg Parisi and XXX
Mark Bruckard
M.J. Young, Bryan Ray, Eric VanDenhende, John Stiebro, Peter Hyvonen, and others at the Christian Gamers Guild

Play Testing
CJ Parisi, Craig Smestad, Charlie Trenka, maybe some CGG folks

December 2020

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