[Carrion Crown] The Scouring of Harrowstone

Carrion Crown: The Haunting of Harrowstone coverWe played this session of Carrion Crown last week, but my trip to PAX East precluded writing it up in time for Actual Play Friday. As scheduling prevented the group from playing this week, as of this post everything is sorted and all caught up.

The fellowship was diminished this week as the Dan passed into the south of Vermont. Annie (Grift), a Dan (Sir Horace Gunderson), Toby (Solis and his eidolon Gea) and Tyler (Alexandros Callimachi) and Hunter convened to carry on the campaign Carrion Crown and maybe, just maybe, complete The Haunting of Harrowstone.

With one half of Harrowstone’s subterranean corridors plumbed and four of its five notorious ghosts laid to rest, the adventurers turn their attention to Reaper’s Hold, the western cell block — which also boasts the prison’s torture chamber. While Sir Horace and Callimachi poke with horrified fascination at the dessicated occupant of a derelict rack, Solis and his eidolon Gea do something useful: discover a secret door in the eastern wall.[1] The narrow corridor snakes off to the east. Perhaps to the domain of the Splatterman?

Grift is preoccupied with the iron maiden gracing one corner of the chamber. Opening it, the youth finds his old mentor Mundungus trapped inside, crying out in pain. Grift launches himself inside to save his friend, moving too quickly for the watchful Gunderson’s outstretched hand to do more than futilely grasp for his collar.[2]

Tortured screams ring hollowly from within the iron maiden. The sound of rending flesh and dripping vital fluids aren’t completely muffled by the iron walls of the torture device. Gunderson and Callimachi futilely pry at the doors of the iron maiden with branding irons. Pounding from within prompts them to redouble their efforts, sure Grift suffers within. The doors spring open as though the force holding them shut has melted away. Grift strolls out completely unharmed and only slightly disheveled.

“I think the remains need to be put to rest.”
“To the privy!”
— Callimachi and Sir Horace

As everyone catches their breath, the realization dawns that the body on the rack might be that of Warden Hawkran.[3] The prisoners clearly had their “fun” with him in the time left to them before suffocating in the fire. The presence of a tarnished badge and ring of rusty keys on the body’s belt confirm this must have been Hawkran. Remembering both Vessoriana’s vague notions of needing the badge to hold back the ghosts of Harrowstone and the alluring yet firmly locked safe in the warden’s office, badge and keys are swiftly pocketed.

The skittering sound of claws on masonry go unnoticed as everyone clusters around the rack. Only the rush of air heralds the attack of disembodied hands. One firmly clamps itself around Callimachi’s throat, while the second targets Solis. Sir Horace leaps to help Callimachi by spearing the hand with Corvelle Seamripper — and does so, after a few near misses that concern Callimachi a bit more than the thing throttling the life out of him. Grift and Gea peck away at the animated limb menacing Solis, but it’s Horace who puts the thing to rest with a crushing blow.

The secret door from the torture chamber leads to a natural cavern. The steady drip of water in some dank corner is the only sound, save the breath of the living. As one, they notice the undulating white substance within the water. It’s an ooze of some kind, which quickly notices the presence of intruders and moves to attack.

The first order of business is backing up. Grift and Callimachi lead the charge of the sensible and Horace follows suit. Darius elects to stand his ground against the gray ooze. The monster ignores Darius, attacking Solis instead. Gea, predictably, retaliates on behalf of her summoner.

Emboldened by the others, Grift leaps back into the fray. Callimachi follows suit, launching crossbow bolts from a distance. It turns out oozes are ridiculously easy to hit.[4] Once it’s dispatched, the group tends its wounds and presses on.

The cramped passageway ends in a small door that must deposit them somewhere in the southern cell block. The Splatterman must be somewhere beyond it. And he may be the worst of the five, as he seemed to be able to reach beyond the prison to begin his arcane scrawling on the statue of the warden. Before releasing the catches, anyone with a bit of magic or supernatural ability to draw on does so. Bless, guidance, hide from undead, magic weapon are among those cast. Carfax St. James and Solis receive the benefit of the hide from undead scrolls carried all this time since retrieving Lorrimor’s cache — was that really only a day or two ago?

Finally, psychologically and mystically fortified, they release the catches on the secret door and slip out into the hallway. The southern hallway is much like the northern: a rectangle of cells around an oubliette in the center of the floor. However, this oubliette is flooded to the very top. It’s perfectly still and quiet in the cell block. This is not what anyone expected when they burst forth from the secret passage, weapons brandished.

Without warning, the walls begin to drip blood. To each creature in the room, the blood on one section of wall or another takes the shape of the letters of their name, slowly forming one at a time. Everyone is seized by the conviction that when their names are spelled in full, they will immediately die. As one, they set to obliterating the letters before their names can be completely spelled out. Already their minds seem to fail as the first letter finishes forming.[4] Callimachi washes his letter away with create water. The others scratch and scrabble at the stone. Gea beats her head against the wall. The stressed timbers of the ceiling creak menacingly over the frenzy of activity.

“At 9 or less, you start making poor life choices.”
— on the deprivation of Wisdom

Grift sets fire to the Splatterman’s spellbook with spark. The dry pages of the tome burn easily, but destroying the symbol of the ghost doesn’t seem to have much effect on the haunt embroiling them all. Each time they’re scrubbed away, the bloody letters slowly form again and again. The relentless pounding of those sure they are about to die loosens the ceiling timbers completely, bringing down the roof down upon their heads. Some roll free of the debris. Sir Horace seems to take the worst of the collapse of them all.

The water in the oubliette doesn’t even time to settle from the disturbance before it roils of its own accord. A spectral form rears up from the depths. One glance from the archivist’s archivist, Darius Carfax St. James, confirms it’s a ghost. Who else can it be but the Splatterman himself?

For his first trick, the ghostly wizard drains Gea of all her life force. Normally, this would send the eidolon back to her own corner of reality, but Solis sacrifices of himself to keep his companion by his side and in the fight. Darius lands the first hit, shedding his shroud against the undead to enter the fray.

The Splatterman responds by launching a volley of magic missiles at the four he can perceive, then commences to zoom through the cells all around the block, presenting a difficult moving target. He’s so difficult, in fact, that almost every shot and blow goes wide. Clearly relishing his superiority, the Splatterman calls up a pack of dire rats to make things more interesting. The adventurers swat at the rats and peck away at the ghost until finally, Gea seizes the ghost in her jaws and pulps it into ectoplasm.

Known for the copious amount of wind his barrel chest can issue, Sir Horace is chosen to make the dive down into the oubliette, where presumably the Splatterman’s mortal remains and potential items of interest remain. Firmly setting their newfound rope of climbing in place, Gunderson plunges down into the stagnant water, his way lit by a series of light ensorceled stones.Gunderson returns to the surface clutching three things: a curiously unblemished dagger, a tarnished ring and a grimy wand.

“What do you mean three items? Two items.”
— Sir Horace Gunderson

Out of a sense of thoroughness, they check the guard room of the southern cell block. It’s empty, save for the broken winch mechanism of the dropped portcullis.

Returning to the surface, the group makes tracks straight for the room holding Vessoriana’s remains. The azure spirit murmurs all the voices are gone as she reaches out for the badge. The radiance of the ghostly lady brightens, lifting from blue up to blinding white. When the light fades, she is gone. The badge continues to hang in the air, turning slowly. Grift reaches up and gently plucks it. Inspections reveals the badge has the ability to grant ghost touch to certain magical spells.[5]

The keys open the warden’s safe. Inside they find paper, potions and silver. On recovering the bodies of Hawkran and Vessoriana and retrieving their cache of recovered items from the property room, the travelers emerge from the prison of Harrowstone into the light of day.

“This constant objectification of women is getting me down.”
“I don’t know. It’s getting me up.”
— Toby and Annie

On returning to the village proper, the first stop is at the temple of Pharasma. The remains of the warden and his wife are entrusted with the priests for final rites and interring. The group briefly confers with Father Grimbarrow, informing him of the goings on at the prison. When Solis brings up the debt owed for the ghost-fighting tools provided by the temple, he waves it off as paid by the adventurer’s deeds in vanquishing the ghosts of Harrowstone. He also mentions that Gibbs, the local yahoo who made a ruckus at Professor Lorrimor’s funeral, was found daubing a big red E — an act he claims not to remember at all.

Back at the Lorrimor manor, everyone slumps into comfortable chairs. Solis does a handy job of identifying the magical properties of items recovered that day. The dagger is made of mithril, the ring provides a degree of protection against attack and the wand casts hold person. Though tired, everyone feels rather more stronger and vigorous than when the day began.[6]

Next time, we begin Trial of the Beast!

[1] Let’s be frank. It was probably Gea and her ridiculous(-ly helpful) 25-30 Perception results

[2] Not the first time Grift’s been singled out victim of a haunt.

[3] We figured that out in spite of five flubbed Perception rolls. What a merciful GM.

[4] I probably shouldn’t take my tactics from the Baldur’s Gate computer games, huh? Oozes were impossible in that game without carrying around a full complement of blunt weapons.

[4] Two points of Wisdom damage per letter, it seems.

[5] It functions as a rod of lesser ectoplasmic metamagic.

[6] Level 3, baby! We spent the rest of the evening picking out skills and spells.

2 thoughts on “[Carrion Crown] The Scouring of Harrowstone

  1. I’m running my own group through this AP. It’s nice to see other responses to the encounters. My group did their utmost to break through the portcullis to the oubliette, finding barriers to progress offensive to their natures.

    • I was completely bewildered on discovering the portcullis winch was broken. How were adventurers supposed to get through a stuck portcullis to the southern cell block?

      It goes to show that in a party of weaklings like ours, solutions like “knock it down” or “lift it up” simply don’t occur to us. We totally lucked out in finding the secret way through.

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