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An example of Horror

Here's the example of a night's play that did well on the horror side. The module was Ravenloft, but I added some elements to the town. Tristan is a cleric, Sniffinpuff a thief, Modom a dwarven fighter, Dexter a human fighter, and Arthur -- an NPC Paladin.

This example incorporates all of the elements that I mentioned before: surprises, lethality, helplessness, taking away options, and pacing. The game itself lasted about 2.5. hours.

The Village of Barovia

The village seemed deserted. The houses were old and run-down, and the windows were all boarded up. However, at a few houses, listening at the doors found muffled whispers inside. Pounding on the door produced no answers, save for the cessation of whispers inside. Strangely enough, most of the houses seemed to have claw marks on the wood and stone.

Continuing on, the party found an open square with a brackish fountain in the middle. Streets radiated out from it. However, more interesting to the group was a dim light from a largish building. The sign on the building read "Blood on the Vine", and it seemed to be an inn. Going inside, they found 10-12 people huddled around a dim fire and the barkeep polishing glasses.

Little was learned from the people at the inn, save that death walked the night and they had best stay inside. When a cut-off scream echoed through town, the villagers seemed to huddle together even more. When the party went outside to investigate, they could not tell where the scream had come from, and so went back in and passed an uncomfortable night on the floors of the inn.

The next day, they searched the town. They found the body of the woman who screamed the night before. It seemed drained of blood, with it's throat ripped out. Strangely, there did not seem to be many blood stains near where she fell.

The group also found a church, broken and battered, with a cemetery behind it. Far above, they could see a 1000' precipice and at the top, the hint of a castle looking over the town.

Inside the church, it was a shambles save for the altar. At the altar was a cadaverous priest who whispered prayers in a hoarse and weak voice. The party questioned him as they tried to clean up the church. They found out the following:

- The priest's name was Danovich. He had lived here all his life, and each night since his father died, had fought a lone battle against Evil. Each night, he prayed all night, eyes closed, as Evil fought against him for the sanctity of his church. So far, he had prevailed though he was weak with exhaustion, hunger, and terror.

- He did not know the name of his God, save that he was the God of the Sun. His father had never told him.

- He had lived here all his life, as had his father and grandfather before him. His father had died when he was six, cut down by the Evil which surrounded the church each night. Since then, he had struggled against the Evil each and every night, striving to preserve the one place of sanctity and sacredness in all of Barovia. He was in his 50's.

- The name of the Lord of the land was Strahd von Zarovich. He lived in Castle Ravenloft, far above the town. It was whispered by the town that *he * was the Evil which walked the night. Danovich had never seen the Evil One, yet he believed that it was Strahd as well.

- He believed that there was a book in the library of Ravenloft which told of the early days. Perhaps there was some clue in it that might help to destroy him. So had said his father before he died.

The party decided that this night, they would protect the church as well. They spent the day preparing barricades and sharpening their weapons. When night fell, they were confident that they would destroy that which was plaguing this town.

The Battle for the Church

As night fell, the mists drew in thicker and closer. However, they stayed away from the walls and inside of the ruined church. The party set up continual light rods around the inside of the church. At the stroke of midnight, pale translucent shapes oozed out of the graves in the cemetery, Swirling around the church, they fled through it and down the road. As the party watched, they disappeared down the road that supposedly led to the castle.

As they were watching, they noticed a tongue of the mist stretching towards the broken doors of the church. At the same time, their continual light rods dimmed and flickered out. Shouting, they took their places: Modom, Arthur, and Dexter at the barricade; Sniffinpuff high in the rafters; Tristan at the altar next to the priest.

The mist flowed through the gaping, ruined doors, a ground fog which stretched a mere 2' from the floor. Strangely thick, it separated into two streams that bypassed the group at the barricade and flowed into a swirling column near the altar that rose up to the blackened rafters. Arthur turned and ran back to the altar. The mist thickened, with winking blue lights inside of it, and then suddenly fell into a ground fog again. Behind the group at the altar stood a tall man, dressed in a black cloak with a high color. His eyes burned like red coals. He stretched his arm forth at Arthur and gestured at the kneeling priest.

Arthur turned and swung his sword high to strike at the unprotected back of the priest. His eyes gleamed with an unholy light. Tristan cast a *hold person* at Arthur and saw him stiffen into immobility. At the same time, Sniffinpuff fired off an *Arrow of Human Slaying *and missed. She fired an *Arrow of Orc Slaying *as well, and saw that strike the tall man. With a curse he faced her. The rest of the party charged towards him.

The tall pale man gestured at Sniffinpuff, and she fell from the rafters with a plop. In horror, the party saw that she had transformed into a toad. She hopped frantically out of the church into the night.

Meanwhile the group had surrounded the man. They jostled each other as they tried to strike at him, and none managed to hit him. He turned and stared at Dexter, gesturing towards the frozen form of the Paladin. Dexter swung his sword with all his might against the back of the Paladin, and dropped him with a crushed skull. Again, Tristan cast a *hold person,* against Dexter this time, and saw him stiffen into immobility as well. The battle was not going well -- nearly half of the party was out of action, and the man had barely been scratched.

With a snarl, the man swung towards Modom and gestured at the priest. Modom swung towards him and crashed his axe into the skull of Danovich, dropping him instantly. Tristan cast a *protection from evil *against Modom and watched him grind to a halt as the power giving him orders subsided. Only Tristan stood between the man and the rest of the party. With horror, he saw the remains of the priest begin to stir and then rise as a zombie.

The zombie attacked Tristan, swiping with his clawed hands, and missing. Tristan swung back to the tall man, only to see him gesture again ... and this time Tristan was caught up in webs and lay there helplessly as the tall man with burning eyes slowly advanced towards him. Modom attacked with fervor and managed to drop the zombie.

The tall man bent over the helpless Tristan, his mouth stretched into a grimace of hate and lust. His teeth were pointed, his eyes burning coals, and slaver dripped from his mouth onto Tristan. Tristan struggled helplessly against the webbing, trying desperately to escape.

Modom swung his axe against the unprotected back of the man, only to see it bounce off uselessly. The man straightened with a snarl, and slashed with his talons against Modom's face... it burned like acid had splashed him and Modom felt a piece of his soul shrivel and decay. He swung again, missing. Tristan watched, trying frantically to somehow to free himself.

Modom swung again, and missed again. But the tall man had swung away from Modom and was staring fixedly at the wall of the church... where Tristan suddenly saw a slight glow surrounding the Holy Symbol of Pelor... and that the old priest had somehow stretched forth his arm towards it.

With a barking laugh, the man dissolved into the mist, and the party watched it flow out of the door. The glow faded from the Holy Symbol, and Tristan noticed that the old priest's arm was limp.

The battle was done, and the priest of the Sun was dead. The Church, and all of Barovia, was unprotected against the Evil that pressed against it.


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