Thursday, September 8, 2011

Adventure 6 - The Ghoul Gate

Continuing the series of September Short Adventures

Horror Adventure 6 - The Ghoul Gate
A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
-Hamlet

PLACEMENT
A town with a very large, very old graveyard.  The son of a cook skips his chores to spend time in the graveyard.

SETTING THE SCENE
The meal is ruined!  (What meal?)  It doesn't matter - it could happen any time the players are with a patron or some fellow of standing who has a reason to feast the characters or celebrate with them.  The host is terribly upset; the host's servant - the cook - is furious and apologetic; he sent his son out for some key ingredients, and he's hours late.  That boy will have the beating of a lifetime, the cook swears.  In the meantime, the boy had a delicious stew in the back he offers instead.

The boy has been spending more and more time wandering the vast, ruined graveyard in the town, forgetting his chores.  Is that where he gets his radical ideas of freedom and equal rights, wonders the host?  Perhaps he meets a secret mentor there - a demagogue of low character?  The host wonders if the characters would be interested in surreptitiously following the lad - perhaps various wagers are offered on what they'll find?

WHAT'S GOING ON?
Tired of an abusive father, despairing of the peasant's lot in life and a dead-end future, the boy had taken to wandering the cemetery, ruminating on mortality.    On one of these nocturnal wanderings, he met a ghoul; something in the boy's despair convinced the creature to bring him to the other side.  The ghouls have an unusually egalitarian view of the world, and ghoul philosophy has been revelation.  Now, they are close to finishing the ghoul transformation process.

Ghouls are monstrous humanoids from "Elsewhere" that steal into cemeteries in the mortal world via "Ghoul  Gates" to devour corpses.  Through arcane rituals they can bestow the ghoul transformation on humans.  (More on Lovecraft ghouls can be found in Realms of Crawling Chaos, and this story borrows additional ideas from Neil Gaiman).

The boy sneaks into the graveyard when he can, opening the ghoul gate with a few magic phrases.  Depending how closely they follow and their success at stealth, a party might catch sight of him disappearing into a crumbling mausoleum, there's a brief flash of light as the gate opens, and then he's through.

RESOLUTIONS
How things shake out is open-ended and needs to depend on the player choices.  Will the characters cross into the other world and confront the ghoul and the boy, attacking the monster on sight?  Would they let the boy complete the transformation and keep it secret?  Is a future as a serf, and life with an abusive father, worse than becoming a "monster"?

The ghoul gate leads deep in the otherworld, eventually descending to Ghulheim, the city of the ghouls.
For a malicious twist, part of the ghoul transformation ritual could involve eating the delicious secret stew the characters were served.  Blech.  (Gauge your group's sense of disgust).

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Locales:  A patron's house, a sprawling graveyard
NPCs:  A patron, his cook, the boy
Monsters:  A philosophical ghoul
Artifacts:  the ghoul gate

OTHER OSR BLOGS:
Here's a handy link to all the OSR blogs taking part in the challenge - 25 adventures in September: