Friday, September 9, 2011

Adventure 7 - Seed of Evil

Continuing my series of September short adventures.

Horror Adventure 7 - Seed of Evil

A borderlands trade town on the edge of the wilds.

Strange things are happening in the trade town, a subtle contamination and poisoning.  After spending some time back in town, there are some things the characters will notice:  fruits and vegetable don't taste quite right; they're overripe and a bit unnatural.  The water tastes bitter, as is milk and beer.  Vermin appear unusual - rats are too large, insects are oddly shaped and also oversized.

No one leaves the trade town.  After a night's sleep, this effect applies to players characters as well; if they decide to head out, they need to attempt Saves vs Spells.  Otherwise,  shortly after reaching the gate, they find themselves back in a common area - their tavern, the market.  Time has slipped, and they have no memory of turning back.  As long as sufficient characters make their saves to drag the others out, they can leave.

Some of the buildings and streets glow faintly at night as if the stone and wood is infected.  If the characters begin to search the town for the source of these unusual events, they begin to discover the shriveled corpses of small animals; cottages and houses that seemed sturdier a few days ago appear crumbling; the horror escalates if they enter any of these structures and discover shriveling humans, confined to beds and chairs and slowly dying in place.

Mention a few times the unmoving figure of a wilderness traveler by a courtyard fountain; earlier in the adventure he blended in with the activity in the square and others sitting near the fountain, but as fewer people are out and about during the passing days, his unmoving presence becomes more obvious.

Months back, a meteor crashed in the deep forest.  The sage in the trade town hired explorers to retrieve the object for him and return it to his tower.

The meteor had splintered, and one of the small sections remained in the forest; it sucked the life out a section of the forest, creating a permanent blight a hundred feet across.  The druids learned that most of the meteorite was taken back to the human town.  They sent an agent of the woods to warn the humans, but it was already too late.

The idea behind this story is explicitly based on The Colour Out of Space, an HP Lovecraft story.  One interpretation of The Colour shows up in Goblinoid's Realms of Crawling Chaos; one facet of the entity omitted in the Goblinoid stats is the ever-increasing malaise and apathy the Colour generates, preventing victims from leaving the area until they slip into death.  I'd add that characteristic to the description, and be fine using the Goblinoid write-up.  Brought into a settlement, an entity like the Colour is deadly, draining life from everything around.

If the characters discover the figure sitting by the fountain, they'll learn that he's a druid a sent by the council of the woods to warn the settlement about the dangers posed by the meteorite.  He's unable to go on, but the characters will know  the sage's small tower is the next stop.  Alternatively, their own searches would have identified that the eerie nighttime luminescence is strongest near the sage's tower, or just choose the tower as a good place to kick in a door.

Inside, the sage was the first victim; the entire laboratory is bathed in a sickening purplish light, and when the sage stands to greet the characters, he literally crumbles before their eyes.  The meteor has crumbled as well,  and the entity is all around, dispersed as an intangible, gaseous light.

In the literature, the Colour Out of Space is an implacable entity that drops from the stars, sucks the life out of an area, and returns to the stars (perhaps that's part of it's lifecycle - none can say).  The Colour is intangible energy, so there's no apparent way to drive it off early, and  containment is not an option - but in a world with magic and creative spell options, clever players will come up with something.  Otherwise, the explicit theme of a Colour Out of Space style story is bleak inevitability.  Once the characters discover the source of the malaise in the trade town, the DM might consider bonuses on their saving throws to leave.  Otherwise, the town can't be saved; the crumbling ruins of the town will be a lifeless blight hereafter.

Locale:  a borderlands village or town
NPCs:  the druid
Monsters:  The Colour Out of Space
Artifacts: none

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

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