OSR Experiments #13: Turning the Haunted Keep into a Story

It struck me that the Dungeon is such a central part of the Dungeons & Dragons game. At least in the old versions. Sure, it's in the name of the game. But that's also true of Dark Dungeon. And underground mazes and dungeons are not by long as important there. Maybe I should rename my game Dark Adventure.
The Haunted Keep example in D&D basic is such a dungeon. And not a full adventure in DD style. So, I figured that if I changed around the stats of Haunted Keep to DD, maybe I should also try to do more. I should also make Haunted Keep into a real adventure with scenes, instead of a dungeon. Hat's what I'll do here.

Basic premise of the haunted keep is that the heroes have to rescue their family and friends from the claws of goblin raiders who hide in the forementioned keep. The keep was once the castle of the Rodemus family, who now turned into wererats because of a curse.

Adversaries: The Rodemus Wererats
So far so good. A DD adventure needs an adversary, and we have one in the goblins, but also in the wererats. Let's say that the goblins worship a wererat god, who is actually one of the Rodemusses gone mad because of his condition. Let's call him Uomo Muris, literally the “Rat Man”. He was once the proud Sir Peter Rodemus, but bitten by an infected creature he turned into a horrible wererat. Now he tries to refind his humanity with magickal rituals, for which he needs human guinea pigs. And that's where the goblins come in. They go out to get the guinea pigs for him.

And for Uomo's family, because once he became a wererat, he went on biting his wife and children and staff. And if they weren't killed they turned into daylight shunning wererats too. So we have a whole lair of monstrous Rodemusses. Sometimes they look like redeyed humans, with strange habits, hiding underground in damp chambers. Then they might seem almost normal, and tell you about their better times, or the sad nature of their condition. But often they change into horrendous humanoids with ratty heads and tails, who climb walls and ceilings, and preferably eat you alive. Especially when the full moon is there, their schizophrenia strikes and they become utterly evil.

Stakes: The Relatives
The second ingredient for an adventure, the stakes, are also there. Relatives of the heroes will be kidnapped. And they will be used in dastardly rituals, or eaten with salt and pepper, if they are not saved in time. If we can, we need to make this hook quite strong. The relatives need real names and faces. Perhaps w can even make up some special memories the heroes share with them. Like how Morgan often played with her brother Paul that they captured goblins. Or how Sister Rebecca and her sister Sophia met Silverleaf the elf for the first time in the woods, how they became friends, and how Sophia cared for them both when they had food poisoning. Or something along these lines.

Beginning: The Kidnapping
A cool adventure often has a cool beginning. Here I'd like to start with a special reunion in the woods. Friends Morgan and Rebecca, together with Silverleaf and Fredrik the Dwarf, have a picknick with brother Paul, sister Sophia, and some of the other friends of the village. Let's call them John, Thomas, Nash, Miriam and gramps Jacob. They have a great time in the evening, until John had a little too much to drink and starts to pick a fight with Tom about Miriam. When (and if) the heroes try to intervene, Sophia strays off seeing something. And then the goblin raiders strike. Riding wolves.

Naturally there should be way too many goblins, and somehow the heroes should be diverted. Maybe by a very strong group of hobgoblins, or even by a ratty creature that leads them. In any case, at least some of the friends and relatives ought to end up kidnapped – unless the heroes do uncommonly well. In that case the same raiders will have struck the home village too, and taken the other relatives.

If all goes well, such a beginning should set off the adventure well. Hopefully the heroes will try to track and follow the goblin party, and so reach the Haunted Keep when night has fallen. An excellent time for scary scenes.

Ending Scene: Confrontation with the Rodemuses
I always like to have an idea where I'm ultimately heading in my adventure. Even if I end up somewhere else, it helps me push the heroes in the right direction. So here obviously, the heroes will have to rescue their relatives and slug it out with Uomo. What better place to do so than in one of his experiments, in his laboratory?

Uomo, the former Sir Peter Rodemus, has a Frankenstein-like facility built underground, with several chambers and all sorts of devices. Devices which may look like torture chairs, chemical distileries, or medical instruments. Chambers full of them. With a special pit to dispose of human remains left after failed experiments. Failed experiments he has a lot of, because he's really not a very succesful alchemist, mage or scientist. So that's what I'll aim for. The heroes confront the Rodemus scientist in his own laboratory, while he is going to drain all the blood from their favorite brother and sister.

This is a gruesome adventure! Moldvay's Basic D&D brings out cruel imagination in me.

Capture Scenes?
How the heroes end up in this situation, I don't know yet. It depends on what they do. They could be captured themselves, and be bound in special chairs to watch what Rodemus does to their family. Then the heroes will have to escape in time too. Maybe because they receive help from Rodemus' his daughter who also is a wererat, but who has more goodness left in her. She then hands them the keys to get out and may even fight her father too. Ah, the tragedy! I like that option.

But how do the heroes end up captured? I can think of at least two possible scenes in which that could happen.

Capture Scene #A:
The heroes work their way past the goblins who have their quarters in the ruins, and find their way down into the chambers and tunnels below the old keep. Here they encounter several humans who are just as shocked to meet the heroes as the other way around. They look like adventurers, and tell that they were running from the goblins down here. They saw how the goblins captured people and killed them for food, so they hid themselves. And they also say they managed to free several others, who were captured by the goblins. Family members of the heroes, obviously. If the heroes want, they can be reunited. And perhaps then they can all together go to the surface – now the goblins are dealt with.
[If the goblins are not dealt with, but the heroes just broke through, they will hide together.]
“Oh yeah, almost forgot to introduce myself”, the leader of the refugees says, “I'm William, William Rodemus”.

And the heroes are led more or less straight into a trap.

Capture Scene #B:
The heroes observe how the top goblins are negotiating with a nasty ratheaded humanoid. The goblins seem to be selling captives to the werecreature. When the heroes try to intervene, rats appear from everywhere, and the wererat threatens to kill the captives unless the heroes drop their weapons.

More crude, but also a possibility.

Actually, there are many scenes one could think of in between. Let me know what you think. Worth running the Haunted Keep this way? Story Style?

1 comment:

  1. I'm not that fond of capture scenes (preplanned ones anyway) so I would rate that a weakness of the scenario. No matter how nicely you script this, establishing beforehand the heroes will be captured is just railroading. It hardly ever works because most players resent having to sit back and let the GM "dictate" the scene to them.

    Oh and the NPC daughter fighting her own father? Hm, it's okay-ish but it would be much better if it were a *PC* who ends up fighting her old man. Talk about railroading scripts...well that one I _would_ try to sneak in! ;-)