Yesterday I posted guidelines for creating characters for a 5th edition peasant meat grinder adventure. Today, I present to you, the meat grinder adventure that I ran.
Keep of the Bloody Countess
Countess Beaufort of Dorsetshire has tormented her people for generations. Using dark magic to prolong her life unnaturally, this witch has sent her beastmen and demons to kidnap people from Dornwary village for use in her dark experiments. The people of Dornwary have been passive all this time, weathering the infrequent attacks, but when the Countess kidnapped dozens, including the tavern keeper and his daughter, the survivors gathered up what they could and marched on the Witch's lair.
The keep is on a high peninsula, surrounded by white chalk cliffs that lead directly to the rough and dangerous coastline. The only way to approach is via a narrow land bridge.
Arm yourselves noble fighters! You freedom from Satan's minions can only be paid for in blood!
Area A- The Chalk-cliffed Causeway: As you approach the castle, you can hear the lashing waves below. Anyone who fell from these heights would surely die. The ruins of an old outpost block the way, consisting of little more than a half-collapsed stone arch and some low, ruined walls. Smoke from some unseen fire wafts the smell of cooking meat towards the party.
Inside the stone outpost are a pair of beastmen.
One of which has two heads (Advantage on perception checks), the other has the head of a spider.
The two-headed beastman has a javelin and a dagger, and the spider-headed beastman carries a spear and a horn, to raise the alarm.
They are gathered around a small fire, over which they are roasting gulls. They have a large clay jug of high proof liquor nearby. Two furs act as seats for the sentries, one is a partially eaten sheepskin, the other is a beautifully prepared dire fox pelt, easily worth 50 gold pieces.
Area B- The Castle Approach: 30 foot high and topped with severed heads on spikes, the gates make an impressive barrier to be overcome. A sturdy gate with a heavy, wooden portcullis blocks entry into the countyard. More beastmen lurk, just out of sight, if the hoots and bleats are anything to go by. A twisted tower sits in the middle of the courtyard, half collapsed on an earthen mound, leaking strange light and noxious smoke.
If an alarm has been raised, the beastmen have shut the portcullis, and the gate. Climbing the rain slicked walls is difficult, a DC 15 strength check, with advantage if there is a line. Failing the check means falling and taking 3d6 damage. Having a line allows a falling character to make a Dex save with a DC of 15, getting a DC of 10 or 5 reduces the damage by 2d6 or 1d6 respectively.
If the players move to the rear of the castle, read the following:
The walls at the castle's rear are much the same as those in the front, cyclopean and warlike. 20 feet down the cliffs appears to be a small cave that leads into the cliffs
Scaling down the cliff is easier, thanks to the rough surface of the cliffs and takes a DC 10 strength check, with advantage if there is a line. Failing the check means falling and taking 2d6 damage, except on a fumble which means the character has fallen into the sea below and vanishes from the adventure.
Area B-1- The Cliffside Cave: The white of the chalk cliffs blends with the white of gull feathers and droppings at the mouth of the cave. The cave is fairly wide, just shy of 5 feet across and leads back into the cliff face, extending past the castle walls. Wiry coastal plants have taken root in the long mounds of soil that have not been blown away by the sea air, and their growth extends nearly 15 feet back, as far as you can see.
Entering the cave requires characters to push past the brush. Characters, if you inquire, may make a DC 16 Int check to identify the plants as 'Sleep Cotton' an invasive plant that has grown in the region for a few decades. Any fire they encounter will burn away the outer bark, releasing soporific pollen. Once unconscious, the pollen will continue to accumulate on them, suffocating them. Covering the mouth and nose with a damp cloth will prevent the plant from affecting you, or a DC 18 Con check. After 15 feet of Sleep Cotton plants, there is a small chamber, almost 10 feet around, which leads into a 40 foot tunnel that comes up into the courtyard behind the chapel. The end of the tunnel in the courtyard is blocked by a chunk of stone, removing it requires a DC 15 strength check. If characters enter the chamber, or set the Sleep Cotton ablaze, they are beset by the skeletal guardians lurking inside.
Disturbing the soil mounds reveal mounds of human, beastman, and bird bones, just under the surface. Searching all the mounds reveals a powder horn and silver bullets for five shots, a suit of totally rusted platemail with a functional helmet and shield, a longsword, a magic ring that grants access to the firebolt spell (functioning off of Intelligence), and 1d4 green bandages in a steel box. This bandages, when applied to a wound, heal 1d4+1 hit points.
Skeletal Guardians (3)
Area C- Castle Walls: The wind is much stronger on the walls. Motheaten banners seem to barely move in the wind, until they snap like a whip as the wind shifts. The salt air barely covers the stench of fur and filth. Looking into the courtyard below reveals a small chapel with boarded-up windows, the Countess's tower, and a makeshift mass of tents. Behind the tents, against the walls are a series of bone and wood cages, holding the multitude of captured villagers. Still more cages are empty. The inside of the castle walls are pockmarked with irregularly space large conical holes in the masonry.
Two beastmen guard the walls. One carries a sling, a brush knife, and 25 sling bullets, they have a head with curling ram's horns and bulbous eyes. Their skin is covered in feathers.
The other carries a shortbow and 10 arrows and has the head of a horse, shrunken and gaunt.
The gatehouse has stairs leading down to the ground level as well as a device to lower and raise the portcullis. If the beastmen notice the intruders, they will drop the portcullis. (Atk portcullis -5 melee; Dmg 1d6/round). A hero pinned by the portcullis takes ongoing damage each round until he dies or is freed (DC 23 Str check; alternately, 4 characters lifting together can hoist the portcullis if their combined Str exceeds 40). In the gatehouse is a wheel which can raise the portcullis with a DC 20 strength check, each extra participant (up to 3) lowers the DC by 5. Climbing down the inner side of the wall is identical to climbing the outer side. Inside a hidden compartment carved in the bottom of the wheel, noticeable only if the characters take time to search the wheel specifically, if a Ring of Invisibility (Use a bonus action to become invisible until making an attack or casting a spell)
Area D- The Beastman Camp: This cluster of rough hide tents, built on the foundation of some long destroyed structure, shelter a collection of well crafted cages. The cages are made from bone and wood, and tied with cord of unknown origin. While you can see many of the kidnapped villagers, the innkeep and his daughter are missing. A disheveled mob of animal headed monsters stand between you and the people you came to rescue.
If the alarm was raised, the beastmen engage as soon as they see the party, otherwise, they are gathered in camp, tormenting the captives, eating, and getting drunk. The beastmen are arranged as such:
2 Dog-headed beastmen with clubs (1d4 B) and shields
A Fly-headed Beastman wielding a musket in two hands like a club (1d8 B). Deals damage as musket to self on a fumble, breaks the musket on a crit.
A Beastman with a furry body and goat horns with a prominent pentagram carved on his forehead.
Has a large parasite on his left arm that looks like an enormous sea cucumber mixed with a sea snail, minus the shell. The creature projects balls of destructive energy. (Ranged weapon attack, 1d12 necrotic damage, drains 1 con point permanently with each use.)
A cyclopean beastman that constantly drools a tar-like black ooze wielding a crossbow and carrying 8 bolts.
The Beastman champion that studded leather armour, a shield and wields a spear. His head is that of a fox, with eight eyes. He wears a pentagram necklace and has shrunken heads affixed to his shield.
The locks on the cages are simple (DC 5 Dexterity checks with thieves tools, DC 15 without). The people inside are scared, tried, and injured and will only seek to go home. If one or more players have lost all their characters, they are able to replenish their mobs from the rescued characters. The rescued villagers have no gear, and will have to scavenge what they need from the dead.
Inside the tent closest to the gate (the Champion's tent) are two large jugs of liquor, and a silver ewer worth 15 gold.
In the two side tents are 1d20 copper and silver coins each (roll for each of the two tents). The leftmost tent contains a small clay flask that produces up to six gallons of fresh mayonnaise each day.
In the furthest tent, nearest to the cages, are 1d100 copper coins, a bronze statuette of a demon, and a magical rod made of enchanted silver and glass. It deals damage as a silvered mace (1d6 B) and, when activated casts a random magical effect.
Magical Rod (Puck's Finger):
0-15: Conjure a 10ft ladder that lasts until the rod is used a second time.
16-20: Fire copper coins at the target, +3 to hit, deals 1d8 bludgeoning damage. The damage dealt is how many coins are conjured (always at least 1 coin in conjured)
21-25: Heal target for 1d4+1 hit points
26-30: Allow the target to fly at a speed of 60ft per move action until the rod is used again.
31-33: The rod becomes a set of magical armour, making the caster's AC 18 until they use the rod again
34-38: Every living thing, except the caster, in a 20ft radius from the Rod takes 1d8 psychic damage
39-40: The caster and the target die
41-42: The target gains +1 to a random stat (roll 1d6 to determine) permanently
43-45: the target must make a DC 15 Con save or be petrified for 20 years
46-50: the caster must make a DC 15 Con save or be petrified for 1d6 rounds
51-60: Deal 1d6 (1- Fire, 2- Force, 3-Cold, 4- Thunder) damage in a 60ft line, DC 14 dex save halves damage
61-70: Increase AC of all allies in a 10ft radius by +1 until the rod is used again
71-73: Destroy all earthen materials in a 10ft radius around target
74-75: increase target speed by 10ft until the rod is used again
76-80: decrease target speed by half until the rod is used again
81-85: Bolt of Cold flies towards target, -1 to hit, 1d10 cold damage
86-90: An enormous magical fist hits the target +1 to hit, 1d6 force damage, attacks every round until the rod is used again
91-95: The sound of muted trumpets are heard
96-97: Target has resistance to the next attack made against it
98-99: Target's AC increases by 1, one stat increases by 1d4 (roll 1d6 to determine), and their speed increases by 30ft, permanently
Area E- The Chapel: The chapel is a simple structure, cross-shaped but modest. What were once stained glass windows, showing the deeds of saints, are now covered in old and rotting wooden boards. The double doors that form the chapel's only entrance are sturdy and well maintained but barred from the outside.
The doors and windows have a fine line of silver dust along them that is only apparent when someone specifically searches the sills or doorframe. If the characters peek inside, read the following description.
The pews in the church are all smashed to splinters. Laying, back to the altar, is a skeletal corpse, dressed in stained vestments and wearing fine armour. Atop the altar is a chest, brimming with gold and silver treasure.
There is a Shadow inside the Chapel, kept bound by the enchanted silver dust on the windows and doors. It will wait to attack until someone approaches the gold, prioritizing the weak or injured.
The skeletal body is carrying a mace (1d8 B) and wearing a breastplate. The chest contains 142 GP and 380 SP. As well as 8 silver goblets and vases worth 25 GP a piece.
Area F- The Countess's Tower: Only three stories of the tower remain intact, the fourth is partially crumbled, and the debris from the other levels is scattered around the building. The tower is sealed with a sturdy wooden door
Climbing the tower requires a DC 20 strength check with advantage if the player characters have 60ft of line and some means of anchoring it at the top. Breaking the door down requires a DC 20 strength check. Alternately, anyone with an axe or hammer can destroy it with 5 minutes of effort. Attempting to burn the door down requires fuel and a full hour of burn time.
Area F-1 – The First Floor: The tower smells of mold and copper. A set of stairs to the left lead upwards to the other levels of the tower. The room is dominated by a large round table sitting on a threadbare, round, red carpet. Cooking equipment and food supplies sit near a fireplace on the far side of the room. The room is lit by green flames in scones. On the right are several large planters, including one in which a large, grey skinned humanoid is attempting to hide.
Inside the planter is Lorm, The Countess's Orcish manservant. He wields a shovel and will be very surprised when he is noticed, hiding in the planter. If captured, he will sell out the demon on the third floor. He will also tell the group that the Countess is on the third floor if they ask. At the top of the stairs, the door to the next floor is unlocked, but is of similar construction to the front door and may be unlocked.
A trapdoor under the rug leads to Area G
Area F-2 – The Second Floor: This room has been gutted, the sconces have been torn from the wall, and massive mounds of dirt line the floor. Strange plants cover every single mound. Some glow with an internal light, some resemble skulls or bodies, and some appear to be made of strange materials, such as metal or glass. On the far side of the room, stair lead up to the third floor.
The plants are rather tame, as long as they are not disturbed. Players may make DC 10 Intelligence checks to gather these rare plants, each check netting them 15 GP worth. On a failed check, the character takes 1d4 poison damage. They may safely make 1d10 checks. The next check they make, or fail means they pull up a mandrake. The mandrake is worth 50 GP, but everyone in the room must make a DC 15 Wisdom save, or die instantly, with no chance of recovery.
Area F-3 – The Third Floor: This floor is an opulent and imperial bedroom, filled with rich mahogany furniture and draped in fine silks. The mahogany is dusty, and the silks moth eaten. A raven sits in an open birdcage near the arrow-slit window on the back end of the room. A set of partially collapsed stairs opposite lead up to the fourth floor, but it is blocked by rubble.
The Raven in the cage is the Countess's Imp familiar. A DC 10 Wisdom check reveals the Countess's jewelry box, the entire collection is worth 100 GP and includes a necklace that grants +1 AC. The silks and clothing are worth an additional 50 GP if 10 minutes is taken to sort through them, or everything is taken. Clearing the rubble requires a DC 15 Strength check. Each attempt requires 10 minutes.
Area F-4 – The Fourth Floor: It is impossible to tell what this room used to be, the walls have been destroyed. The remains of a staircase sit along one side of the wall, leading to nowhere. Moss grows on almost every exposed surface. The staircase down is partially collapsed and filled with rubble.
Clearing the rubble requires a DC 15 Strength check. Each attempt requires 10 minutes. Climbing down the tower a DC 20 strength check with advantage if the player characters have 60ft of line.
Area G – The Demon Pit. Under the trap door is a dark passage leading downwards. Floating chunks of basalt form a spiral staircase around the pit. The sound of chanting and an unearthly light spill out from below.
To descend requires a DC 5 Dexterity check to avoid slipping on the slick basalt. Failure means a 60ft fall.
Once they descend read the following if the alarm was raised:
The Countess stands next to the chained forms of the innkeeper and his daughter, a sacrificial knife in her withered hands. Beside her is a grey-skinned pig headed man with a musket. The room is cast in dusky illumination by five black candles, burning at the points of a pentagram, and a strange glowing portal in the middle of the pentagram. Two creatures, shaped like the vague suggestion of a human, pull themselves from the pit.
If they managed to avoid raising an alarm:
The room is lit only by three black candles in a candelabra. The grey hand of a pig-headed servant holds the light above an iron tub, filled with blood. On the periphery, of the light, two corpses are being rapidly consumed by creatures with the colour of rancid fat and only the vaguest inkling of a human form. The burnt stubs of candles still gently smoke at the points of a pentegram.
The Countess, if the innkeeper and his daughter are still alive, will threaten their lives, and offer one of them, if the characters leave.
If the innkeeper and daughter are dead, then the Countess will be out of the fight for 1d8 rounds as she regains her youth.
Once the Countess is killed, the characters have mere minutes to escape the peninsula as it collapses into the sea.
The formatting on these monsters isn't perfect, but these skeletons should provide an outline on what the monster's capabilities are. I'm not sure on the armour class of the Beastman Champion, the players had a hard time hitting it, and that made the fight against it kinda drag.
Beastmen: Init +1 HP 3
Spider Head Atk spear +0 melee (1d6) AC 12.
Two Head Atk Javelin +0 ranged (1d6), Dagger +1 melee (1d4+1) AC 12
Horns Atk Sling +1 Ranged (1d4+1), Brush Knife +0 melee (1d4) AC 12
Horse Atk Shortbow +1 Ranged (1d6+1) AC 12
Dog Head Atk Club +0 Melee (1d4+0) AC 14
Fly Head Musket/Club +0 Melee (1d8) AC 12
Goat Horns Parasite Atk +1 Ranged (1d12 necrotic) AC 12 (drains 1 con point permanently with each use)
Drool Crossbow Atk +1 Ranged (1d8) AC 12
Beastman Champion: Init +1 HP 11
Atk Spear (1d6+2) AC 16
Skeletal Guardian: Init: +2 HP 6
Atk: Club +1 melee (1d4+1) AC 13
Vulnerable to Bludgeoning, Resistant to Piercing
Orc: Init +1, HP 8. AC 11
Atk Shovel +1 (1d8+1)
Atk Musket -1 (1d12)
Lemure: Init -2, HP 16, AC 7
Atk Slam (1d4)
Imp: Init +3 HP 10, AC 13
Atk: Sting +5 (1d4-1) Con save 11 or 3d6 Poison damage as well
Resist Non-silvered or non-magic weapons
May turn invisible as a bonus action.
Shadow: Init +2, HP 16, AC 12
Atk Strength Drain +4 (2d6 Necrotic, Strength reduced by 1d4) If this attack kills, target reanimates as Shadow in 1d4 hours
Takes 1d6 damage per round in sunlight. Can hide in darkness as a bonus action
Resist non-magical attacks, vulnerable to radiant
The Countess: Inti +0, HP 8, AC 10
Atk Eldritch Blast +5 (1d10+3)
Atk Ritual Knife +1 (1d4+1)