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Fill In The Gap

With Friends Like These...

by Matt Turnbull
Nov 22,2004

 

Welcome to Fill in The Gap, a column devoted to individual, "one-off" scenarios, that any GM can run for his/her group.

This month, we're delving into a fantasy adventure, complete with giant bats, rats, skeletons, and more haunted dungeon crawling than you can shake a stick at.

Quick system addendum for this month: Critters! NPCs that are built for combat, or 'critters' as I dub them, are something you'll need to provide statistics for from your system. I'll describe a toughness rating for them, from 1-10 (much like the various attributes and skills,) it's up to you to quantify that in your game.

If you need to know more about the FITG(Fill in The Gap) system/column, please check out the first of these monthly columns. Without further ado, I bring you today's scenario:

With Friends Like These...

Much like last month's scenario, "With Friends like These..." depends on a feeling of mystery. If your GM is going to run this campaign for you at some point, I recommend turning tail now.

"With Friends Like These..." is a scenario for 5 players.

A group of adventurers have broken into a demented undead Lord Vampire's haunted mansion. They are searching the mansion room by room for him, with intent to destroy him! However, some of the characters may have a hidden agenda...

The Premise

"With Friends Like These..." has a very interesting but fragile premise, that with the wrong group can shatter itself almost instantly. Play at your own risk! The basic idea is that all five of the characters are turncoats, in the employ of the Vampire Lord. The Vampire has intentionally gained each of their loyalty, and as a "test" has sent each of them to recruit a party of heroes to invade his mansion, only to kill them/lead them into a trap, thusly thinning out the hero population.

At least, that's what he's told them. In all reality, it would appear his aim is much more sinister. The Vampire is using this as some sort of macabre test for all of his new minions. Whichever ones can survive and destroy the others will be the true victor. The players (though blissfully unaware of this) can figure it out relatively quickly by simply talking to each other, although if you've played your cards right as GM, you've pulled each one of them aside into the other room, and let them know that "THEY'RE THE TRAITOR!" This might dissuade them from talking to each other more in depth, but if it doesn't, no big deal. Let it play out the way it's going to.

Still, in this scenario (unlike last month's,) things are less restrictive. If the characters realize they are being duped and are angry about it, let them band together to actually destroy the evil (though obviously with a new motive in mind.) Any level of interaction that allows the characters to function as either a dysfunctional or even functional group works fine. The main important thing is not to let the game degrade into a brawl outside the mansion gates. To help with this, each of the characters needs to be made aware of a few details.

Detail the first: Make sure when you pull aside each character you're telling them the same thing. That they're interested in joining the forces of the Vampire Lord, either out of fear, out of greed, or out of a want for power (let them decide their motivation.) Detail the backstory, that they've gone from the mansion where they've met with the vampire, into town, and very quickly found several other "heroes" interested in forming a group to take on this menace. Then make them aware that they are definitively NOT STRONG ENOUGH to take on the rest of the group. If it came down to them shooting someone in the back, they'd kill that individual, but then they'd pretty much be a goner. Just let them keep that in mind, and warn them that they should strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.

Detail the second: This whole scenario isn't too long. The mansion has about 21 areas in total available for exploration. The players should be aware that the mansion is relatively small, and that although they should wait for the right moment, they could run out of time very quickly.

Detail the third, and final: You may have noticed that unlike last week's scenario (in which a great deal of information was kept from the players,) as soon as stuff starts to go down in this scenario, the players are bound to figure out that something is up. How you deal with meta-gaming is your business, but for the purpose of this scenario, it's more fun to have what the player knows and what their character knows separated.

Another quick detail, worth noting; some players can't deal with the premise of turning on each other, and will get personally offended if someone betrays them, even in the scope of a one off. This game is not for those players, it's honestly for players with a more mature outlook that make that wonderful realization: "it's just a game." If you have players who blur this line too readily, my suggestion is not to run this scenario for them.

The Characters

Rutgar; The Barbarian

Rutgar is 7 Feet tall, and very broad of chest, with long blond hair. He wields a mighty broadsword, and refuses to wear armor (or a shirt for that matter.) What he lacks in brains, he makes up for in brawn. He's a very believable stereotype. Rutgar's strength is an 8, with a broadsword skill of 7. He's got a 6 in Agility and Dodge, and pretty much 4's across the board besides. His interpersonal ability rates at a 6 because of his primitive charm and good looks, but except for his martial prowess and his somewhat unbelievable heft, he's really not all that capable. All Rutgar brought was his broadsword.

Tinas; The Enchantor

Tinas is a young woman in her early twenties, but already an accomplished enchantor. Wearing tight yet somehow revealing mystical robes, and carrying a staff that glows with ancient energies, she has a few tricks up her sleeve. Besides her intelligence of 9, and perception of 7, Tinas's attributes and skills all range at about 4. Her ability to use her staff as a weapons rates at a 6, but it is a relatively weak last line of defense for her. She knows a total of four spells, and call on each of them once throughout the scenario. Besides this, she has various mystical bobbles that do absolutely nothing, and her spellbook (not required to cast her spells, but no one needs to know that but you and her player.)

  1. Fireball - A ball of fiery power, especially useful against furry critters (bats, rats, etc.) Undead (such as mummies, and zombies, not as useful against skeletons,) and various other folk. In general this spell is a solid one shot kill, and she fires it off at an aim of 7. PLEASE NOTE: If she shoots this at a party member, odds are good it will hit/kill them. However this is in all reality her only really offensive spell, so she must be cautious using it.
  2. Telekinesis - She can lift one human sized object for as long as she can concentrate on it. This can come in handy to block escape routes, hold people in place while they get eaten by monsters, or huck someone off of the mansion roof or out a window (in addition to numerous other uses, let the player be creative.)
  3. Purify Food/Water - She can purify some food or a body of water of poison.
  4. Invisibility - She can turn invisible for a period of 30 seconds, however as soon as she interacts with someone, she'll become visible again.

Ludei; The Thief

Ludei is an elderly thief in his early 40s, with a salt and pepper hair and beard. He's still spry as a bobcat, and nimble as a lemur, however he is starting to show his age. His Agility is an 8, with a 7 in acrobatics. His intelligence is a 6, and he has thiefly abilities (lockpicking, pickpocketing, etc.) at an 8. All of his other attributes and skills are a 4, except for his strength which is a 3, this includes his skill with his short sword, as he never really learned. He has a thief's kit, complete with rope, lockpicking tools, and a small mirror.

Alexandra; The Archer

Alexandra is a girl of only 18 years, but already a battle hardened warrior, with many scars. Her hair is short and brown, and she wears formfitting leather armor. Alexandra wields a short sword with some prowess rating at a 6, though her true skill is with her trusty willow-wood longbow, rating at an 8. Besides this, her Intelligence is a 4, and the rest of her attributes are at an even 6. She's brought with her rations for an extended journey, as well as her bow and a number of standard arrows, her sword, and 4 'trick' arrows.

  1. Trick Arrow #1: A Silver tipped arrow. Good for hunting a lycanthrope.
  2. Trick Arrow #2: A Whistling arrow: Good for getting someone's attention.
  3. Trick Arrow #3: Holy Water arrow: Not so much fun for an undead creature when hit.
  4. Trick Arrow #4: Green Lotus arrow: Poisoned, guaranteed to kill someone in 5 rounds of combat (with no degradation for that person's skills,) without administering the antidote (which Alexandra possesses.)

Stefan; The Fencer

Stefan is a man in his late 20s, clever, beautiful, and lithe. He has a short reddish goatee and a mane of dark brown hair. He is an exceptional fencer, and wields his saber at a 9, making him the singly most skilled combatant. His strength is 6, his intelligence 5, and his agility 6. He has a dodge skill at a 7, and although is relatively unskilled at acrobatics (a 4), he is very quick on his feet. In single combat, in close quarters the only individual who could really give him trouble is the barbarian, and even then not assuredly.

The Theme

The theme of this scenario, if otherwise unclear to now, is betrayal. More succinctly put, how can a betrayer truly be betrayed?

The Setting

The setting of this game is the haunted mansion. The players begin on the Grounds (A) and can move their way any number of places (B-U).

I'll detail the mansion's rooms and what floor they're on, the layout of the mansion is pretty much up to you though. Lay it out as you see fit, the best method is to just very quickly draw up a bunch of squares on a piece of paper and label them.

(A). The Grounds. The Grounds of the mansion are relatively small, though there is a Statuary (B) and a Garden (C). If the players visit either of these places, please head to their sections. There is also a back door to the mansion, which leads to the Kitchen (K). The front door of the mansion leads into the Entryway (D). Anyone can attempt to climb to the Roof of the mansion (R) from the outside wall.

(B). The Statuary. The Statuary is a cobblestone pathway behind the mansion, leading through a series of macabre marble creations, nearly 12 feet tall and covered in vines. They generally appear to be statues of torture victims, wracked in pain, with eternal screams dying in their stone throats. A perception check can allow anyone here to see that one of the statues is loose. This can be taken advantage of with a good hearty shove that most of the players are capable of (check strength.) A falling statue should be enough to kill any players except for Rutgar, if they don't successfully dodge. Handle this however you want, but stealthiness, perception, strength and speed should call come into play here, if anyone decides to take advantage of the situation.

(C). The Garden. The Garden is filled with tiny scorpions. An annoyance, but nothing too bad for stalwart adventurers to deal with.

(D). The Entryway. The Entryway is particularly gaudy and made up, with bright torches used for light adorning the walls, and large tapestries. There are numerous pathways out of the entryway, and one can access almost every ground floor room from the entryway, save the Kitchen (K). This room also includes a staircase. Secret Passage 1 (E) to the Laboratory (L) can be found here, by pulling on the torches.

(E). Secret Passage 1. From the Entryway (D) to the Laboratory (L). Secret Passage 1 is a disgusting hole that smells like sewage, only large enough for the players to go through single-file. If the players have their characters enter the secret passage, they are attacked by a number of giant rats that are nesting here. These rats are about a 3 on the old toughness scale, not too hard to deal with, but someone can be injured (especially the thief, or the enchantor if they were going in first.) This passage leads to the laboratory (L).

(F). Closet. Found in Bedroom 3 (Q), this closet is empty, or is it? Secret Passage 2 (H) can be found here, if the player looks hard enough. This passage leads to the underground grotto (G).

(G). Underground Grotto. Found either by falling into it from the laundry chute (M), the Bedroom 2 (P), or from Secret Passage 2 (H), the Underground Grotto is a dangerous and disgusting place. Giant bats swarm about the room, and attack the characters (toughness rating of 5.) A blue key can be found on a pedestal set in the murky water. The only exit is the Secret Passage 2 (H).

(H). Secret Passage 2. From the Closet (F) to the Underground Grotto (G). Empty and dusty.

(I). Dining Hall. The dining hall is large and impressive, with a stone table adorned with various succulent foods/drinks set out. These are poisoned, any character who eats or drinks will die in a short while (5 or so in game minutes) with no visible symptoms, other than their death. The Archer's antidote can cure this, and the Enchantor can make the point moot by purifying the food/drink in advance (although this does not need to be revealed to the others, nor does all the food need to be purified.) The Dining Hall is attached to the Kitchen (K) and possibly other rooms.

(J). The Study. The Study is filled with impressive necromantic tombs, and various other knick knacks and oddities. An odd feeling of nausea overcomes the characters as they try to leave this room, and they encounter a large red demon, with dark green horns and talons blocking their path. It motions menacingly, but does not attack. If the characters attack the creature, it's Toughness 8 (a very difficult fight where one or more may die!) If they try to talk to the creature, it whispers into the first character's ear "I know who your true master is..." and lets them past. The Study is on the ground floor, and can be accessed via the Entryway (D).

(K). Kitchen. A group of "chefs" (read as: Zombies,) are preparing food with various recipes, everyday ingredients, and delicious (and deadly) Green Lotus. The Archer should note the poison they're using on the food is similar to the poison on her poison arrow (meaning she has an antidote.) If the characters barge into the Kitchen, the zombies (Toughness 4) attack! The Kitchen is attached to the Dining Hall (I), and The Grounds (A) by way of the back door.

(L). The Laboratory. The players need the Red Key (or good lock-picking) to get into the Laboratory, unless coming from the Secret Passage 1 (E). It's upstairs and attached to the Upstairs Hallway (N). Inside The Laboratory is a crazy scientist cackling over bubbling potions and wierd machinery... He laughs and points at one of the characters (at random,) screaming "TRAITOR!!!" He then keels over dead. There's nothing to take from this room other than two potions, a green one and a red one. The red one is a strength potion, adding 2 to someone's strength for the rest of this scenario. The green is a deadly Green Lotus poison (the same blend as the Archer uses/has an antidote for.) If someone imbibes the Green Lotus poison, they'll die in 5 minutes of in game time, with no visible symptoms unless the cure is administered. Both the Enchantor and the Archer can recognize the green potion in advance.

(M). The Laundry Chute. This is a one way dusty chute to the Underground Grotto (G). It can be found in the Upstairs Hallway (N)

(N). The Upstairs Hallway. This is a long and cold hallway, with an odd draft. It's lined with suits of armor, and no torches, the only light is the available sunlight that barely seeps through the curtains. Skeletons (toughness 2) wander this corridor, until they're eliminated. All upstairs rooms are accessed via this hallway.

(O). Bedroom. This bedroom is accessed from the Upstairs Hallway (N), and has a large wardrobe in the corner. Inside the wardrobe is a little girl in an antiquated dress, sobbing uncontrollably. She's actually a vampiress (toughness 6) and will attack as soon as a character is close enough, baring fangs and leaping. She holds the Red Key. This room has windows that can be used to access the Roof (R).

(P). Bedroom 2. This bedroom is accessed from the Upstairs Hallway (N), and is empty of furniture. If anyone enters this empty room, have that individual test their agility, as the floor collapses. If they fail, then they fall into the Underground Grotto (G) and get hurt. Anyone with rope can of course climb down after the floor has collapsed however.

(Q). Bedroom 3. This bedroom contains the Closet (F), an array of standard bedroom furniture, and a sort of squidgy slime monster (toughness 3) that hides under the bed, but will attack whoever gets to it first. Also, a window with vines to climb to the Roof (R) can be found here.

(R). The Roof. Accessed a number of ways, the Roof is a central location of the Mansion. Any character who arrives at the roof must make balance/agility checks often to keep their footing due to the slippery moss. A fall from this height could kill many of the characters (though Rutgar would probably survive.) The Roof has access to most of the upstairs rooms, as well as the grounds.

(S). Master Bedroom. This bedroom requires the Blue Key to enter, and has no windows. Instead of a bedroom, the character exploring here finds an oddly placed spiral staircase (T), leading downwards. Guarding this staircase are two armored skeletons (toughness 4).

(T). The Staircase. Filled with tiny bats and stinging insects, these are an irritation, but not worthy of fighting. The staircase is steep, leading from the Master Bedroom (S) to the Inner Sanctum (U).

(U). The Inner Sanctum. It is here, that dwells the Vampire Lord (toughness 8.) He's awake, and quite obviously expecting someone to come in soon. Please see the events section to see what he does.

The Events

There is really only one event that can occur in this month's scenario that isn't player driven (or related to the player's place in the setting.) If multiple characters make it to the Vampire Lord, he will demand that they fight each other to the death, for a place at his side. It is then that he reveals his sinister plot to test he who would become his apprentice. As with the rest of this scenario, how the players deal with this is their choice, but definitely remind them that it is their choice. If only one player remains at any time in the scenario however, the Vampire Lord appears, bites their neck and drags them into the darkness. Leave their fate open, you never know when it could come up again.

FIN-

One final word, if you've got a minute. It can get tough sometimes expecting people to take the initiative. My advice: encourage their interaction.

See you next month!

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