Sunday, February 8, 2009

Exorcising Foxglove Manor

While entirely optional, many PCs would be hard-pressed to leave an obviously haunted house, suffused with the eternal essence of a failed lich, without seeing to it that no one else falls victim to its terrible curse. In the event that one of the PCs wants to deal with the problem, allow any characters trained in Religion to make a DC 12 check. If they succeed, one of them recalls a set of exorcism rites that could expel Vorel's spirit from the manor. If they hit a DC of 19 or higher, they recall a prayer that is particularly effective in turning liches, and can apply it to the following skill challenge for one automatic success.

Skill Challenge: Exorcising Foxglove Manor

Setup: Though the immediate threat to Sandpoint has been extinguished, Vorel's spirit is patient and lingering. Whether through chance, curse or destiny, the necromancer's line may suffer still unless that spirit is laid to rest. Properly equipped PCs can attempt to purge the hauntings from the manor, but Vorel is more than capable of fighting back. The party must visit every room in the manor (and its caverns) that contains a haunt. As they move from room to room, incanting the rites of exorcism, the Misgivings turns against them, sabotaging their efforts in myriad ways.

Complexity: 5 (12 successes before 3 failures)
Level: 6 (1,250 xp)
Primary Skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Heal, History, Insight, Perception, Religion

Arcana (DC 14): Your studies of magical infestations and diseases allows you to construct subtle eldritch wards against Vorel's menace. Gain a success for the skill challenge, and choose either: grant an ally a +5 bonus to the next Religion check made during the skill challenge or negate the loss of one subsequent healing surge from the ally of your choice to Vorel's Spirit.

Dungeoneering (DC 18): The manor is ancient and Vorel knows its grounds well, but its creaks and groans speak to you, allowing you to shield your friends from the brunt of the next attack. Gain a success for the skill challenge and grant all allies a +2 bonus to all defenses until one of your allies is attacked by Vorel's Spirit. Only up to two successes from this skill can contribute to the skill challenge.

Endurance (DC 11): You strain under the malignant influence of Vorel's will but manage to free your mind of his taint while maintaining your efforts against him, for now. This skill may only be used by a character making an Arcana or Religion check, and negates the subsequent loss of one healing surge to Vorel's Spirit by that character. This does not grant a success for the skill challenge.

Heal (DC 18): Your companions struggle to complete the rites of exorcism, suffering from supernaturally-inflicted wounds, but you are right there to tend to them. Gain a success for the skill challenge and grant one ally a +3 bonus to one defense of your choice until that ally is attacked by Vorel's Spirit.

History (DC 18): The Misgivings has a storied past, but you are a scholar of the truth behind its rumors. Combining this knowledge with that of other infamous hauntings, you counsel your friends on the wisest course of action. Gain a success for the skill challenge or negate one previous failure. Only up to two successes (or negations of failures) from this skill can contribute to the skill challenge.

Insight (DC 16): Vorel is long dead, but you know enough of his morbid efforts at lichdom to guess at his spirit's intent. Grant each ally a +2 bonus to his or her next skill check. This does not grant a success for the skill challenge.

Perception (DC 18): It seems as though secrets lurk behind every other shadow in the manor, but you spot one before it is able to impede your party's efforts. Vorel's Spirit receives a -3 penalty to its next attack. This does not grant a success for the skill challenge.

Religion (DC 14): Words of prayer, protection and banishment flood your mind as you incant the rites of exorcism. Gain a success for the skill challenge. At least three successes must be achieved with this skill check in order to complete the skill challenge.

Success: As the party returns to Vorel's laboratory and recites the final incantations, the patch of fungus animates and tears free of the wall. The thing howls in a sloshy, barely human voice, then crumbles to dust—the haunt of Foxglove Manor is thusly exorcised, and while the building retains its unwelcoming aura, it is no longer haunted.

Failure: Each time a member of the party fails any check during the skill challenge (regardless of whether or not that skill can grant a success for the skill challenge), Vorel's spirit notices an opportunity to strike. See the Vorel's Spirit stat block below. The attacks can take any number of forms, depending on the defense Vorel's Spirit targets. You should determine how this plays out based on the room the party is currently in. For instance, an attack targeting Reflex that takes place in the library could involve scores of heavy tomes flung at the PCs from the bookshelves.

If the party accumulates three failures, the madness of the Misgivings drives the party off the Foxglove grounds as Vorel's cackling echoes at them from the manor. All participants in the skill challenge receive a -2 penalty to saving throws and cannot attempt the rites of exorcism again until they have reached two milestones.

Stat block(s):


Mysteria said...

It's nice to see that you did set up an exorcism mechanism for Foxglove manor. I'm a bit unsure on how you ran this, I'd love to hear a little description on how you did this.

Scott said...

The short answer is that I didn't. I ran a much simplified version of the skill challenge and decided after the fact that I wanted to beef it up. If you run it, do let me know how it goes.

Mysteria said...

As I'm actually running it as a play by post, that's still a long, long way off ... They just finished with Erylium.

Scott said...

Haha alright, I understand completely. I hope everything is going well so far.

Mysteria said...

It is. :) As I said, they've just finished the catacombs and half of them (I have six players) are out of surges, and of those one is actually injured. They did the glassworks and the catacombs all in one go, but I cut out some encounters as too many of them just slow down play even further. They're about ready to have some 'time out' in town ... I'm looking up Shayliss and Gresgurt now. ;)

Jamie Lovett said...

So this is a little late in coming, but it struck me as funny that, during this skill challenge (well, a simpler one I made up on the fly, but similar enough), my wizard player did most of the exorcising while my cleric just sort of hung out, since religion is an int based skill meaning the wizard's is much higher.

Makes me consider coming up with a house rule separating int based religion knowledge checks from "practical/active" religion checks. Or possibly replacing religion in such situations with heal?

Very cool challenge though!

Scott said...

I don't know that Wizards (and other Int-based classes) should necessarily be penalized for bothering to pick up the Religion skill. Just because their power source is Arcane in nature and not Divine doesn't mean that they aren't familiar with rites of exorcism, or dealing with errant spirits. As far as I'm concerned, that's all part of the training involved in becoming trained in a skill like Religion.

Your Cleric doesn't need to feel sidelined during this skill challenge by any means. Assuming he's trained in Heal, that can just as easily contribute to the party's success as Religion checks can. He could also decide to assist the Wizard in the rites of exorcism (which is probably the smart thing to do).

Finally, I think that players should be rewarded for coming up with clever ways to use their daily and utility (or even encounter attack) powers during skill challenges. Clerics, with their Divine power source, are more likely than most classes to have powers that can be used in such a fashion (Turn Undead, Beacon of Hope and Consecrated Ground all come to mind). I suggest awarding a significant bonus on a check for a player making appropriate use of an encounter power, and awarding an automatic success for a player making appropriate use of a daily power.

Scott said...

Now, one thing that you COULD do that I think would avoid the possibility of some players feeling needlessly marginalized is to decide that using the Religion skill in this skill challenge is a trained-only check. Consider only allowing those characters actually trained in Religion to make the check itself. Other, untrained characters can assist (anyone can hold the book of rites up next to the candle, or help draw shapes with a stick of chalk), but without a character trained in the skill the party will need to look to other options to complete the challenge. Take care that you don't use this ruling too much - normally, skill DCs are created such that untrained characters are at a disadvantage anyway.

Mysteria said...

I've finally gotten around to run this part of the AP and in the end I made it so that the spirits of those people who died in the house were still trapped inside it: Iesha as ghost, Kassanda, Lorey, Traver and Cyralie in their respective portraits, Aldern as ghoul and Vorel as menacing spirit in the caves below. The characters could free each of these spirits by various methods. Iesha needed to be fought before she was ready to talk and her shawl (from the haunting) needed to be recovered. For Lorey and Kassand, it was a heal check or healing power channelled into them. Traver's portrait had to be stabbed by his own knife (from the haunting) and Cyralie's portrait had to be burnt or smashed to pieces. Each of those spirits also gave a magical item as a reward, often as an upgrade to an existing item. I wanted to encourage players to explore the house more and also get a tangible reward from it. I think it worked out nicely.