Ghosts in the Graveyard (5E Mini-Adventure)

It’s still summer where I am in Minnesota, but there’s no denying the chill winds of autumn are starting to blow! If you’re haunting (I mean, hunting) for a ghost story to run this Halloween, Ghosts in the Graveyard is a spooky mini-adventure featuring a nice mix of roleplaying and dungeon crawling. I’m presenting it here for free, but if you like it you can also find it as PWYW on DriveThruRPG.

Cover Photo by Lucas Pezeta

Those who disturb the dead rarely rest in peace. When a graverobber is buried in the very cemetery he once looted, his victims’ souls return for vengeance. To put the ghosts that haunt the graveyard to rest, the heroes must battle the graverobber’s wicked soul and recover his ill-gotten fortune.

GM Introduction

Ghosts in the Graveyard is a mini-adventure for 4–5 characters of 5th level, designed to be played in a single session (3–4 hours of gameplay). The adventure can be set in any town large enough to support a significantly sized graveyard. Ghosts in the Graveyard presents a mix of combat, exploration, and roleplaying opportunities. Clever players may be able to avoid combat in many of the encounters.

Background

In life, Gabriel Valcori was a successful businessman, famed throughout the city for his wealth and generosity. Unbeknownst to his admirers, however, the merchant began his career by robbing graves, a vice he continued even after securing his vast fortune. Valcori’s crimes remained undiscovered while he lived, but upon his death the merchant was buried in the very graveyard he once robbed. This final outrage has driven Valcori’s victims to return as restless spirits.

Overview

As the characters explore the haunted graveyard, three ghosts approach them. These restless spirits search for the possessions Valcori stole and become hostile unless the party promises to help them. Whether the adventurers deal with the ghosts through diplomacy or violence, by the time the characters reach Valcori’s crypt they should suspect the man was not the upstanding merchant he appeared to be. While searching for the stolen items, the characters encounter a series of devious traps and discover that Valcori’s ghost (now a wraith) also guards the crypt.

Character Hooks

Ghosts in the Graveyard assumes the characters have been hired to investigate the recent hauntings. If the characters need more incentive, perhaps an item the party seeks is rumored to be in the graveyard. This item might have belonged to one of Valcori’s victims and now lies in the merchant’s crypt alongside his other treasures. If the party’s morals are questionable, the characters may seek simply to plunder Valcori’s crypt, which is said to be filled with the riches he accumulated in life.

Adventure Start

The adventure begins as the party arrives at the haunted graveyard. The graveyard has not been tended since the hauntings began, and waist-high weeds crowd the paths that wind among the graves. Valcori’s crypt occupies the center of the graveyard, but before the characters reach it, they encounter the ghosts of Valcori’s victims. The ghosts all search for the items Volcari stole from them. Unless the characters recover their stolen possessions, any restless spirits reduced to 0 hit points return to haunt the graveyard after 24 hours.

Restless Spirit: Catlina Jovani

The party meets the spectral form of a human woman wandering among the graves. The woman introduces herself as Catlina Jovani (a ghost). Catlina searches for her missing locket, a keepsake buried with her when she died. She explains the locket was a gift from her parents and is quite precious to her: years ago, a wealthy merchant named Gabriel Valcori even offered to buy the locket, but she refused. She can’t imagine where the locket might be.

Despite the party’s best efforts, Catlina’s locket is nowhere to be found. Once the hunt proves fruitless, Catlina insists that someone must have stolen her locket, perhaps even the adventurers themselves! To convince Catlina they did not take her locket, the characters must make a successful DC 14 Charisma (Persuasion) check. On a failure, Catlina shrieks in rage and attacks.

Ghost (CR 4 medium undead); AC 11; HP 45; SPD fly 40 ft. (incorporeal); STR -2, DEX +1, CON +0, INT +0, WIS +1, CHA +3; TRAITS darkvision, ethereal sight, resist (acid, fire, lighting, thunder, nonmagical physical), immune (cold, necrotic, poison, charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, prone); ACTIONS withering touch (+5, 4d6+3 necrotic), etherealness, horrifying visage (DC 13 WIS or frightened), possession (recharge 6+, DC 13 CHA or possessed)

Restless Spirit: Arcos the Ageless

Atop a nearby rise, a human man wielding a shovel works to uncover a grave. A hound circles the man nervously as he digs. Unlike Catlina, both the man and his hound seem corporeal.

The man’s name is Pietro, and he is, in fact, still alive. Before the hauntings began, Pietro served as the graveyard’s caretaker, but now the ghost of another of Valcori’s victims, an elven sage named Arcos the Ageless, possesses him. Arcos has commandeered Pietro’s body in order to search for his beloved pet, a cat named Oro. If the characters speak with Arcos, the sage explains that he arranged to have Oro’s remains dipped in gold and buried with him when he died. Arcos is convinced the golden cat was placed in another grave by mistake. After such an expense, he’s unwilling to rest until he finds his pet.

Adventurers who make a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Insight) check note that Arcos’s speech is more sophisticated than that of a lowly caretaker. Furthermore, a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check reveals that Pietro’s loyal hound, a mastiff named Caesar, seems nervous. If the party talks to Caesar (via a speak with animals spell, for example), the confused animal confirms that, while his master’s body seems unchanged, his voice is not his own.

Arcos (ghost) attacks if the characters demand he release Pietro. While he possesses the caretaker, treat Arcos as a berserker armed with a shovel (1d4 + 3 bludgeoning damage). Caesar (mastiff) defends his “master” unless the characters calm the hound with a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check.

Arcos scoffs at the suggestion that an “upstanding citizen” like Valcori robbed his grave. However, if the characters free Pietro, the caretaker says he often witnessed Valcori skulking about the graveyard, although thus far no one has believed his suspicions about the merchant. If asked, Pietro is happy to lead the party to Valcori’s crypt.

Berserker (CR 2 medium humanoid); AC 13; HP 67; SPD 30 ft.; STR +3, DEX +1, CON +3, INT –1, WIS +0, CHA –1; TRAITS reckless; ACTIONS greataxe (+5, 1d12+3 slashing)

Ghost (CR 4 medium undead); AC 11; HP 45; SPD fly 40 ft. (incorporeal); STR -2, DEX +1, CON +0, INT +0, WIS +1, CHA +3; TRAITS darkvision, ethereal sight, resist (acid, fire, lighting, thunder, nonmagical physical), immune (cold, necrotic, poison, charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, prone); ACTIONS withering touch (+5, 4d6+3 necrotic), etherealness, horrifying visage (DC 13 WIS or frightened), possession (recharge 6+, DC 13 CHA or possessed)

Mastiff (CR 1/8 medium beast); AC 12; HP 5; SPD 40 ft.; STR +1, DEX +2, CON +1, INT –4, WIS +1, CHA –2; SKILLS Perception +3 (keen hearing and smell); ACTIONS bite (+3, 1d6+1 piercing + DC 11 STR or prone)

Restless Spirit: Bruno Montanari

As the adventurers near Valcori’s crypt, the ghost of a human man materializes before them. In one hand, the man wields a wicked-looking blade. His other hand is not only empty but missing, apparently having been severed at the wrist. The stump still bleeds as the man lunges at the party.

When business kept him from the graveyard, Valcori would hire thugs such as Bruno Montanari to do his dirty work for him. Unlike his master, Bruno was eventually caught and even lost a hand for his crimes. Despite this punishment, Bruno never revealed Valcori’s secret. The merchant rewarded Bruno’s loyalty by replacing his hand with a prosthetic made of mithral. Bruno died years later, only to have his replacement hand stolen by the very man who gave it to him.

Losing his hand twice over has driven Bruno mad. The characters must succeed on a DC 19 Charisma (Persuasion) check to convince Bruno they are not his enemies. Once calm, Bruno admits Valcori most likely stole his hand. If the characters agree to recover his hand, Bruno lets them pass but swears to haunt the party if they do not return.

Ghost (CR 4 medium undead); AC 11; HP 45; SPD fly 40 ft. (incorporeal); STR -2, DEX +1, CON +0, INT +0, WIS +1, CHA +3; TRAITS darkvision, ethereal sight, resist (acid, fire, lighting, thunder, nonmagical physical), immune (cold, necrotic, poison, charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, prone); ACTIONS withering touch (+5, 4d6+3 necrotic), etherealness, horrifying visage (DC 13 WIS or frightened), possession (recharge 6+, DC 13 CHA or possessed)

Cartography by Dyson Logos

Volcari’s Crypt

When he died, Gabriel Volcari was laid to rest inside a lavish crypt made of polished marble. The crypt’s door is barred from the inside, but the characters can force it open with a successful DC 24 Strength (Athletics) check or bash it down (AC 15, 18 hp, immune to poison and psychic damage). Inside the crypt, a set of steps descends to Area 1.

1. Entry

Stairs descend to a hallway terminating at a small antechamber. Frescoes depicting Volcari’s acts of charity (donating to the poor, funding public works, etc.) decorate the southern wall.

2. Rest in Peace

A sarcophagus occupies the center of this chamber. Opening the lid reveals the remains of Gabriel Valcori wrapped in a shroud. Disturbing Valcori’s corpse proves uneventful, but if the party removes the treasure from Area 8, Valcori rises as a wraith and attacks the characters as they leave.

Wraith (CR 5 medium undead); AC 13; HP 67; SPD fly 60 ft. (incorporeal); STR -2, DEX +3, CON +3, INT +1, WIS +2, CHA +2; TRAITS darkvision, resist (acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder, nonmagical + nonsilvered physical), immune (necrotic, poison, charmed, exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, prone), sunlight sensitivity (poisoned in sunlight); ACTIONS life drain (+6, 4d8+3 necrotic + DC 14 CON or max hp reduced by dmg taken), create specter

3. Bolts and Blades

Unusual holes and grooves decorate the walls and ceiling of this room. A pressure plate rests in the floor just inside the chamber’s eastern entrance. Stepping on the plate causes crossbow bolts and swinging pendulum blades to fire from the cavities throughout the room. Creatures in the room when the trap is triggered have a 50 percent chance of being targeted either by the darts (+12 to hit, 4d4 piercing damage) or a swinging blade (+5 to hit, 6d12 slashing damage). Once triggered, the trap remains active for 1 minute, targeting any creature that enters the room or starts its turn inside it.

Characters with a passive Perception of 14 or more notice the pressure plate. Jamming the plate requires a successful DC 14 Dexterity (thieves’ tools) check. Buttons at the back of two niches on the southern wall stop the bolts and blades from firing, but the niches are too deep to reach the buttons easily. The 10-foot poles in Area 4 are long enough to reach the buttons, and clever players may find other ways to push the buttons, as well.

4. Storage Room

This room contains four 10-foot poles leaning against the northern wall. A key hangs on a peg beside the door, and an iron lever protrudes from the eastern wall. The party can use the poles to reach the buttons in Area 3. The key opens the door to Area 8. Pulling the lever resets the trap in Area 6.

5. The Pit

This chamber appears empty except for a colorful mosaic in the center of the floor. Like the frescoes in Area 1, the mosaic depicts Volcari performing acts of charity. Characters who succeed at a DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check note that the floor beneath the mosaic sounds hollow. A creature that steps onto the mosaic crashes through the tiles and must succeed on a DC 19 Dexterity saving throw to avoid plummeting into a 30-foot-deep pit. An undecorated walkway around the room’s perimeter allows the characters to bypass the mosaic.

6. Sliding Walls

Characters with a passive Perception of 14 or higher notice shallow grooves on the floor halfway down the hall. Spotting the pressure plate between the grooves requires a successful DC 19 Intelligence (Investigation) check. Stepping onto the plate causes stone blocks to emerge from alcoves on either side of the hall. Creatures between the blocks when the trap is triggered must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw. On a success, the creature can scramble to either the north or south (GM’s discretion) before the blocks slam shut. On a failure, the creature takes 55 (10d10) bludgeoning damage before escaping. Once they slam shut, the blocks are too heavy to move (effectively sealing the passage), although pulling the lever in Area 4 causes the blocks to retreat into the alcoves.

7. Fool’s Gold

What appears to be a gilded coffer rests in a niche on the western end of this chamber. In fact, the coffer is only an illusion. Characters who examine the coffer (without touching it) can attempt a DC 19 Intelligence (Investigation) check. On a success, the character sees through the illusion. A detect magic spell or similar effect also reveals the deception.

If a character tries to touch the coffer, the niche in which it rests slams closed. The character must succeed at a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw. On a failure, the character takes 11 (2d10) bludgeoning damage and is grabbed (escape DC 19). At the same time, slits in the eastern wall open and fire arrows across the chamber. The arrows fire for 3 rounds, targeting any creature in the east-west portion of the room (+8 to hit, 3d8 piercing damage).

8. Treasure Chamber

The door to this chamber is locked. The key is in Area 4. Without the key, the characters must succeed on a DC 19 Dexterity (thieves’ tools) check to pick the lock or force open the door with a successful DC 24 Strength (Athletics) check. They can also bash down the door (AC 15, 18 hp, immune to poison and psychic damage), but doing so awakens Valcori’s wraith (see Area 2).

Niches on the western wall contain the items Valcori stole from his victims. Catlina’s locket (worth 25 gp) rests in the southern niche. Arcos’s golden cat (250 gp) sits in the center niche, while Bruno’s mithral hand (750 gp) rests in the northern niche. In addition to these treasures, the niches contain the remainder of Valcori’s fortune: 1,200 cp, 600 sp, 100 gp, and various grave goods worth a total of 150 gp. Removing treasure from the room causes Valcori’s wraith to rise and pursue the characters throughout the crypt.

Conclusion

To put the ghosts of Valcori’s victims to rest, the characters must re-bury their possessions (Pietro the caretaker is happy to help with this task). If the characters abscond with the items, the graveyard remains haunted. The characters may even find themselves troubled by the restless spirits on future adventures. Similarly, if the party escapes the crypt without defeating Valcori, the vengeful merchant haunts the characters until they return his treasure.

Battlezoo Bestiary in 3…2…1…

Roll for Combat, who resurrected Paizo’s RPG Superstar contest in 2019, is launching their Kickstarter for the Battlezoo Bestiary in less than 24 hours! The Battlezoo Bestiary is a collection of all the winning entries of the RPG Superstar contest. It’s chock full of some of the most innovative monsters I’ve seen in some time (including two of my own). The campaign will also fund two additional books: Jewel of the Indigo Isles, an adventure path featuring the monsters from the Battlezoo Bestiary, and Battlezoo Ancestries: Dragons, a set of rules that allows players to take on the roles of actual dragons!

If all goes well, Roll for Combat will also be producing 5E conversions of all three of the books. I’ll be working with the inestimable Paul Hughes to help with the conversion.

Check out the Kickstarter here!

Look at this amazing art!

Roll For Combat, a licensed Paizo partner, is excited to launch a Kickstarter on August 31, 2021, for the RPG Superstar Battlezoo Bestiary, Adventure, and Dragon Ancestry books.

The Kickstarter will include multiple Pathfinder Second Edition supplements, including:

  • The Battlezoo Bestiary 172-page hardcover book featuring 114 winning monster entries from the 2020 RPG Superstar contest, all of which were edited by Patrick Renie.
  • The new Monster Parts System which allows players to slay monsters and then turn those monsters into custom gear that levels up with the character, created by Mark Seifter.
  • The new Monster Mage and Vestige Hunter archetypes allowing you to steal those monster powers and use them yourself, written by Mark Seifter.
  • The new Pathfinder Second Edition level 1-10 hardcover adventure book Jewel of the Indigo Isles featuring monsters from the Battlezoo Bestiary and utilizing the new Monster Parts system, to be written by Patrick Renie, Ron Lundeen, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.
  • The Dragon Ancestries book detailing how you can play an actual Dragon in Pathfinder Second Edition, to be written by Mark Seifter.
  • Inside the Battlezoo Bestiary you will find:
    • 114 new monsters in the book, all of which won the 2020 RPG Superstar Contest and were professionally judged by RPG professionals and the public.
    • Also, the Monster Parts System, which allows you to slay monsters and then turn them into gear! Create custom weapons, armor, shields, magic items, and more!
    • The Monster Parts System works with ANY monster, even home-brewed content!
    • It was created by Mark Seifter, one of the writers who created Pathfinder Second Edition, and it scales with your character. Any monster can be converted into cool gear!
    • In addition, we also have the Monster Mage (Zara aka the Azure Mage) and Vestige Hunter (Kruger aka the Monster Hunter) archetypes.
      • The Monster Mage allows you to steal spells and special abilities from monsters and use them yourself!
      • The Vestige Hunter allows you to take parts from monsters and then graft them onto your armor and use their abilities (you can also eat them and gain their powers if you wish to use them that way instead). For example, you can take dragon wings off a dragon, graft them onto your armor, and then fly like a dragon.
    • There are also new backgrounds, magic items, and much more.
  • Jewel of the Indigo Isles Adventure Path for Pathfinder and 5e
    • The best way to describe this adventure would be Guardians of the Galaxy, but with pirates and dragons!
    • There are three adventure books in total, combined into a single volume for the Kickstarter, being written by three of the most experienced adventure writers in history:
    • During the adventure, you will encounter pirates, treasure hunting, adventure questing, sailing between islands looking for booty, and lots and lots of monsters.
    • It also includes at least 20 new monsters, new magic items, new gods, a gazetteer for the Indigo Isles, a gazetteer for the starting town of Rumplank on Goldcrop Island, several new ancestries to play including the g’mauyn (parrot-people), the wildfire leshy (wildfire turned to life), the galtzagorri (fey creatures), and much more.
  • The Dragon Ancestry book will allow PCs to play an actual dragon in your game. Not a dragonkin, or a kobold, but an actual dragon. Written by Mark Seifter
    • The system is being written by Mark Seifter and it’s something he has been working on in his spare time for years.
    • The list of playable dragons includes:
      • metallic – brass, bronze, copper, gold, and silver
      • chromatic dragons – black, blue, green, red, and white
      • primal dragons – brine, cloud, crystal, magma, and umbral
      • imperial dragons – forest, sea, sky, sovereign, and underworld
      • esoteric dragons – astral, dream, ethereal, nightmare, and occult
      • outer dragons – lunar, solar, time, void, and vortex
      • planar dragons – apocalypse, bliss, crypt, edict, havoc, infernal, paradise, rift, and tumult
    • These ancestries/races will be balanced with the rest of the game and allow you to utilize cool dragon powers unique to each dragon type.

Download a preview of the book here: http://sample.rollforcombat.com/

Interview with Nonat1https://youtu.be/6AT1wPvfwRg

Interview with How It’s Playedhttps://youtu.be/hmnJ7Z3nTyE

Interview with Know Directionhttps://www.twitch.tv/videos/1115594328?t=00h07m09s

Interview with The Local Disaster Tour Guidehttps://youtu.be/GVA7bnVEjao

Interview with Arcane Mark: https://youtu.be/gaeJo9g8FCc

Blog post at Paizo’s web site: https://paizo.com/community/blog/v5748dyo6shse?Roll-For-Combat-s-Battlezoo-Bestiary-Coming

Interview with E.N. World: https://www.enworld.org/threads/podcast-165-battlezoo-bestiary-and-rpg-superstars-with-stephen-glicker-and-mark-seifter.682348/

Good Little Children Never Grow Up

My friends at Sneak Attack Press are Kickstarting a remastered edition of one of their most popular (and creepy) adventures: Good Little Children Never Grow Up. The campaign will fund conversions to D&D 5E, Pathfinder 2E, and Savage Worlds, as well as all new, full-color art and maps. Good Little Children has already funded, so it looks like conversions of further adventures are next!

Project image for Good Little Children Never Grow Up - 5e, PF2e, SWADE

Everybody in Hedgebird knows that the old DeMay orphanage is haunted, but that did not stop the Perseville family from moving to town and buying the place. Nor did it stop the Tarnak boys from venturing inside. Now the children are trapped within, and to get them out the heroes must confront terrible ghosts from the orphanage’s past.

Good Little Children Never Grow Up is a horror-themed adventure for low-level characters. Originally published for 4e and Pathfinder 1st Edition, this Kickstarter campaign will update it to the current rules systems and add all-new full-color art and maps.

In addition to the adventure, Good Little Children Never Grow Up includes:

  • 24 handouts for players. Thanks to the restless spirits within the orphanage, each character only gets part of the picture 
  • 4 new or modified monsters
  • 1 new magic item
  • 1 ghostly blessing

Rope and Chain for PF2

I recently helped the fine folks at Sneak Attack Press convert the latest installment of their This and That series, Rope and Chain, from D&D5E to PF2.

Do you have what it takes to lasso a wyvern?

Rope may be the most important invention of all time. It is strong, yet flexible. It built ancient monuments and powered the sailing ships that began global commerce. Rope is also a staple of fantasy role playing games, whether climbing ice cliffs, tying up prisoners, or keeping the party from getting separated in a blizzard.

In Rope and Chain you’ll find:

  • A real-world history of rope and chain
  • Variant ropes and chains made from fantasy materials
  • New weapons like the lasso, rope dart, and harpoon
  • Optional rules
  • A random rope generator
  • A new spell: Raska’s restrictive ribbons
  • 4 new magic items: ghost chain, lasso of honesty, living rope, and Surtr’s meteor hammer
  • 3 new monsters: chain golem, rope golem, and smimic (half-snake/half-mimic)

Haunted Keepsakes (5E)

My article, Haunted Keepsakes, dropped today on EN World’s EN5ider!

Art by Gui Sommer

An object is often what bars the way when a living creature dies but is denied its eternal rest. These haunted keepsakes represent some unfinished business the creature had in life, such as a work of art left incomplete or an arrow that never found its mark. When a new owner acquires the keepsake, the spirit that haunts the item urges them to complete the task it left unfinished. Should the owner do so, they may receive a supernatural boon as a reward for helping the spirit find peace.

Each of the keepsakes presented in this article are of particular interest to one of the classes found in the core rules. All the keepsakes confer upon their owner a minor magical benefit; when the spirit’s unfinished business is resolved, it grants the owner a more powerful boon before passing on.

Here’s sneak peak at one of the haunted keepsakes, the patron’s missive. To see the other eleven keepsakes (and a bunch of other great 5E content), sign up for EN5ider!

Patron’s Missive

Wondrous item, common (requires attunement by a warlock; cost 85 gp)

The messenger who carried this unopened letter died before they could deliver it for their otherworldly patron. The GM determines the nature of the missive: it might be a love letter, an infernal contract, or a collection of cryptic symbols.

While you are attuned to the missive, the warlock’s tormented spirit haunts you, manifesting as whispered curses, cold breezes, and an undefinable sense of dread. When you would make a Charisma (Intimidation) check, you can choose to gain advantage. Once you use this property, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

If you deliver the missive, the warlock’s patron rewards you with the soul of the servant failed it. Once afterward, you can use a bonus action to destroy the soul and regain hit points equal to 1d8 + your warlock level.