Friday, 1 January 2021

Night of the Walking Dead in Averoigne Part 6

Continuing my series on adapting the AD&D 2nd Edition Ravenloft module RQ1 Night of the Walking Dead to Clark Ashton Smith’s Averoigne, 14th Century France, Grymwurld 3rd Edition™, and the Neverwinter Nights videogame. Plus I am trying to link in Robert E. Howard’s Cormac Fitzgeoffrey stories as well. Part One of this series can be found here.

The Owls

In shelter of the vaulted yews,
Like alien gods who shun the world,
The flown owls wait with feathers furled,
Darting red eyes. They dream and muse.

In rows unmoving they remain
Till the sad hour that they remember,
When, treading down the sun’s last ember,
The towering night resumes its reign.

Their attitude will teach the seer
How wise, how needful is the fear
Of movement and of travailment:

For shadow-drunken wanderers bear
On all their ways the chastisement
Of having wished to wend elsewhere.

— by Charles Pierre Baudelaire, translated by Clark Ashton Smith and published in the Auburn Journal on the 1st of Octobre, 1925.


I changed the name of the village from Marais d’Tarascon (Swamp of Tarascon in bad French) to Les Hiboux (The Owls) because A) Bad French, B) Les Hiboux is the village on the edge of the wetlands in Averoigne, C) Tarascon is a real city in Southern France and this is not it, and D) I think ‘Swamp of Tarascon’ is a stupid name for a village. Granted, Averoigne fits central rather than Southern France but I want a direct link to Averoigne yet I want to place this adventure in the Ille de Camargue (between the La Petit Rhône and La Grande Rhône rivers) or La Petite Camargue (West bank of La Petit Rhône) because the Camargue is the largest wetland in all of France. Perhaps I will change the name of the village by the time this is all over or perhaps the Grym™ version of Averoigne will be in Southern rather than Central France. I reserve the right to let the story sort it all out, as I am a huge fan of emergent gameplay.

This part of the module assumes that the party has met Luc and that either Luc is following them or that they killed him and his ghost appears at the plot–appointed–times to deliver the necessary–plot–hints. Here is an interesting quote:

“As soon as the PCs enter the village, Jean Tarascon [Luc’s elder brother] learns of their arrival.”

How in the world does Jean immediately learn of their arrival? Is Jean actually a Ravenloft-style domain lord of the village?!? No doubt the villagers would start gossiping as soon as strangers emerge from the swamp and news does travel fast in tight-knit communities. Does the plot require Jean to know of their arrival immediately? No, of course not. I point this out as one of my many frustrations with this module and how it does not hurt the plot to remove it. However, in all fairness to Slavicsek, he does not give Luc “plot” armour (as NWN frequently encourages us to do):

“If the PCs have killed Luc, Jean doesn’t become overly concerned with the party until they try to find the murderer (him), get too close to Marcel, or until Luc appears as a ghost….”

The Village

Les Hiboux consists of 300 souls which makes it a hamlet according to the D&D 3rd Edition DMG. As a hamlet, it has a GP Limit of 100 gold deniers (pennies) which means that nothing is for sale that costs more than 100 gp. [I’m using the Carolingian currency system, subtituting gold for silver.] Also, there are no more than 1,500 gp (½ gp limit × 10% of pop.) worth of any one item for sale and the hamlet cannot purchase more than 1,500 gp worth of goods from the party. — I like the gold piece and population limits of 3rd Edition, They are similar to what C&S did but are in D&D price terms. However, I am not enamoured of 3rd Edition’s non-adventurers with levels. I prefer the older edition’s use of 0-level characters (“monsters”).

“East of the village is the Tarascon plantation. From a distance it looks impressive, but on closer inspection, it is obvious that the fields have not been tended in weeks.”

This is another anachronism we need to deal with. This usage of the word ‘plantation’ dates to the 18th and 19th centuries. Les Hiboux must be part of a manour. Instead of plantation, we shall refer to it as fields. Interestingly, the English word hamlet comes from the Old French hamelet which is a diminuative of hamel which is a diminuative of ham. A diminuative of a diminuative! According to Etymology Online, hamlets are typically small villages without a church whereas according to Wikipedia, villages in the UK without a church are called hamlets. It goes on to say that hamlets with churches are actually villages that have become depopulated. A hah! This makes a lot more sense for us. The population of 300 souls are what is left of the original 401+ inhabitants. Given that the fields are untended tells us that the serfs are all dead which would certainly account for the population disparity.

As an aside, at one point I thought very seriously of having zombies working the fields. The Camargue, as with the swamps of the Southern United States, are rife with mosquitoes. Malaria plagued the Mediterrean until recent times. Not surprisingly, the Camargue was sparsely populated until the last century as well. Zombies, of course, cannot catch malaria and ignore mosquito and midge bites. So an enterprising necromancer could set-up and run a large scale salt mining and rice farming operation in the wettest parts without losing the workforce. Even as the zombies decayed, they would just become skeletons. New slaves could be brought in and when they died, just animate them as zombies. Somewhat related to this, Charles Mann in his book “1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created” cites sources that speculate the driving reason for importing West African slaves was because of their natural resistance to malaria. Malaria, by the way did not exist in the americas prior to African slavery. Chicken or the egg?

But if I put zombies to work in the rice fields and salt mines, that drasically changes the story. Instead it becomes one of the PCs stumbling upon a Village of the Dead where they must fight to escape because the zombie master does not want his secret to get out! Which could be an interesting adventure itself…!

“The PCs can wander freely, speaking with whomever they wish. Murders, zombies, disappearances — the events of the past weeks have caused a fearful mood to settle over the village. (Assume that Marcel died three weeks ago, regardless of how long the PCs have spent in the swamp.) Everyone is nervous and more than a little afraid. Some have spoken of fleeing to Port d’Elhour, but at the moment such a course of action is still only talk.”

Why are the villagers still there?!? Yeah, I know that in Ravenloft everyone is trapped although in this case there really is a Port d’Elhour and the villagers could have fled there. So why did they not do so? They are free peasants, not serfs. Which also begs the question — what happened during the Black Death? Did villagers flee? Did they adopt a fatalist attitude and stay? Did they believe that the plague was everywhere and so it did no good to flee? It has been years since I read The Black Death by Philip Ziegler but I think the answer is ‘all of the above.’ However this case is different. Between the murders, farting zombie lord, and servants–becoming–ghouls–because–of–forced–cannibalism, I would pack up everything and leave as would you, right? If only one of those three currents of death were happening, then people staying is more believable. After all, a murderer on the loose would cause a self-imposed curfew but not flight from the village. Likewise a zombie whose farts create more zombies but only at night would also cause a curfew (except we learn later on that those farts can permeate the walls through the cracks & crevices). The disappearance of servants by themselves would make everyone nervous but not flee. But all three together?!? It drove me crazy 26 years ago and it still drives me crazy!

The Manoir or Manorial Estate

So if we expand the “Tarascon Swamp-Village” to be a proper manour, it would be appropriate to base it on four different economic activities: (1) Rice farming (riz sanguine or ‘blood rice’), (2) Salt mining, (3) Animal husbandry (semi-feral Camargue White Horse & wild Pink Flamingos), and (4) supplementary food (vegetables, chickens, & pigs) and goods (leatherworking, smithing &c.) for strictly local consumption. On the other hand, if the manoir has declined over the last two centuries, then it first lost the animal husbandry. This adventure takes place shortly after the rice farming has stopped. There is historical support for a declining manoir, in that there was a population boom during the 11th, 12th, and mid-13th centuries followed by several famines, being the 1304, 1305, 1310, and the Great Famine of 1315–1317, which was part of the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages. Given that Pierre founded the manoir more than two centuries ago, there has been plenty of time for a rapid growth followed by an even more rapid decline.

Mesne Lordship: The “d’Tarascons” are lords of the manour (seigneurs du manoir) who are enfeoffed to a mesne lord. They hold a fraction of a knight’s fee and can be thought of as country squires or gentlemen. Their lord may be a knight, an abbey, or a church, who is a vassal or a great lord or tenant-in-chief who in turn is a vassal of a king. The Mesne Lord in this case could be the Archbishopric of Arles, Psalmody Abbey (Abbaye de Psalmodie), the Bishopric of Nimes (Nîmes), or the town of Aigas Mòrtas (Aigues-Mortes). I find a number of things interesting about Aigas Mòrtas. First off the name, comes from the Latin Aquae Mortuæ which means ‘dead water.’ Granted, the name refers to the numerous salt marshes and ponds which are not potable, but a name like Dead Water? How grym is that?!? In 1240 (future Saint) Louis IX bought the town from his brother Charles d’Anjou who was king of Agde, Aragon, & Naples as well as the count of Montpellier & Toulouse. Aigue-Mortes is where the Louix IX and his crusaders departed for the seventh and eighth crusades. And it was at Aigue-Mortes that Philip the Fair incarcerated the templars at the Tower of Constance in 1307.

So what I am thinking now is that two centuries or so ago, Pierre of Tarascon acquired land from the Psalmody Abbey in return for paying rent. In 1240, the King of France acquired the land as part of the purchase from the monks. The “Tarascons” have either been so successful that they are left alone (so long as they pay their taxes) or they do so poorly that they have been largely forgotten. Given the small population of 300, I am inclined to go with the latter.

The “Tarascon” Family

At this point, I have to ‘bite the bullet’ and come up with a replacement name for “d’Tarascon” because A) Bad French and more importantly B) Tarascon is a real place (famous for the Tarasque attack) and while their ancestor Pierre may have been born in Tarascon, it makes no sense at all to retain that name. If anything, they would take their name from the land where Pierre founded the village, namely Les Hiboux or The Owls. Which gives us Jean de les Hiboux or John of the Owls. Alternatively, if we link in the Mother of Toads (la mère de crapauds) or the Mother of Frogs (la mère de grenouilles) then we could have Jean de les Crapauds (John of the Toads) or Jean de les Grenouilles (John of the Frogs). [As always, my apologies as my French is only slightly better than Slavicsek’s.] This still sounds weird. John of Owls or John of the Owls; John of Toads or John of the Toads; or even John of Frogs or John of the Frogs. I have to think about it. For the time being, I shall use the name of the village. Thus we get Jean de les Hiboux.

Village Buildings & Inhabitants

Villager–PC Interaction: Except for the shopkeepers, villagers are wary of strangers and are feeling trapped. Thus they have a -5 penalty versus Charisma & Charisma-skill checks. Retries are allowed every every day but with a cumulative -2 penalty. In D&D 3rd Edition terms, the DC is 15 and increases by +2 with each retry. [Man, that is harsh! Let’s hope there is no critical info needed from the non-shopkeepers!] Note that a DC of 15 is actually the standard & normal DC for indifferent NPCs!

As an aside: This is another example of where D&D 3rd edition changed the baseline difficulty from a DC 10 (roll under your ability score or no modifiers to an AD&D 2nd Ed. skill check) to a DC 15. I suspect that the reasoning is that because in 3rd Ed., PCs can pump their skills (4 at 1st level) and ability scores have greater bonuses, that the number are equivalent. While that is true for core skills (Rogues with a Dex of 15 and 4 ranks in Open Locks have a +6 to their roll), it is not true for all other skills. Consequently in 3rd Edition, 1st level PCs in general have a more difficult time doing almost everything compared to their counterparts for the previous 16 years! So my advice is to decrease all DCs by 5 points for all skill checks not covered by core skills (open locks, disable traps, &c.); in other words set the default to DC 10 rather than 15. For that matter, for skills that can easily take 20 (again locks & traps) the base DC should be 20.

Full Moon Inn (Hospitale de Pleine Lune): An unusually large inn (two-storey; attached stable) for a decaying village of 300 souls. I would describe it as being a mouldering, crumbling, and decaying inn that is long past its heyday. The module describes the food service in anachronistic terms (“Food is served from early morning until a respectable night hour…”). In the 14th century, an inn operates more like what we know as a Bed & Breakfast in that it is family-run and they serve a common meal at breakfast, dinner, and supper. If the guests are late, then it is too bad for them. And also that supper and the following breakfast consist mainly of the leftovers from the previous dinner.

One of the barmaids is “a chatty young woman named Katha”, i.e. a Chatty Cathy. Hey! This would not be D&D without bad puns right? She has an interesting and useful story to tell the PCs. That being the case, is a die roll necessary? I think that so long as the player makes a sincere attempt to talk to her, no roll is necessary. Likewise if the player is being an ass, he automatically fails.

Duncan d’Lute: An “agent for several businesses in Port d’Elhour” or a Scottish minstrel? Apparently he has no useful knowledge at all and is wearing a red tunic [obligatory Star Trek reference].

Boulangerie [Bakery]: Louise [d’Cann] la Boulangère has a rumour and she makes red liquorice in addition to various & sundry baked goods. Red liquorice is an important clue but it is also an anachronism. Liquorice (a.k.a. black liquorice) dates back to ancient times but red liquorice is a 20th century [even if 17th C. is still an anachronism] invention from what I can determine. Since the red colour of the liquorice is also important, How about blood liquorice as a compromise? The PCs can enquire of Louise her secret but of course she will not divulge it. And as with Chatty Katha above, no roll is necessary. Any halfway decent rôleplaying will succeed in learning about the rumour and réglisse sanguine (blood liquorice).

Clue: Jean Sieur des Hiboux, the Carpenter’s children, and Samuel all love the blood liquorice.

Charpentier [Carpenter]: Marcus [Bordell] le Charpentier has a rumour to share. No skill checks necessary. Given that his children run are running around, there is an opportunity for the PCs to offer some blood liquorice or to enquire is they would like some.

Sacrestain: Pierrot le Sacrestain is the goundskeeper & gravedigger (sexton) for the church. Pierrot prefers to keep to himself but if influenced (DC 15), he will share his plans to leave after the storm has passed. Now it is not spelled out in the module, but I think that Pierrot knows a lot more about what is happening in le cimetière. This is exactly the kind of NPC where some careful roleplaying (bluffing, bribing, intimidating, & persuading) will reap rewards. Note that the module spells his name as “Pierot” but I very strongly suspect it should be Pierrot which is the diminuative of Pierre. Much like Pete is to Peter.

Constable [Reeve]: Constable Gremin, like everyone else has both his office and residence in a single building. There is a small gaol next door. Is Gremin a Russian? There is a Prince Gremin in the opera, Eugene Onegin and I can find no other Gremins. Now in the early–to–mid 14th Century, “Russia” was the Grand Duchy of Moscow and a vassal of the Golden Horde. Perhaps Gremin is an exile or a former mercenary or both.

But more importantly, Gremin has been traumatised by his son’s death from the miasma (Marcel’s exhalations) and subsequent animation. He is very frustrated by Jean’s refusal to speak to him, the murders, and the missing house-servants [& probably the missing serfs]. Gremin is a man on edge. Rather than seeing the arrival of the PCs as an aid to him, his attitude is more like “Oh great, this is the last thing I need now!” Gremin’s inclination is to throw the party in the gaol but he will not do that without cause. I do not think that Gremin is someone who can be brought over to the PC’s side with some compelling arguments; rather I think the PCs have to prove themselves.

WARRIOR 2 (CR 1): Lawful/Good Human (Russian)
DETECTION: Listen +1, Spot +1; Init +1; Languages: Common, French, & Russian
DEFENCES: AC 17 (heavy maille byrnie & buckler), touch 11, flat-footed 15; hp 11 (2d8+2);
ACTIONS: Spd 30 ft.; Mêlée Falchion +5 (1d8+3); Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; Base Atk +5
STR 16, DEX 12, CON 14, INT 15, WIS 13, CHA 10
FORT +6, REF +1, WILL +1
FEATS: Combat Reflexes, Power Attack, et alia.
SKILLS: Discipline +8, Parry +6, Sense Motive +1

Samuel’s Cottage: Samuel (Shmu’el) des Garrennes is a Sephardic Jew who studied magick in the Kingdom of Toledo and fled due to the anti-Jewish pogroms conducted by the king of Toledo with the approval of the archbishop. Samuel is very friendly to the PCs as he is starved for news of the outside world as well as a new audience for his (conspiracy) theories. He is not in the least bit frightened by recent events but in fact believes that they are all connected to a pagan Toad Mother cult. Given the opportunity, he will offer some blood liquorice to the party and regale them with his tale:

Pierre left Tarascon shortly after his family and home were destroyed by the tarasque — one of the Adversary’s children. He wandered from town to town as a vagabond, but was not able to settle into a regular job. In the course of his wanderings he ended up in the marshland near here and that is where he met La Mère des Crapauds — an enormous nymph with … huge tracts of land. I believe that the Greeks would call her an heleionomai — a wetland nymph. The Toad-Mother was lonely and offered Pierre a deal. If he would be a husband to her, then Pierre and his descendants could grow a bountiful crop from the land. Thus Pierre and the eldest son of each generation would marry the heleionomai. Have you not noticed that Jean has no wife, mother, nor grandmother? That is because he is married to the Mother of Toads like his father and grandfather before him. Alas! The land is suffering because Jean has not been a dutiful husband, son, and grandson to her. He allows Brucian to spread the religion of the false messiah and so La Mère is neglected. Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned and now she takes her revenge!

Any further discussion with Samuel is useless as he just cackles on and on about the Toad-Mother taking her revenge. Perhaps once the PCs return with new information, Samuel will be more helpful.

MAGUS 1 (CR 1): Neutral/Good Human (Sephardic Jew)
DETECTION: Listen +0, Spot +0; Init +0; Languages: Common, French, Hebrew, Spanish, & Arabic
DEFENCES: AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10; hp 14 (1d4);
ACTIONS: Spd 30 ft.; Mêlée Dagger +0 (1d4); Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; Base Atk +0
STR 8, DEX 10, CON 10, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 9
FORT +0, REF +0, WILL +2
FEATS: Combat Casting, Skill focus (Concentration) et alia.
SKILLS: Discipline -1, Parry +0, Sense Motive +0
SPELLS: Charm person, Sleep
MAGICK ITEMS: Scroll of (1d6+1) Comprehend Languages

Note: Slavicsek uses the name Mordu which means “bitten” in French. The character of Mordu reminds me of Harley Warren who appears in Lovecraft’s short story “The Statement of Randolph Carter” (1920). Apparently Warren is based on Lovecraft’s friend Samuel Loveman. Given that Mordu has a conspiracy theory about The Cult of the Swamp God, I figure that this is a perfect opportunity to introduce the Mother of Toads. Is it true? By the end of this series of posts, we shall know for certain!

General Store: Now the name ‘general store’ itself is an anachronsim dating to 19th Century United States. However, it is such a useful stand-in for a variety of shops that I am inclined to retain it. A dwarf Human named Deruno and his average-sized family run the shop. If the PCs have established a good reputation for themselves, Deruno will offer to loan them his personal collection of magick items — (3) potions of Cure Light Wounds, Bracers of Deflection +1, and a Longsword +1.

Note: The only reference to “deruno” I can find is “deruño” which appears to be a Cuban-Spanish word for “ruin.”

Blacksmith: Jordi le Forgeron is the stereotypical “strong & silent” type. Small talk makes him feel uncomfortable. When he does speak, it is with a Catalonian accent. Jordi fears Luc and cry out while backing away clutching his hammer when he sees Luc with the party. There is something about Luc that induces panic in Jordi. My guess is that he had a traumatic experience with an insane person when he was a child, a parent perhaps. Upon hearing the commotion, Jordi’s wife Nadine comes running into the anteroom.

Nadine explains that Jordi and herself are agrieved over the disappearance of their son Colin who worked in the big (manour) house. Constable Gremin is investigating Colin’s disappearance. Nadine begs the PCs’ assistance. If the PCs agree, then Jordi shares one of the rumours.

Notre Dame des Hiboux: Father Brucian is the vicar of the Church of Our Noble Lady. Brucian is the son of a Scottish mercenary who settled in Southern France. Brucian treats the PCs with polite reticence. Similarly to Constable Gremin, Fr. Brucian is initially suspicious of the PCs suspecting that they may in fact be bandits or brigands set to rob the village. And also like Gremin, sweet talking the vicar will not change his disposition but actions will.

Christian, Pagan, or both? Here is an interesting opportunity. Is Father Brucian a Christian priest, assigned to this village by the Bishop of Ximes? Is he actually a priest of the Toad Mother cult? If what Shmu’el said about the Mother of Toads is true, then would not Brucian be the head of her cult? On the other hand, the story of Marcel is that Fr. Brucian attempted perform the miracle of raise dead and it failed. Or perhaps he prayed for a miracle and it was not granted. After all, why did he have a scroll with three raise dead spells on it? He is only 2nd level. Recall that in Part II of this series, I found the entry in the Realm of Terror boxed set that said “The shaman is not afraid to enter the swamp.” If he was a priest of the Toad Mother, he would have no fear of the swamp. But as a Christian priest, he could also be full of faith and likewise go forth with no fear (or at least a deep knowledge of the swamp). There is also precedence for being both. There are stories of English priests who were nominally vicars of Christ yet paid homage to the local nature spirit(s). For the moment, this will be Fr. Brucian and we shall see how that works out.

Les Hiboux or Les Crapauds? As I work through the incorporation of Clark Ashton Smith’s Mother of Toads, I wonder if it might make more sense to name the village Les Crapauds (the toads) rather than Les Hiboux (the owls)? Owls hunt toads and frogs, and a village called “The Owls” probably has a lot of owls in it. Hardly a place held in dominion by a Frog-Nymph. Also, by no longer setting the story in Les Hiboux then it no longer has to be exactly in Averoigne but can be contemporary with it or adjacent to it; id est, inspired by it. The downside to this is that it becomes much harder to reference Averoigne and part of the fun is to make it feel like the PCs are in fact adventuring in Averoigne. Of course, we could go back to my original idea of Averoigne overlaying the Southern Rhône watershed…!

ADEPT 2 (CR 1): Neutral/Good Human
DETECTION: Listen +3, Spot +3; Init -1; Languages: Common, French, Latin
DEFENCES: AC 9, touch 9, flat-footed 10; hp 5 (2d4);
ACTIONS: Spd 30 ft.; Mêlée: Dagger -1 (1d4+1); Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; Base Atk -1
STR 13, DEX 8, CON 11, INT 14, WIS 16, CHA 12
FORT +0, REF -1, WILL +6
FEATS: Weapon finesse, et alia.
SKILLS: Discipline +1, Parry -1, Sense Motive +3
SPELLS: Bless, Cure minor wounds, Protection from evil, & Purify food & drink

Cemetery Hill: Instead of Claudine the mother of Jean, Marcel, & Luke, their immediate father Claude is interred there. This will reinforce the weird lack of women in the Crapaud family.

After Dark: It strikes me as a bit odd that two ghouls are opening up the newly interred zombie. In fact the text states the following:

“If the PCs pause to watch the disinternment, then they must deal with the newly-freed zombie as well as the ghouls.”

Why are the ghouls freeing the zombie? Do ghouls hunt down and eat zombies? Since Marcel is a zombie lord, why does he not open the vault himself or get one of his zombies to do it? After all, the ghouls are nominally under the control of Jean. But would it not be cool if ghouls hunted zombies for food? It would probably screw up this module, but it is certainly food for thought (*groan*)!

The Old Cemetery: Abandoned over a century ago. There are three ways to enter: over the 10' high stone walls (DC 20 or DC 5 when using a grappling hood & knotted rope), through the secret passage, or through the heavy chains, lock, & iron gate (Open Lock DC 26 or Break the lock hardness 15, hp 30).

Why not break into the Old Cemetery & end the adventure quickly? If I was playing this adventure, I would certainly break into the Old Cemetery as soon as possible. After all, the boss monster and the best loot are always in the ancient unused and forgotten cemetery, right? Thankfully, Slavicsek thought of that:

“If the PCs decide to explore the old cemetery before all the “Village Events” have occurred, go to Part III and run the encounters listed there. You’ll have to make two changes. First, the zombies have not yet been unleashed upon the village. As a result, there will be more at Marcel’s side; double the amount of zombies listed in each encounter. Second, Jean is still on the loose. He comes to Marcel’s aid and fights alongside him in the final battle unless the PCs have dealt with him beforehand.”

Doubling the number of zombies because they have not gone out into the village makes perfect sense. Jean coming to Marcel’s aid… well I think the reasoning is that because they are twins, they share a magical empathy which still remains even during undeath. Jean’s empathy with his undead twin brother is part of the reason why Jean has gone mad. However, Jean cannot teleport! Even running at top speed, surely it would take Jean at least 15 minutes to race through the village, push the rock aside, scramble through the tunnel, and push the statue aside in order to join the fight. Any faster and he would be exhausted. Given how fast fights run in 3rd Edition, 15 minutes is 150 rounds! From the time Marcel notices the PCs to Jean arriving, it will be too late. So I think the plan should be just as the PCs are looting Marcel’s lair, Jean leaps from the shadows to take his revenge!

Fiora’s Cottage: Fiora is the old woman that Chatty Katha said had also smelled the mal aria (malevolent air) that turned Francois into a zombie. Fiora has barricaded herself in her cottage yet calls out for her daughter Thérèse, who until her recent disappearance worked in the ‘big house’. If successfully influenced (DC 15), Fiora will tell of the frightening flesh eaters who haunt the cemetery at night and also that it was been two weeks since she has seen her beloved Thérèse.

Crapaud Townhouse: The Crapaud family maintains a townhouse in the village in addition to their fortified manoir house out amongst the rice fields and herds of semi-feral white horses. During the daytime, there is an 80% chance to find Jean here but only a 20% chance at night.

The townhouse is locked up tight and all the shutters are closed. The locks are “masterful” with a -12 penalty to pick. If the doors are knocked, nobody answers. The doors are made of heavy wood reinforced with iron. They have 30 hit points with a hardness of 5. Every time a door is struck there is a 50% chance of a villager noticing and bringing Constable Gremin. The module says that Gremin can arrive in 1–6 minutes! I find that very hard to believe given that a villager has to first find Gremin, tell him that the PCs are trying to break into the townhouse, and then he has to jog over there. I think it is more likely for 5d4 minutes to find Gremin, 1d4 minutes to explain what is going on and 3d4 minutes for his arrival which works out to 9d4 (9–36) minutes before he arrives. This sets up an interesting problem for the PCs. Breaking into a home is illegal so of course Gremin has to stop them. If they resist arrest, one of them may get killed before Gremin is killed.

Killing Gremin is a Chaotic/Evil act and will have their alignment/intent adjusted accordingly (I’m thinking one full step in both directions; e.g. L/G becomes N/N). The villager who reported the PCs will be a witness and will tell all the other villagers unless the PCs kills that person as well (another major C/E act). There is a 50% chance that the murder of Gremin will have another witness and the murder of any witness will have a 50% chance of being witnesses, et cetera et cetera. The end result will be the “angry villager rule.”

Running away from Gremin is fairly easy to do since they have a head start and Gremin will not step outside the village. However, Gremin will quickly spread the word and the entire village will turn against the PCs. After all, the PCs were suspected of being bandits and this only proves the suspicion.

Go Directly to Gaol: Not only is this the non-violent option, but it gives everyone a chance to cool off. Gremin needs some sort of dialogue such as “STOP IT! STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW! NOW GET YOUR ARSE IN GAOL! C’MON, STEP TO IT!”

Nota bene: According to the module, the PCs can prevent an arrest by influencing Gremin (DC 20) or by charming him. Each sucessive infractions increases the DC by 5. Once in gaol, the PCs can retry the influence. There is no penalties for retry however the attempt may only be made once each day. When the zombies attack the village, Gremin will release them regardless of how he feels about them. Alternatively they could pick the lock (DC 24; rogue gets a -2 for improvised thieves’picks) or break it (hardness 5, hp 10). But if they do escape from the gaol, the entire village will treat them as bandits.

Inside the Townhouse: If the PCs break-in while Jean is there, he will attempt to avoid them. The DC to spot or listen is 20 because Jean knows all the hiding places, soft carpets, and squeaking floorboards. The module says that Jean will not attack even if he has one of them alone (e.g. the wizard) but will do so later. Why would that be? Given that he knows the layout so well, he could easily kill one of the PCs and slip out without getting caught. Especially if the PC is unarmoured (e.g. the wizard). I will let this one slide for the moment in the hopes that it will be explained later but I reserved the right to have Jean murder a PC and then hide. Imagine the terror!

Murder Evidence: If the PCs search behind the bookcase in Jean’s study, they will find a small alcove and inside is a scroll tube containing the Hiscosa scroll and a black hooded cloak with blood liquorice in the pocket. — An Jean allows the PCs to take the scroll?!? Seriously?!?

Tomas le Tailleur: Toma Levi and his family are Maghrebi Jews recently from Marseille. The Levi family perform all sorts of tailoring work from repairing gambesons & haquetóns to making new clothes in the Marseille fashion. Toma will softly complain that not even mon sieur Jean will consent to wearing a cotehardie. Hopefully the PCs are not so conservative.

Toma has a rumour to share and if show the piece of cloth ripped from the ghoul in the cemetery, he will identify it as part of the Crapaud livery; most likely from the servants in the big house.

Crapaud Fortified Manoir House: Like the townhouse, the manoir house is shuttered and locked (DC 32). If the PCs arrive at night, they experience the “Dinner Party” event.

NEXT: Click here for Part VII.


  1. Fascinating and kudos for taking the extra step to have french names.

    One gotcha, French (langue d'oil) was only probably used by French people (nobility, clergy) while Camargue people spoke their romance language (langue d'oc).

    Ironically, the first Nobel prize in litterature awarded to a Frenchman was for Mirèio a poem in Occitan ( ).

    Looking forward to further developments.

  2. Yes, you are absolutely right about that. Admittedly I've been lazy and just using Google Translate which doesn't differentiate between French and Occitan. For the eventual PDF, I'll see if I can hunt down a proper English to Occitan dictionary.


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