The players stumble upon a beautiful Gothic manor in the middle of a barren wasteland. Tacked onto the outside of the huge building is a much smaller, and cheaply made, wooden sign that reads “Welcome to Roderick the Crusher’s Bed & Breakfast.”
If the players enter the strangely out-of-place structure, they find an assortment of rough-looking barbarians debating amongst themselves in the lobby/foyer.
“Maybe we should just go back to being nomads, Roderick,” one of the them says to a large half-orc behind the front desk. “We’re clearly not meant to be here.”
The half-orc scoffs. “No way. Us finding this place has been nothing short of a blessing. Besides, it’s clearly abandoned; our staying here isn’t hurting anyone.”
“It’s hurting us!” another barbarian chimes in, lifting his tattered shirt to reveal claw marks across his chest.
Roderick looks unimpressed. “You think Roderick the Crusher is scared of some ghosts or goblins in need of manicures? Please. Have a look at this.” He lifts up his own shirt, revealing rippling muscles that are covered in years of battle scars. “Each wound tells a story, and I don’t mind adding a few more to my collection.”
“Ugh, you’re so stubborn,” another says, “We should change your name to the Immovable Roderick.”
At this point, Roderick notices the party standing in the doorway. He gasps with excitement, smiles, and yells, “Boys! We have guests!”
The half-orc claps his enormous hands, cuing all the rugged barbarians to scramble, donning maid aprons and putting on small bellhop fezzes atop their heads of wild hair.
“Welcome to Roderick’s Bed and Breakfast,” he says with a warm smile, “I’m your host, Roderick the Crusher. Care to stay the night in one of our fine rooms? It’s a soft opening, so prices are dirt-cheap at the moment.”
No Rest for the Wicked
If the party inquires about what’s going on, Roderick is evasive, not wanting to spoil the warm, cozy atmosphere of the manor. However, others in the tribe of barbarians will happily fill in the gaps and voice their concerns.
Here is the situation:
- Roderick the Crusher leads a nomadic tribe of barbarians.
- They stumbled upon this seemingly-abandoned manor in the middle of nowhere.
- Roderick saw it as a gift and a chance for his nomadic crew to have a real home finally, after all these years of travel.
- He even went so far as to establish the manor as a “Bed and Breakfast” , so that other poor travelers can enjoy a soft bed, warm meal, and a pleasant familial atmosphere.
- Unfortunately, the barbarians have been struggling with restless sleep, many claiming to see frightening visions or hear strange voices through the walls.
The party can offer to help Roderick investigate the premises and determine the source of the ghostly presence.
If players begin by joining the barbarians for supper and sleeping first (especially if they arrived late in the day), then they should experience these strange occurrences for themselves throughout the course of the evening.
- Disembodied voices in the wall
- Crows gathering outside the window, pecking at the windowpanes to get inside
- Waking up to find themselves levitating 8 feet in the air
- Sudden chills
- Ghostly bodies sitting on the edge of beds before vanishing
- Objects thrown across the room, shattering against walls or against the players themselves (Dex saving throw to dodge)
Once the investigation gets underway, the party can explore a variety of rooms in the manor.
The most activity seems to be, unsurprisingly, around/near the basement door. Many of the barbarians, despite their tough exteriors, are afraid of the dark and have avoided going down there entirely.
If the party descends into the basement, they find what can be expected: various kegs of wine/beer, barrels of now long-rotten vegetables, crates, etc. In any players attempt to drink the wine, they will need to roll Con saves or be poisoned (more on why below).
After the players have scouted around for a minute, two angry specters will rise from the earth and engage the party in battle.
When the party defeats these monsters, the ghostly chill in the air can still be felt. Roderick the Crusher will also come barreling down the stairs, lantern in hand. “Are you guys alright? I heard a ruckus down here.”
Depending on how much time passes, specters will again start to rise up from the ground/materialize through the walls, and the battle will repeat itself again (you can even have the party roll a d4 to determine just how many specters appear each time).
To properly eliminate the threat, the party must:
- Successfully pass an investigation/perception check to notice that there’s a discoloration with one of the stone walls
- Break down the false wall
- Discover a side room where there’s a skeleton lying in the dirt, holding onto a diary. In his other hand, the skeleton’s bony fingers are gripping a velvet bag filled with 500 GP.
The diary (and the bones) belong to a Mr. Franklin Fortunada, a real-estate mogul, who had just finished building his newest private estate in the desert. However, he didn’t want to pay the builders for their efforts so, instead, he poured them all celebratory drinks of poisoned wine. His last entry laments his choice because he woke up to find himself sealed away behind this stone wall in his cellar, listening to the laughter of the vengeful ghosts of the building crew who did this to him.
Once the truth is revealed, the air becomes incredibly cold to the point where all players, and Roderick, can see their breath (strange for a desert). From the back of the sealed room, a new ghost appears. Unlike the ones from before, this one is a wraith, and he’s flanked on either side by another specter.
“Paaaay what’ssss oooowed,” the wraith wheezes, holding out a ghostly skeletal hand.
The players now have some options:
- Option 1: Pay Up – Tossing the bag of 500 GP will cause the wraith to weigh it carefully in his hand, before shaking his head, and saying “Neeeed interessst…100 shoooort.” At this point, the players can pay up from their own accounts to satisfy the vengeful spirit (aside from a handful of coppers, Roderick has nothing to contribute). After the debts have been settled, the spirit will use its magic to reseal the wall and, finally, the air will drop to only a moderate chill. There is still the latent sense that the place is haunted, but the restless ghosts are pacified (for now).
- Option 2: Destroy the Spirits – Instead of paying up, the players and Roderick can do battle with the wraith and his two specter sidekicks. Eliminating the spirits will cause the temperature in the basement to warm up considerably and all feelings of an resentful, evil presence disappear. It should also be noted that these specters are essentially just angry memories of the workers who were poisoned; they are not innocent souls/victims that the party needs to feel bad about eliminating.
DM Note: If you want to really play into the Fall of the House of Usher source material, denying payment can cause the wraith to say, “then we take back this hoooouse” before summoning ghosts to shake/attack the manor’s foundation and support pillars.
This can put a time crunch on the battle before the entire structure collapses, burying alive the party and the other barbarians. You can set it to a specific number of turns, narrating how first dust begins to fall…then they hear the sound of splintering wood…then the louder sound of crumbling stone. Alternatively, you can have a player roll a d20 at the start of each round, with the DC to avoid collapse starting off small but getting higher and higher with each passing round of battle.
If the players save Roderick the Crusher’s manor, he and the rest of his no-longer-nomadic crew will be eternally grateful. They promise to always have beds for the party, free of charge, whenever they pass through this section of wasteland. Additionally, unless the players chose to keep all the 500 GP for themselves (instead of offering it to Roderick to improve his business), the half-orc can give the players some fancy gems and magic rings (trinkets that must have belonged to the wealthy, murderous Franklin Fortunada).