Once the party had been pointed in the direction of their adventure hook, they went to the farmlands west of the fort, the last place anyone had seen a zombie cow. These monsters seemed to be originating from the direction of Sigyfel’s Tomb, but the Cleric, the only member who had been on that first adventure, knew that the tomb was small and not the source of the troubles. Outside the tomb, the fighter discovered some “not quite leather” that had torn off one of the zombie cows on a trail nearby. The party followed the gory trail of blood, fur and hoof prints through the scrublands and beyond into the wooded swamps.
The party heard a distant groaning “moo” in the distance. The goblin thief climbed a tree and was able to spot an undead bovine staggering awkwardly and bumping into trees. The party set upon it and quickly dispatched it, though they were a bit surprised by how much punishment it could take. They continued on in the direction it had come from until the trees gave way to a clearing with an obvious and large graveyard between them and the wall of surrounding the estate.
Rather than poking around in the graveyard, or even going around the wall to the south gate, the party -starting with the goblin thief- decided to scale the wall. This was an interesting choice, because it allowed me to show the party the entire layout of the estate (NW: barn, SW: undead chicken coop, NE: manor house, SE: undead garden) and gave the party a lot of options to try to launch a surprise attack. What they ended up doing resulted in a ridiculous cascading encounter which everyone agreed was pretty epic.
The party saw the 7 zombie elves (4 women, 1 man, 2 children) working in the garden just south of the manor house; instead of jumping into the fray, they leapt from the wall onto the roof of the manor house. Given that the roof was in somewhat bad shape, I kept making rolls to see if anyone fell through, but no one did. The party unsuccessfully tried to ambush the family of zombies, never quite sure whether they should stay on the roof or climb down and fight. The zombies seemed remarkably tough because I didn’t bother to tell the players that arrows did minimum damage and blunt did half. The cleric tried and successfully turned 3 of them, but the other 4 ran into the manor.
(By this point, everyone realized that they’d forgotten to do anything with the lead-entombed crown; it was determined that the mage was still carrying it in his knapsack.)
I gave the party a few moment to figure out what they wanted to do before a wraith rose up from the roof to attack the players who weren’t on the ground. The party managed to kill the wraith, largely thanks to the new fighter, but not before the mage and thief got energy drained. I haven’t quite settled on how I’m going to handle it, but I’m thinking of an XP deficit, rather than an out and out loss of level. I think my players are more scared not knowing. “The wraith strikes you. You feel sad.” “What happens?” “All of the joy in life has left you. You feel as though all you’ve been doing is meaningless. The treasures seek are worthless and those which you’ve found, you know you’ll never get to sell, and even if you do, what will it even matter?”
Meanwhile, the remaining zombie elf women are hacking the cleric up. The mage holds up his bleeding body with a floating disc while the fighter cuts through the zombies, but he doesn’t realize he’s offering the cleric up on a plate. Of course, all the commotion has alerted the Zombraire; half a dozen of his pet stirges crash through the thatched roofing as they soar into the sky. That’s when the mage makes one of the best uses of Sleep I’ve ever seen: “How high up are the Stirges?” “About 150 feet in the air or so.” “What’s the range on Sleep?” “Let me check… 240 feet.” “I cast sleep on the Stirges!” Everyone dives out of the way as stirges go splat around them, careening into the undead plants. A purple bolt is fired from a window in the tower, striking the goblin thief as the party finishes slaughtering the zombies (who had been dealing wicked damage in rolled plain sight).
“Well, you’re surrounded by death: dead elves, dead stirges, undead plants, a million flies and the stench is unbearable. What do you do?”
Go into the manor, of course!
The party makes it into the great hall just as the Zombraire has made his way down from the tower. He was going to blast the party with an illusionary fireball cast from his wand of illusions, but everyone made their saves. “He waves the wand at you… And seems incredibly surprised that nothing seems to have happened.” Having taken a hit, the Zombraire tried to make a run for it. The fighter caught him before he could get very far or cast more spells, cutting him down on the stairs of his tower. If he could’ve gotten his mirror image off, things might have been very different.
The party was now free to search the manor, found some swag, and burned some rot-grubs off the goblin thief. Though Richmond is under some suspicion and the party clearly isn’t going to give him the crown right away if at all, I was happy that the party discussed which items he might be interested in. We finally called it a night because I warned that any further exploration of the Estate would probably lead to an encounter almost as big as the last one.
So, thoughts on the Zombraire’s Estate module!
This is one of the mini modules from BFRPG’s free Adventure Anthology 1. Though it’s been teased at for some time, I didn’t ever know when I was going to get to finally run it. I hadn’t looked at this module in two months and still managed to run it by the seat of my pants and everyone had a great time. That alone is a sign of a quality supplement for a DM. I screwed up the placement of two rooms (transposing the bedroom with the kitchen) in the manor and as such lost a minor set-piece encounter that would’ve ended with the cleric turning the skeleton maids to dust the first round, but I’m okay with that. The wand of illusions is going to introduce some fun chaos to my game, but will be balanced by the fact that damn near everything has been undead.
So long as I can answer “why would the elves have an undead farm?” sufficiently with “because they’re terrible and evil”, ZE fits nicely into the Alfheim setting.
After Maze of Nuromen, this has probably been one of my favorite modules to run, even if I only get two sessions out of it. Depending on how you let things play out, there could be anywhere from as many as a dozen encounters to two or three monstrous battles. I don’t know how things will turn out with the barn, the zombie chickens, and the rats in the graveyard, but I think my players would concur that a fight against several zombies, stirges, a wraith and an elven zombie wizard was sufficiently awesome.