Curse of Strahd – Episode 3

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I began this session by killing one of the characters. As I mentioned back at the beginning of the campaign, this is an experienced party of players. I’ve had to give the bad guys maximum hit points and full damage just to make them a threat to this group. The session began with a random encounter during the night with a group of Berzerkers. I figured one Berserker per player would be a hard challenge, with an extra Bandit Leader thrown in. Unfortunately this was a bad move, as they completely overpowered the party. The problem was that I prepared the encounter for the larger group, but only four players made it to the game this week, one of them a new player who had not played with us before. That’s the nature of AL gaming every week, you never know who is going to show up. This week’s group consisted of Bonk the Furborg Cleric, Guunt the Viking Barbarian, Sir Saggamore the Paladin and a new player, Esmerelda, an old lady Bard. The old lady was lost in the midst and saw the windmill, which lead her to the party just as they discovered the stones where the hags had left all the teeth of the dead children.

The group did not want to sleep in the windmill, so they camped in the forest bend in the road toward Vallaki. The Berserkers managed to stealth their way close to the camp while Bonk was on watch. Without Ombra’s exceptional Perception skill, they were caught by surprise by the mud-covered barbarians. As they rushed the camp, two of them charged at Bonk. I am pretty sure I rolled a Critical, (that’s a natural 20 for new players) and did a lot of damage. As the rest of the party was awakened from their sleep to fight, Bonk was unable to withstand the wave of angry barbarians. I don’t think the rest of the party noticed that he was making death saves (and failing), as we had only just started the session and everyone was still distracted and getting settled in. By the time they noticed Bonk had failed his final save. I really did not want to take a guy out of the game in the first half hour. I looked up any AL rules I could find, but because he had just gone up to level 5, I could not use a faction res to bring him back. I also forgot I could have used Ismark or Ireena to stabilize him, although there were still berzerkers around so that probably would not have worked. The berserkers retreated after two of their own were slain, mainly because I felt bad for throwing such a tough group at a smaller party. The group themselves came up with a solution: They called Genny Greenteeth and paid her to raise dead. Poor Sir Saggamore spent the gold he had been saving for plate mail to resurrect his companion.

I was actually planning on running DDAL04-07 this week but the new guy Robin, playing Esmerelda the Bard, was only level 4 so the party went on with the mission to Vallaki. When they arrived, the guards were wearing very peculiar masks. They demanded the party smile, as everyone in Vallaki must be happy at all times. A sign on the gates read “A smile a day keeps the devil away.”

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I made them roll Charisma checks with a DC 10 difficulty to give a false smile. Each time they encountered guards in the town they would have to make the same check. They all passed and were allowed into Vallaki, Sir Saggamore riding high on his spectral steed, Apparition. He wasn’t very pleased that his “Summon Steed” spell gave him a creepy, ghostly, horse but that is the way the world of Ravenloft works. Great choice of name, though!

The group rode passed the coffin maker and Sir Saggamore complimented him on his workmanship. “Thank you!” the coffin maker responded, “I hope you are not a customer of mine!” They reached the church and were told about the missing bones, that the church was no longer a safe place until the bones were returned. They questioned the altar boy, who led them to the older boy digging graves. They intimidated him into confessing he stole the bones for Henrik van der Voort, the coffin maker, and Sir Saggamore gave the boy 3 gold pieces. They headed off to the shop, Guunt kicked in the door (even though Sir Saggamore offered to use Shatterspike to open it) and scared poor Henrik into telling them everything. Henrik did not tell them what the creatures were that would kill him, but he told them the creatures were upstairs in the spare room. The party walked in and demanded the monsters show themselves, at which point six vampire spawn burst out of the crates of dirt around them. After the disastrous first encounter I did not beef up the monsters and I gave them a warning that they had a hard time with ONE vampire spawn just two weeks before. They felt confident they could do it and I must admit, Guunt the barbarian can take a shit ton of damage. The vampires could not get a hold of anyone to use their bites, so they really only had their claw attacks. Bonk kept an eye on everyone’s health and they actually managed to kill all six vampire spawn. Sir Saggamore was crucial to this battle, his sword’s radiant damage blew the vampires to pieces. A couple vampires fled out the window, crawling to the next adjacent building and Guunt went out after them. He slipped off the wall but managed to catch the window sill, and the vampires thought they could take him, so they dropped down to the ground to face him. They were wrong, and although he did not have a magic weapon he was able to destroy their physical form. With the vampire spawn gone, they found the bones of the saint and returned them to the church. They left Ismark and Ireena there and headed back to the inn they had passed earlier.

On the way back they ran into Izek and two more masked guards. Izek demands they tell him where the woman is they were seen with. No one in the party would tell him anything, so he left them with a warning. This was only supposed to be an introduction to Izek, but they decided to follow him. He lead them to Blinsky’s Toy Shop, and they followed him in. They see him with a doll that looks like Ireena and Bonk decides to grab it from his hands. Guunt gets in his face and a battle ensues. I really didn’t want Izek to die so soon, and he hit Guunt with a few good hits, but he only had two guards (I used Knight stats for the guards) and with the Cleric and Bard behind him, Guunt was buffed enough to take out Izek pretty easily. During the battle, thunderous smite was used by Sir Saggamore, blowing out the windows of the shop and destroying the more fragile toys. Blinsky howled in the corner as Izek missed with a flame attack, setting the curtains of the shop aflame. There was no way for Izek to escape and so he went down hard, as did one of the guards. The second guard they decided to take prisoner and they took off before more guards could arrive. The guards tracked them back to the church and demanded they turn over Guunt for the murder of Izek Strazni ( as well as the guard they took, who we forgot about). Guunt peeked outside and I had a guard with a readied action and I rolled a Crit, so Guunt got hit with an arrow and his HP were very low. I know he wasn’t happy about it, it was a bit cheap on my part, but a 20 is a 20. Guunt decided to surrender while the rest of the group was ordered to leave Vallaki by nightfall. The session ended with the guards taking Guunt to the town square and crucifying him on a wooden cross. They left him there to fetch the Burgomaster, who would decide the manner of his death. Before the Burgomaster arrived, a mysterious group in hooded robes took him off the cross and took Guunt to a safe place. The session ended with Guunt being taken to a mysterious place while the rest of the party was left to decided whether they would flee the town or stay and face the guards. They haven’t even set foot in the Inn yet. . .

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Curse of Strahd – Episode 2

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What a crazy session this turned out to be. For most of the week I tried to figure out how to make their first encounter with Strahd a memorable one. What monsters could I throw at them that would be a challenge? At first I thought of having Strahd challenge them to a fist fight, teaching the players humility with his own hands. A bare knuckle fist fight, surrounded by Vistani, it would have been a scene straight out of Snatch. In the end I decided to use two Zombie Beholders, which I felt were “thematically appropriate” to Ravenloft.

Two new players joined this week, a Paladin dedicated to trade and commerce named Sam and a Viking Barbarian from the Nocturnal Sea who came to Barovia to find meaning to the dreams he was having about places he had never been to. The party had rested earlier that night, in fact they had only just woken up, taken the dead Burgomaster’s body to the church and killed the vampire spawn in the basement. I did not want to send them out again without getting a long rest, so they spent the day getting acquainted with the new members of the party. Ireena’s father was laid to rest in a simple ceremony, after which some of the adventurers helped Donavich burn the church to the ground. After laying his son’s destruction, there was no reason for the old pastor to stay there anymore. No one visited the church and it was haunted by ghosts, so Sir Saggamore and a couple others helped him burn the building to the ground. Other members of the group picked up winter gear, as it was getting very cold in Barovia, then they rested for the night.

Travelling to the Tser Pool, they came to the crossroads. As they passed by the creaking old gallows, I rolled randomly to see which player would see their character hanging there. Of course I rolled Ombra, the blind Tabaxi monk. How do I get a blind character to see their own dead corpse? This is how I did it: As the monk passed the gallows, in the rear of the party, they heard a sudden thud of a weight behind them. She could hear the body swinging and smell a familiar scent coming from it. Ombra told the party about it and they all gathered around, telling her that it was HER hanging there. Guunt the barbarian cut the body down and held it. It was identical to Ombra in every way, even the eyes. They could all see it, and described it to her. Finally the paladin Sam decided to lay on hands, even though it was clearly a corpse. As soon as they touched the corpse with their holy hand it faded to smoke, which I described as similar to dry ice. I think it had a good effect on them and was a eerie start to the session.

When they arrived at the Vistani Camp, they were welcomed as friends, invited to join the party, where the wine flowed freely. Guunt wanted food, but alcohol was all the Vistani were serving. Stanimir told them the story of a wounded warrior that the Vistani protected, a warrior who was now cursed. This is actually the story used in the “Story Hooks” chapter to get the players to Barovia. Once this tale was told, they were invited in to meet Madam Eva. Not all of them could fit into the tent, so half the party went in while the others waited outside.

I did the deck reading before the session, so I had one of them flip the cards that were pre-arranged to fit with the results. I won’t put the results here, because some of them might read this and know where the clues are pointing to. Midway through the reading, I had Thalamir make a perception check to figure out what was going on, as the mood in the camp suddenly took a dark turn. He failed, so all he heard was the sound of wagons approaching down the dirt path. Just as the reading was finished, Madam Eva jumped up, sending her crystal ball crashing to the floor. The party gathered together in front of her tent as a beautiful black chariot appeared. Inside they could only see the hand of a pale man holding what appeared to be a glass of wine. Inside the carriage with him were three vampire women, scantily dressed, a red-head, a blonde and a brunette, who laugh and mock the players. Behind him is a beaten old carnival wagon, with a driver hidden beneath a large hat and long coat.
“Welcome to Barovia!” The man says, waving his glass of wine. The vampire women laugh louder this time and the carriage pulls away. As the players watch the Guunt decides to charge forward, hoping to grab the carriage. I let them prepare any spells or weapons before we rolled initiative as the driver pulls a latch and drops the side of the wagon. Two large orbs of rotting flesh drift out of the wagon’s interior, a large white eye opening in the center. The little eye stalks on its head swivel toward the players and I put down the color picture of a zombie beholder.

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Well the effect worked they were certainly engaged, but they did not hesitate to attack it. I actually expected the cleric Bonk to Turn Undead but he didn’t, they just went straight at the pair of rotting eyes. The very first beam of attack was a disintegration beam but the player managed to avoid it. They all made their saves and the beholders really didn’t last long. I was pleasantly disappointed, which is only possible playing D&D. All my worries about them all getting disintegrated were for nothing. Sam, who had jumped up on top of the wagon, did end up paralyzed but the monsters died before they could follow up. It happened so fast that Guunt wanted to chase Strahd’s carriage on foot but the rest of the party called him back. Then they all proceeded to violate the stinking, disgusting corpse. I mean they cut out the eyes, squeezed the stalks like wringing a towel, all kinds of weird stuff. I guess they were just really happy to have destroyed such nasty creatures. The Vistani ran for the hills, stunned by the group’s power. Madam Eva tells them that she never truly believed they could face Strahd until now. They camped for the night up the path, mainly because of the stench coming off the beholder corpses. I was kind of hoping one of the beholders would make their Con save and pop back up but they both failed. I knew I should have made it three, kobold.club ranked three beholders as a deadly challenge but that was for 6 people, the extra player would have offset the difficultly. That’s just the way it goes with AL, sometimes.

During the night as they tried to rest, 11 Strahd zombies rose from the Ivlis River, the bodies of those who had drowned in its frigid waters. My goal was to disrupt their rest but they managed to kill them fast enough that they could return to sleep right away. The last two zombies were killed by Sam’s smite that shattered them into a thousand pieces. Ireena and Ismark chopped the remains up so the party could get the rest of their long rest. Once again I was foiled. I don’t want to kill the players, but I certainly want to challenge them the b

As they headed toward Vallaki, they saw the windmill down a winding path. Ombra told them what he had learned from the old lady selling the pies, that this is where she would have brought the child she took from Barovia. Of course they wanted to deal with these hags right away, after all Strahd had challenged them and they had overcome it easily, so why worry about three old ladies? Except I gave all three of them almost maximum hit points, I did not use the average. Also, I upgraded Morgana the mother hag to a Bauer Hag, which I believe is from Volo’s Guide. Together, and with Morgana’s upgraded winter abilities, they proved to be quite formidable. The small confines of the wind mill worked for the hags, keeping players from surrounding them. Instead, Thokk the Half-Orc Warlock began boosting people in through the second story window, first of which was Thalamir. Here’s how it began:

Morgana saw them approaching on horses and yelled out the window. They told her they wanted to buy pies. Unknown to the players, she had JUST killed that poor boy from Barovia (I know I am a horrible person.)
Thokk stands under the window, boosts Thalamir up, which I allowed as his movement, breaking through the window and firing two arrows at Morgana. Both arrows hit, but she takes reduced damage because they are not magic or fired from a magic bow. Half the party rushed in through the first floor door while the rest made their approach. For her turn, Morgana used her Maddening Feast. The hag feasts on the corpse of one enemy
within 5 feet of her that died within the past minute. Each creature of the hag’s choice that is within 60 feet of her and able to see her must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of her for 1 minute. While frightened in this way,
a creature is incapacitated, can’t understand what others say, can’t read, and speaks only in gibberish; the DM controls the creature’s movement, which is erratic. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the hag’s Maddening Feast for the next 24 hours.
Yes, she began to eat the dead child. Thalamir failed his save and stood there in fear.

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Meanwhile, Ombra on the first floor pushes over the barrel of disgusting slug, which had a demon thing in it called a Dretch. The disgusting thing released Fetid cloud, making it difficult for anyone to pass through the room. Most of the guys ran for the steps, or backed out of the windmill. Ombra climbed the wall to the second floor and fought Morgana. The rest of the battle was pure chaos; people getting knocked down, only to be healed again, the witches hitting them with powerful spells (including polymorphing Thokk into a goblin child), but eventually Sam the Paladin of Commerce used his smite and got a critical on Morgana. With only 1 hit point left, she fled the building by moving into the Ethereal Plane. The other sisters tried to follow her, but when she went too far, their coven magic was broken. Her daughters tried desperately to reach her, if only to have their coven powers back. The night hag was blocked in the doorway, while her sister was trapped on the third floor with Guunt and another player (maybe Sam?, as well as Bonk. She knocked one of them out with sleep and ran for it. Morgana appeared 120 ft away and cast Ice Storm on the front door of the house, hitting her daughter as well as the heroes who blocked her. Thalamir, now recovered, took a shot with the long bow and killed her. Seeing her mother die, the hag disappeared into the Ethereal Plane while the third one ran down the stairs to catch up.  Guunt, awakened from his sleep, decides to leap out the third story window to attack her. I made him roll his attack with disadvantage and he failed an Athletics check and ended up hurting himself more than her, but it was enough to scare her into fleeing on her turn to the Ethereal Plane. I ended the session there, even though the hags still had a lot of HP left, mainly because I believe they are cowardly creatures and the loss of their mother was heartbreaking for them. Now the party has to continue on their way to Vallaki with two mad Night Hags still on the loose. Not sure what I’ll do with them, but it will be something good, don’t you worry. The player who plays Thalamir won’t be back for two weeks, so he was given the task of returning the two children they found in boxes in the floor back to the town of Barovia and better parents than the ones who traded them away for drugs/pies.
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Curse of Strahd – Episode 1

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Adventurers League Rules

My AL group had their first visit to Barovia on Wednesday. SPOILERS!!!
 
A lot of them are seasoned players, but for some reason they never actually played that hardcover. Their only experience was the AL adventures tied into season 4. One character had previously visited Barovia, died by a ghost and come back as blind, so he informed the group about the laws of the land.
 
Their first encounter was with a skeletal rider racing down the road, which they dispatched easily. They reached the gates and found a dead body nearby, with a note ( Version 2) When they decided to stay off the main road, the wolves came. Rather than throw a pack of wolves at them, which would be far too easy for this group (they are starting CoS at level 4) I upgraded the enemies to a Winter Wolf with two smaller wolves next to him. The party was a bit surprised when the wolf hit them with a 15 ft cone of icy breath.
 
Soon they reached the village of Barovia. I made the mistake of telling them there were two children on their left on the first road, who told them there was a monster in their house. Because the party was already at 4th level, they did not need to visit Death House, but because I read the text they followed Rose and Thorn to their house. They began searching the rooms of the house, but I had NOT prepared in any way for that side adventure so I was a little thrown off. They found the ‘man-cave’ room with the stuffed wolves and the hatch in the floor. Using Shatterspike and a +2 Axe they broke open the floor and headed down into the basement.
Once they reached the bottom of the stairs, the shadows came alive and attacked, taking down one of the party members, the brave Sir Saggamore. The party decided that this was not a battle they wanted to fight yet and they fled the house, which I allowed because I didn’t have it prepped.
“The House isn’t going anywhere,” said Thokk, the Half-Orc warlock. Thokk BTW, believes himself to be a cleric of Gruumsh. He likes to give blessings to other party members that do nothing, but Thokk doesn’t know that.
 
Finally they made it to the center of town, two characters, the blind Tabaxi and a fulborg named Bonkk headed to the general store while the others went straight to the inn for a drink. As soon as Bildrath saw them he yelled for help, bringing the massive Parriwimple to his side. Once he realized Bonk had gold to spend though, he relaxed and gave them what they wanted (at his inflated prices too!)
 
Inside the Blood on the Vine they meet the three triplets who own the inn, Mirabel, Alenka and Sorvia. Thalamir, the Elven Ranger, tried to hit on them and made a good Persuasion role. The sisters decide to turn the tables on him and they stand up, circle him, and use their Vistani Charm Person ability on him. However, being an Elf he got advantage on the roles and was able to resist their charms. “He doesn’t have what it takes to make us happy.” The sisters tease. Thokk puts up his hand and says “I’ll take his place.” Impressed by his bravado, the three sister take a liking to the Half-Orc while Thalamir the Elf Ranger strikes up a conversation with Ismark. I mentioned to Ombra and Bonk that as they cross the street from the store to the inn, they see (and smell in the case of the blind character) an old lady pushing a cart of pies. Bonk goes into the tavern and meets with a member of the Harpers. While the others eat nut bread and sliced cheeses offered by the Vistani sisters, Ombra decides to pursue the old lady. When he finds her again, she is delivering a few pies to one of the houses. As he listens, he hears the parents hand over their child for the pies! The old lady drags the little boy back to her cart, opens up a cabinet in the bottom and shoves the boy in. The Tabaxi moves closer, buys a pie and asks the old lady where he can find more. She tells him that they are made at the old wind mill and he can go there to find more. Ombra then drops the pie on the ground and runs back to the inn. He throws open the door and shouts “Guys, there is an old lady taking a child away!” Well Bonk shrugs his shoulders, Thokk says “I’ve got three women on my hands right now.” Sir Saggamore has already headed to bed for a long rest and Thalamir has just discovered what is happening to Ireena. So the party decides its just not worth the hassle to rescue the kid. Most of them had already faced Jenny Greenteeth in Tales Trees Tell and they believed the old lady was probably a hag. They think every old lady is a hag.

The next morning they meet Ireena and agree to bury her father. They carry the coffin up the street, where Ombra hears a woman weeping. He finds Mad Mary, learns what happened to her daughter and finds the Blinsky doll. I told the group that the Blinsky doll can give them inspiration 1 time while in their possession and that there were other Blinsky dolls hidden throughout Barovia that they can find. Once they reach the church, Donavich has been crying all night and his voice is very hoarse. The child in the basement keeps yelling “Papa! I’m hungry papa!” Donavich tells them that the beast in the basement is no longer his child, but a monster created by the devil and explains what happened with the wizard.
The party carries the coffin outside and begins digging a hole. Bonk decides to sneak off, break the lock to the trap door and face the vampire spawn himself. Thalamir sees him and asks “Where are you going?” His reply was “To kill a kid!”
The battles doesn’t go well for Bonk. The vampire hugs the ceiling, so the players can’t see him from the floor above. First Thalamir investigates and seeing that Bonk is being attacked, he shouts for the others. The Tabaxi runs down into the basement and pins the vampire to the floor, in the hopes that they can stake it. It over powers him and on its turn it gives him a painful bite. Chaos ensues, as the players try to overcome the vampire. They shout at Donavich to find holy water, but the old priest can’t seem to find any. Sir Saggamore, the only person with a weapon that does radiant damage, doesn’t hear a thing. Eventually they manage to hit the vampire with enough damage that it doesn’t regenerate back and Bonk uses Guiding Bolt to destroy the creature once and for all. Thokk walks over and slugs the wounded Bonk right in the mouth, for trying to face a vampire spawn by himself.

That was where we ended session 1. Next week the players meet Madame Eva and perhaps even Strahd himself!

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New Campaign: The Rise of Count Orlok

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So I am planning on starting the first non-AL campaign at our local game shop.
I am planning on running CoS, but as a homebrew campaign called The Rise of Count Orlok.
The basis of the campaign is this: A rival vampire Count Orlok, lord of a land known as Wisborg, is challenging Strahd’s domain. The players will be forced/hired by Strahd to invade his enemies lands and defeat his seven Lords of Sin.
The first four game sessions will feature in this order:
 
-Suits of the Mists: AL adventure, in Faerun
-Night of the Walking Dead, AD&D Ravenloft adventure, set in Marais d’Tarascon, a swamp town in Wisborg.
-Banquet of the Damned by Benoit de Bernardy, set it Womford, another town in Wisborg, the Lord of Gluttony resides here.
The players will then be able to cross over to Barovia through a group known as The Carnival, an old Ravenloft supplement. The carnival will take them to Old Svalich Road. That should begin their journey to Ravenloft. . .
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SALE!

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If you haven’t picked up a digital copy, now is your chance!
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TheCorrupter

Sword of Grayskull

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Legendary, Requires Attunement

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This great sword of power does 2d6 slashing damage on a strike. When attuned, the wielder can use an Action to raise the sword over their heads and say the command words “I have the power!”

Once activated with the command word, the wielder grows larger and stronger. Their strength becomes 21, the wielder also has advantage on Strength Checks and Strength saving throws. The weapon’s damage increases by 2d6 and all damage becomes Radiant damage.

Every friendly creature within 20ft when the command words are spoken, including the wielder, are immune to the Fear condition. As a Bonus Action, when the command words are spoken and if the character is a Beast Master Ranger, they can also cast Enlarge on their pet. The pet gains advantage on all Fear or Charm Saving Throws and becomes one size larger. The pet’s attacks also do an additional 1d4 radiant damage. If the player is not a Ranger, they can instead cast Summon Steed twice per long rest.

After the command words are spoken, both the wielder and their pet gain a +1 to AC as matching magic armor appears over parts of their body to match their new, larger form. All the characters worn items change in size, as do all weapons, wands, armor, etc.

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Warlock Pact: Pact of the Wolf

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Your patron is the spirit of the wolf, embodied by such beings as Fenrir, the wolf of Norse mythology, the Capitoline Wolf or Lithuanian goddess Medeina. Many cultures throughout history have worshiped and respected the wolf and other canines.

At early levels the wolf embodies loneliness and those who are empowered by the wolf spirit must learn to survive on their own.

Later, as the wolf’s power grows, the loner becomes a pack leader, able to help and protect their allies. The Wolf lives for the thrill of the hunt, but is not unnecessarily cruel. The strong survive and the weak perish, this is the main tenant of those who follow the Wolf Gods.

EXPANDED SPELL LIST

Bonus Cantrip: Primal Savagery

1st: Animal Friendship, Speak with Animals (Wolves Only)

2nd: Beast Sense (Wolves Only), Pass Without Trace

3rd: Conjure Animals (Wolves Only), Spirit Guardians

4th: Conjure Woodland Beings, Phantasmal Killer

5th: Commune with Nature, Awaken

Senses of the Wolf: At 1st level the warlock has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell. Starting at 1st level, the Warlock gain the service of a wolf spirit. The spirit assumes the form and game statistics of a wolf, and it always obeys your commands, which you can give telepathically while it is within 100 feet of you. The Warlock can see through the wolf’s eyes and hear what it hears while it is within 100 feet of you.

The wolf doesn’t require sleep. While it is within 100 feet of the Warlock, it can awaken them from sleep as a bonus action. The wolf vanishes when it dies, if the Warlock dies, or if the two of you are separated by more than 5 miles.At the end of a short or long rest, the Warlock can call the wolf back to their side—no matter where it is or whether it died—and it reappears within 5 feet of the summoner.

Alpha Leader: At 6th level the Warlock has advantage on an Attack roll against a creature if at least one of the warlock’s allies is within 5 ft. of the creature and the ally isn’t Incapacitated.

Shape of the Beast: Starting at 10th level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a wolf exactly like a Druid’s Wild Shape. You can use this feature once per Long Rest. The Wolf has its maximum level of hit points as well as half the Warlock’s CON bonus per level. ( A 10th level Warlock with a +2 CON bonus will have an additional 10 HP in Wolf form.)

Sly Wolf: Also at 10th level, the Warlock gains Advantage on any Charisma (Intimidation) or (Persuasion) when dealing with creatures of the same race.

The Hunted: When a Warlock reaches 14th level they can use an Action to mark a target as Hunted. That target must make a Charisma Saving Throw versus the Warlock’s spell save DC. On a successful save, the target is attacked briefly by a pack of summoned wolves that inflict 2d6 piercing damage. On a failed save, the target is Frightened for 1d6 rounds. During that  time the target can do nothing more than flee from the Warlock, imagining that a pack of wolves is snapping at their heels. Every round the target may make another saving throw, but each fail inflicts 2d6 piercing damage. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Pack Leader: At 20th level the Warlock has become an alpha leader, respected by their chosen Wolf God. The Warlock can inspire others through intimidating presence alone. The Warlock can use a Bonus Action on their turn to choose one creature other than themselves within 60 feet of you who can hear see them. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

The Warlock also learns Commander’s Strike. When they take the Attack
action on their turn, they can forgo one of their attacks and use a bonus action to direct one of their companions to strike, When they do so, they choose a friendly creature
who can see or hear them. That creature can immediately use its reaction to make
one melee attack. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

The Darkness Pitch

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This is the last comic script I wrote, which was a proposal for a new take on the Darkness. The idea was to write the book as a horror series, more like American Horror Story, where there was no clear hero or villain, just an unstoppable evil that would try to ruin the lives of everyone it encountered. I finished writing this just as Stranger Things came out, and there were some close similarities, such as the “Darkness World” that was leaking through to our realm.
Since it has been well over a year and no one even contacted me in regards to this script, I am going to assume Top Cow and I have no further business together and I am posting the script for the world to read.
As always, feel free to comment or contact me about it. Artwork by the wonderful Rob Doria.

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DarknessMan_PinUp (1)

 

The Darkness

 

 

Page 1

 

 

Panel 1: ESTABLISHING SHOT of the brand new CALIFORNIA STATE HOSPITAL, a prison for the mental ill and deranged. It is 1955, the building is new and the paint still fresh, the flowers that grow in the garden are tall and full of color.

 

A van sits in the parking lot to the left side of the building, with the word’s THE MARVELOUS MIFF on the side. The truck belongs to Miff the Magician. It is painted black with playing cards and gold stars on it.

 

Panel 2: INSIDE the hospital, in the open gymnasium. Magic Miff has set up his gear in front of the basketball net. The inmates sit in chairs about twenty feet away, with orderlies stationed next to all the rows of seats. There are 12 rows all together, totaling just over sixty inmates. Doctors are scattered among them, as well as a few nurses. A young nurse, blonde, tall and slim, stands in the front row, a clipboard pressed to her chest. Miff is a round, happy, man with an unusual moustache. He wears a red vest over his black tuxedo and he holds a long, black, wand in his hand. Nearby covered under a black blanket is a six-foot tall ominous looking box.

 

MIFF: THANK YOU, ONCE AGAIN, FOR ALLOWING ME TO PERFORM HERE TODAY, FOR ALL OF YOU. FOR MY SECOND TRICK, I WILL NEED A VOLUNTEER.

 

Panel 3: Miff looks at the inmates, smiling at the assorted freaks and weirdoes, a wide grin on his face.

 

MIFF: THE TRAVEL BOX REQUIRES A BRAVE SOUL, WHICH OF YOU WILL IT BE, EH?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 2

 

 

Panel 1: The old hospital administrator, a mean looking old man who leans on a black cane, approaches the young blonde nurse. His name is Mr. Coldfax and his eyes are too large and too shiny, he is clearly not well.

 

  1. COLDFAX: MARTHA, WHY DON’T YOU VOLUNTEER? I’D PREFER HE LEAVE THE INMATES IN THEIR SEATS WHERE THEY CAN ENJOY THE SHOW.

 

Panel 2: Miff takes Martha by the hand and leads her toward the Travel Box.

 

MARTHA: THIS BOX CAN TAKE YOU ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, ANYWHERE YOU WANT TO GO. YOU WON’T REMEMBER IT OF COURSE. . .THAT’S THE MAGIC OF IT. . .

 

Panel 3: The young woman takes Miff’s hand is lead into the box.

 

MIFF: WHEN I CLOSE THE DOOR, I WANT YOU ALL TO CLAP YOUR HANDS AND SEND THIS NICE YOUNG LADY ON HER MAGICAL JOURNEY! ACROSS THE STARS TO WORLD’S UNKNOWN!

 

Panel 4: TIGHT SHOT: The door is closed, the latches secured. The crowd begins to clap.

 

Panel 5: The magical box is rotated around on its special stand. Two or three times the box turns, turns, turns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Page 3

 

Panel 1: The box comes to a stop, the Magician smiles for the clapping crowd.

 

MIFF: ABRACADABRA!

 

Panel 2: Opening the door, Martha is gone!  Miff bows, his hat in his hands.

 

Panel 3: Closing the door again, the Magician continues with his trick.
MIFF: THANK YOU, THANK YOU! NOW LET’S BRING HER BACK FROM HER AMAZING JOURNEY!

 

Panel 4: Once again the box is revolves around and around. This time the shot is closer, tighter, more claustrophobic.

 

Panel 5: Miff throws open the door, but Martha is gone. We do not see the back of the box, instead we see only darkness.

 

MIFF: ABRACADABRA!

 

 

 

 

 

Page 4

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Miff peers into the box. The rest of the audience is worried, they can sense something is wrong.

 

MIFF: EXCUSE ME, FOLKS. JUST A MINOR SETBACK HERE.

 

Panel 2:

 

Miff studies the box, front and back, but cannot figure out what happened.

 

CROWD: WHERE IS SHE, WHERE IS MARTHA?

 

Panel 3:

 

The Magician gets closer to the box, trying to see into the blackness.

 

Panel 4:

 

Miff steps into the box, his face just inches from the dark.

 

Panel 5:

 

CLOSE-UP of Miff’s horrified face. Suddenly Miff can see into the dark, down into the blackness and what he sees is madness and evil incarnate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 5

 

 

FULL PAGE SPREAD:

 

The panel is framed by the magical box and we can tell that this is what Miff sees.

 

Martha drowns in a sea of blackness, surrounded by massive white gleaming teeth. Her clothes are shredded, her flesh torn open, her face twisted in horror and pain. It is the Darkness incarnate and it is terrible to behold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 6

 

 

Panel 1:

 

CUT TO: A beautiful suburban neighborhood. Prominent in the panel is a gray family van parked on the street with those stick figure stickers on the back. There is one for a mother, a father, a cat and a baby sticker.

 

Panel 2:

 

A middle-aged female real estate agent Linda Blair walks toward the van as the James family gets out and gathers in the front yard. A moving truck is parked in the driveway and the movers are almost finished moving everything into the house. The side of the truck reads FULL SERVICE MOVERS. PACKING AND UNPACKING OUR SPECIALITY.

 

Robert James, his wife Tabitha and their baby girl Mona are a beautiful, young, hip, family. Robert holds the baby, since Tabitha was driving the van.

 

LINDA: MR. AND MRS. JAMES! HELLO AGAIN!

 

Panel 3:

 

Linda hands the keys to the house to Tabitha, a big grin on her face.
LINDA: THE MOVERS ARE ALMOST DONE, EVERYTHING IS READY TO GO! HOW WAS THE DRIVE?

 

ROBERT: LONG. VERY LONG. I’M GOING TO FEED THE BABY AND PUT HER TO SLEEP.

 

LINDA: HER ROOM IS ALL SET UP, I MADE SURE OF IT PERSONALLY.

 

Panel 4:
As Robert enters the house, the two women stand in the yard.

 

TABITHA: THANK YOU, LINDA. WE REALLY APPRECIATE ALL YOU’VE DONE FOR US.

 

LINDA: HEY, IT WAS MY PLEASURE. MOVING ACROSS COUNTRY IS A BIG STEP, ESPECIALY WITH A NEW BABY. I WAS GLAD TO BE OF HELP.

 

 

 

 

 

Page 7

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Robert has just laid the baby down in her crib and leaves her room, quietly closing the door behind him.

 

Panel 2:

 

Tabitha and Linda are in the kitchen having a coffee when Robert enters.

 

LINDA: SO WHEN DO YOU START WORK, MR. JAMES? YOUR WIFE TELLS ME YOU GOT A GREAT PROMOTION.

 

ROBERT: I START MONDAY MORNING.

 

LINDA: OH WELL GREAT, YOU AND YOUR WIFE HAVE SOME TIME TO GET YOURSELVES SETTLED IN.

 

ROBERT: ANY IDEA WHICH CUPBOARD THE CUPS ARE IN?

 

Panel 3:

 

Following he directions, Robert finds his favorite coffee mug.

 

LINDA: LEFT OF THE SINK, I BELIEVE.

 

ROBERT: THANK YOU. ITS GOING TO BE A PAIN IN THE ASS FIGURING OUT WHERE THEY PUT EVERYTHING.

 

TABITHA: STILL BETTER THAN DOING IT OURSELVES, ROB.

 

ROBERT: I GUESS.

 

Panel 4:

 

As Robert drinks his coffee, the two women share a laugh.

 

LINDA: TYPICAL MAN. NEEDS TO DO EVERYTHING HIMSELF.

 

Panel 5:

 

OUTSIDE SHOT of the House.

 

 

Page 8

 

 

Panel 1:

 

OUTSIDE SHOT of the James house. Now it is night and the house is dark. There is a shadow in the panel of the Darkness Man; his shadow is almost concealed by the dark, almost but not quite. If a reader looks carefully, he can spot it.

 

Panel 2:

 

Robert gets out of bed, light coming in from the street outside.

 

Panel 3:

 

He enters the washroom, reaches in and flips the switch but nothing happens.
Panel 4:

 

Robert continues to flip the switch then decides to go ahead anyway.

 

ROBERT: GREAT.

 

 

 

Page 9

 

 

Panel 1:

 

FROM IN FRONT: Robert sits on the toilet in the dark, the door closed.

 

Panel 2:

 

FROM BEHIND ROBERT: The shower is in front of him, curtains closed and we can see the shape of the same man, The Darkness Man, standing directly in front of him.
Panel 3:

 

Fear crosses Robert’s face. He can make out the shape of the person in shower even in the dark.

 

Panel 4:

 

SLOWLY he leans forward on the toilet seat and places his hand on the curtains.

 

Panel 5:

 

He pulls the curtains back, revealing a terrible face, similar to previous versions of the Darkness but twisted and evil.

 

ROBERT: AAAHHHH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 10

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Robert wakes up in bed, still screaming in silence.

 

OFF PANEL: ROBERT!

 

Panel 2:

 

Tabitha peeks in from the bathroom.

 

TABITHA: WHAT DID YOU DO? THERE IS PISS EVERYWHERE IN HERE!

 

Panel 3:

 

Robert gets up from bed, confused and still shaken.

 

ROBERT: WHAT?

 

Panel 4:

 

Robert joins his wife in the bathroom. The shower curtains are now open. His wife looks down at the seat with a look of disgust and anger.

 

ROBERT: I’M SORRY, I MUST HAVE BEEN HALF ASLEEP. THE LIGHT DIDN’T WORK.

 

TABITHA: WELL IT WORKS NOW. CAN YOU CLEAN THIS UP PLEASE?

 

ROBERT: SURE. YEAH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 11

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Tabitha pushes the baby down the suburban street in a modern stroller. She is in a good mood and enjoying the sunny weather.

 

Panel 2:
Tabitha walks passed a neighborhood park.

 

Panel 3:

 

The Darkness Man waits near the sidewalk, concealed beneath the shadow of a massive oak tree. He tips his hat to the passing woman, his face twisted with a large grin.

 

THE DARKNESS MAN: GOOD AFTERNOON.

 

TABITHA: HI.

 

THE DARKNESS MAN: WHAT A LOVELY CHILD.

 

Panel 4:

 

Tabitha slows down a little; she is slightly suspicious but trying to be polite to her new neighbors.

 

TABITHA: THANK YOU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 12

 

Panel 1:

 

The shadows around him conceal his features, making him seem like nothing more than haunted eyes and a gaping mouth.

 

THE DARKNESS MAN: CAN I SEE HER? BRING HER A LITTLE CLOSER. MY EYES ARE NOT WHAT THEY USED TO BE.

 

Panel 2:

 

WIDE PANEL: Tabitha looks around. It is a beautiful day, people are out playing in the park, but she feels a sudden sense of danger. The shadow of the tree is just a few feet from the baby and the Darkness Man waits there patiently, hands folded in front of him.

 

Panel 3:

 

CLOSE-UP of the grinning face of the Darkness Man.

 

THE DARKNESS MAN: JUST A LITTLE CLOSER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 13

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Suddenly a chestnut coloured dog appears, barking furiously.

 

Panel 2:
The dog’s owner, a middle-aged woman dressed in running clothes, runs over to her pet.

 

FEMALE JOGGER:  COFFEE! STOP THAT! HEEL! HEEL!!

 

Panel 3:

 

The Darkness Man is gone, but the dog continues to bark at the shadow where he had been.

 

FEMALE JOGGER: I’M SO SORRY! HE’S HARMLESS, TRUST ME.

 

TABITHA: IT’S FINE.

 

Panel 4:

 

Tabitha picks the baby up and holds her close to her. The jogger attaches her leash and walks away with the dog. The park seems harmless but Tabitha looks distraught, she can feel the evil that was only a few feet from her just a moment ago.

 

 

 

 

Page 14

 

 

Panel 1:

 

CLOSE-UP Of the baby. A dirty diaper lays nearby as Tabitha finishes changing her diapers.

 

Panel 2:

 

The baby is awake and clings to her mother’s chest.

 

Panel 3:

 

Robert appears behind them, dressed in a casual business suit.

 

TABITHA: HOW WAS YOUR FIRST DAY?

 

ROBERT: STRESSFUL.

 

Panel 4:

 

Tabitha hands Robert the baby and a partial scowl crosses his face.

 

ROBERT: CAN’T I AT LEAST SIT DOWN FOR A MINUTE?

 

TABITHA: YOU CAN SIT WITH THE BABY SHE WON’T STOP YOU.

 

Panel 5:

 

Tabitha leaves the babies room and heads toward the computer sitting in the living room by the window. Robert follows her, the baby in his arms. The baby fusses and squirms in his grip.

 

TABITHA: THERE ARE A FEW JOBS I WANT TO APPLY FOR BEFORE IT GETS LATE OR I FORGET.

 

ROBERT: WHAT ABOUT DINNER?

 

TABITHA: ORDER WHATEVER YOU WANT.

 

 

 

Page 15

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Time passes, Robert sits in front of the TV, pizza box on the coffee table, baby in his arms.

 

Panel 2:

 

He yawns as he carries the baby to the bathroom.

 

Panel 3:

 

Robert finishes giving the baby a bath and wraps her in a blanket.

 

Panel 4:

 

He turns on the light in the baby’s room, heading for the changing table next to the window.

 

Panel 5:

 

He dresses his daughter in a pretty jumper with tiny rosebuds on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 16

 

 

Panel 1:

 

He wraps the baby in a blanket and then puts her down in her bed. Tabitha stands nearby, watching.

 

Panel 2:

 

Tabitha leans over the baby and gives her a kiss while Robert waits with his hand on the light switch.
Panel 3:

 

Robert slowly closes the door to the room after his wife exits. The room is dark and the house is quiet.

 

Panel 4:

 

Tabitha and Robert slip into bed for the night. The clock on the nightstand reads 11:33.

 

 

Page 17

 

 

Panel 1:

 

CLOSE-UP: Robert lays his head on his pillow and closes his eyes.

 

Panel 2:

 

Suddenly Robert’s eyes open wide in shock.

 

Panel 3:

 

He bolts upright; the clock says 3:00.

 

Panel 4:

 

He sits upright, in the dark, and the cries of his child can be heard coming down the hall.

 

Panel 5:

 

SKEWED ANGLE: Robert walks down the hall to the baby’s room, with the panel shifted askew to show the strangeness of what it happening.

 

 

 

Page 18

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Robert hurries down the hall but it seems to lengthen and stretch away from him.

The baby has stopped crying, replaced with a haunting hymn that fills the house.

 

SFX:

 

OUR DARK GOD IS IN HIS TEMPLE

IN THE EVIL, ROTTEN MIND

 

Panel 2:

 

Robert reaches the door but it seems to be locked. He tries desperately to open it.

 

SFX:

HE HAS COME FROM DEEP WITHIN YOU

COME TO SWALLOW ALL MANKIND

 

Panel 3:

 

The door flies open and Robert tumbles into the room, scrambling to turn on the light. The baby’s crib is hidden beneath the viewer’s eyeline, bottom of the panel.

 

SFX:

 

HE WILL FEED OUR DESPERATE HUNGER

HE WILL SEE THAT ALL HAVE DINED

 

Panel 4:

 

The light switch won’t work, but now we can see what is in the crib: The baby is surrounded by vicious looking little Darklings.

 

SFX:
UPON THE SOULS OF ALL THE PEOPLE

DARKNESS FALLS ON ALL MANKIND

 

 

 

Page 19

 

 

Panel 1:

 

Finally the light comes on, Robert runs to the crib. He is obviously scared worse than ever before in his life.

 

Panel 2:

 

Robert runs his hand along the bottom of the crib but the baby is gone.

 

ROBERT: OH NO. NONONONONO!

 

Panel 3: He begins to search in panic, moving the crib, tossing blankets.

 

Panel 4:

 

CLOSER: To Robert’s face, twisted in anger, the first signs of madness in his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 20

 

 

Panel 1:

 

OUTSIDE THE HOUSE: The Darkness Man walks toward the house, where the van sits in the driveway. We can only see him from behind.

 

Panel 2:

 

Robert’s screams echo outside the house.  The Darkness Man now stands near the rear of the gray van.

 

SFX: NOOOOOOOO!!! NO! SOMEONE HELP ME!!!!!!

 

Panel 3:

 

TIGHT SHOT: The Darkness Man peels the sticker off the back of the van of the baby. His nails are clean but inhuman looking, his fingers boney and misshapen.

 

Panel 4:

 

TIGHT SHOT: The Darkness Man places the baby sticker on his tongue, a grin on his face, and swallows it.

 

SFX: NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

RIP Bernie Wrightson

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Bernie Wrightson was THE greatest American horror illustrator of the 20th century. His work defined the scary comics of the seventies and he continued to influence the horror genre well into the new millennium. Like Frank Frazetta before him, Mr. Wrightson was a unique and vibrant artist that will never be replaced. Thank you for everything, sir.

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