Friday, October 14, 2016

The Hand of Doom. A Horror Adventure or Classic and OSR Games

With a nod to Robert E. Howard, Michael Caine, and Ashley J. Williams...

This adventure was originally conceived for and run for my Colonial OSR game. I've removed time and location reverences and with the smallest of modifications (renaming NPC's, removing muskets for other time/genre appropriate weapons) it can be run in any time period and place as well as fantasy. IT would make a fun Ravenloft one-shot for example.

My player's characters were travelling at the time and happened to spend the night at the inne when these events occurred. They had no other connection with the town.

It begins in a tavern!
The Ringing Bell tavern to be exact.
Weary after a day of travel the PC's are sitting around, eating, drinking, and perhaps gambling with the local farmers and merchants for a bit of coin.

During their rest they hear two merchants begin to discuss two recent murders which happened last night. Soon the entire tavern is listening in and various theories and tidbits are being discussed.

Facts the PC's can learn:
Two men were killed last night. Both were apparently beaten and strangled.

The two vicitms were Jason Williams and Phillip LeMay, both former robbers whom had sold their leader over to the law for hanging in exchange for pardons. They shared a cabin just beyond the edge of town.
A third robber, Paul Benedict, was also involved. This occurred thirteen years ago.

The notorious leader of the robbers was John Hauser, accused of foul deeds and witchcraft. The stories were true and his men turned him in for fear of losing their immortal souls.

He was tried and hung in an unusual fashion. The men know something strange happened at the jail, but it was never revealed to the public. Hauser was rushed out in the early morning hours to a hanging tree outside of town and hung with the only witnesses being his jailors and the Sherriff at the time.

The men know it was thirteen years ago. The anniversary has just passed by not three days ago.

Rumors and Speculation:
Paul Benedict, the third robber, saw a shadow skulking around Williams and LeMay's cabin last night. He believes it is the ghost of John Hauser come for revenge and has barricaded himself into his rented rooms above the candle-maker's shop and is threatening to kill the first man to walk up the stairs.

Some believe the killer was a traveler whom stopped in for shelter and killed the two men and robbed them of hidden coins from their robbing days. It is rumored Benedict may have a secret stash as well.
(Eyes will turn toward the PC's in suspicion after this one is told.)

Thirteen years ago John Hauser's men did betray him because of his blasphemous dealings in necromancy and witchcraft. He was quickly tried and set to hang.

Burning with revenge, Hauser sharpened his tin plate on the stone floor of his jail cell and on the night before his hanging lopped off his left hand and threw it out the barred window into the shallow river behind the building. Raving, foaming at the mouth, and spraying  blood Hauser cursed his captors and betrayers and swore the Devil would avenge him.

The Sheriff at the time, Thomas Browne, and his two jailers, Arnold Paulson and Abner Jenkins, were repulsed and spooked into action. Hauser was quickly checked out by Dr. Samuel Baird and given last rites by Minister Charles O'Reilly. They bundled the wounded man up and drove him out to the hanging tree before dawn and did the deed. All swore to secrecy as not to start a panic. Hauser's body was buried at a crossroads in secret.

Three nights ago the hand crawled out of the river and began a mission of unholy revenge against the men who betrayed and whom hung Hauser. The hand is a demonic entity, it is not John Hauser himself. He has long been confined to Hell. The hand a reanimated and intelligent tool of evil, sent to terrorize the town by some unknown force of darkness on this thirteenth anniversary of the curse.

The Hand's first act was to break the will and gain the servitude of the current Sheriff, James Collins.
It broke into Collins' home and nearly strangled him to death before releasing him and writing out a quick message with quill, ink, and paper: 'Serve me or die.'
The terrified man quickly agreed.

Collins' job is to scout out locations for the hand to strike and to run official interferance is anyone gets in the Hand's way, possibly even assassinating them.

The hand has other tricks:
Williams and LeMay's bodies were lying in the ice house until the Hand reanimated them after sunset. It can do that with corpses it strangles. They are but extensions of the Hand and it can speak through them.

The Death List:
Paul Benedict, 36
Former Sheriff Thomas Browne, 62
Former Jailer Arnold Paulson, 51
Former Jailer Abner "Old Man" Jenkins, 80

The Witnesses:
Dr. Samuel Baird, 56 (not on the death list. He is a potential source of information on what really happened thirteen years ago)
Minister Charles O'Reilley, 53 (died of pneumonia three years ago)

At any point during the night the PC's can be checking on clues, witnesses to the hanging, etc. to get an idea of what is going on.

(Early Evening) 
This encounter sets up a threat without revealing all there is to know about the enemy.

The Former Sheriff's House:
Mr. and Mrs. Browne live in a nice two story home down the block from the tavern.
When the PC's are outside the tavern that night let them hear a woman's scream and a flash of fire from the house.

The Hand attacked Mr. Browne and broke his neck while upsetting a lantern that started the first floor on fire. Mrs Browne saw the Hand and it has chased her upstairs.

If the PC's arrive the Hand will be upstairs finishing killing Mrs. Browne and making an escape out an upstairs window.

Give them a glance of something pale and spiderish running along the ceilings and walls  before it throws itself out the glass.

The Browne's bodies will join the Hand's zombies later that night.

(Later that Night)
The events have no particular order.  They should be played out in reaction to the PC's actions/investigations.

Depending on how long you want to drag out the mystery of what the Hand is you can keep it in the shadows or have it pop out and attack a PC blatantly. I prefer more subtle mystery to build a bigger shock reveal but to each his own.
(In our game they thought it was a giant pale spider until it latched onto one of the PC's throats.)

Paul Benedict Rooms:
The Hand and the Sheriff are still trying to find a way into Benedict's barricaded rooms.
They will most likely save it for last, assaulting it with zombies and trying to burn the former robber out of hiding.

Either way it will no doubt be a nasty fight as Benedict is wary and well armed. He will take the PC's help if offered.

Arnold Paulson Cabin:
Half a mile outside of town, on the edge of light forests and fields.
Paulson is locked tight inside, windows barricaded. He believes Benedict is right and Hauser is back from the dead to kill them.

The PC's can talk their way in, but it will be at gunpoint.
After they make contact they will hear a moaning outside. The bodies of the four previous victims will be coming up the trail and will attack the cabin, seeking to break in.

The Hand might show itself and can use the zombies to communicate with the PC's, threatening them with death if they interfere.

Zombies hammering on the flimsy cabin doors and the Hand crawling through holes in the rickety ceiling make this a chaotic and  fun fight environment.

Once they break into the cabin Paulson will blow his brains out at the last minute rather than be killed by the Hand or the Zombies.

How the Hand and his minions deal with the PC's is up to the DM. 
A game of hide and seek in the forest should prove interesting with the Hand's abilities to Hide and Spider-climb making it a dangerous foe in the open.

Old Man Jenkins:
Jenkins sleeps in barns, sheds, and anywhere he can find. He is difficult to find and the Hand and the Sheriff haven't located him yet.

Jenkins is another good source of information about what happened thirteen years ago. Don't be afraid to kill him off screen if the PC's have already questioned him. His zombie showing up when they think he is alive and safe is a nice effect.

The Victims: 
Each was killed by strangulation. Their throats were crushed and the bruised marks of a powerful left hand are visible on the necks.

Footprints were found outside the windows of Williams and LeMay's cabin.
(These were left by the Sheriff Collins. He was scouting out the cabin for the Hand.)

Talking to Dr. Baird or the surviving jailers will give the PC's the potential hit list as they know who was present at the hanging.

They will happily unburden themselves of what happened that night and reveal that Hauser cut off his own hand and they never found it. Paulson and Jenkins even heard him curse them all.

The Hand can be stopped if burned to ashes or brought to zero HP with holy water. Otherwise it will regenerate and continue until all of the targets on its hit list are dead. Then it will simply crumble to dust and any Strangle Zombies still mobile will fall over dead.

Sheriff James Collins, 32
Collins serves the Hand out of terror. He will do anything the Hand commands, up and including attempted assassination of the PC's. If he tries this he will recruit a small possee to ambush them.
AC 10
HD 2
HP 8
Att +2
Dmg Musket (2d8), Knife (1d4)
Save  13
Move 12

Paul Benedict, 36
Heavily armed and paranoid of 'Hauser's Ghost' Benedict is locked in his rooms and will likely shoot first and maybe ask questions later. He has no idea what happened the night of the hanging. He does have a hidden stash or coins under the floor boards of his bedroom.
AC 12 (Leather Vest)
HD 2
HP 8
Att +2
Dmg Musket (2d8), 2  Pistols (1d8), Woodaxe (1d8), Knife (1d4)
Save  13
Move 12

Arnold Paulson, 51
Holed up in his cabin he's been convinced that 'Hauser's Ghost' is out to get him too. He was witness to the events of the night of the hanging. If his death is imminent by Strangle Zombie he will shoot himself rather than be killed by the creatures.
AC 10
HD 1
HP 5
Att +1
Dmg Musket (2d8), Knife (1d4)
Save  17
Move 9 (due to age)

Abner "Old Man" Jenkins, 80
The other jailer who witnessed the events the night of the hanging Old Man Jenkins has fallen into ill health and vagrancy. He is content to spend the rest of his days begging for food and drink and passing out in the nice dry and warm haylofts of his neighbors. He is a good source of information and friendly. He will not resist the Hand or it's Strangle Zombies if attacked.
AC 9
HD 1
HP 4
Att +1
Dmg Fist (1d2)
Save  17
Move 6 (due to age and gout)

The Hand of Doom
Born of an evil curse the Hand is a demonic entity. It's primary attack is to strangle a victim to death allowing it to raise the corpse as a Strangle Zombie. It is cunning and vicious and will lay traps for the unwary, leaping from the shadows to strangle its victim to death. Its demonic origins give it immunities to certain spells and attacks but it is vulnerable to fire and holy water. The Hand is fully intelligent and can communicate via writing, rapping it's knuckles in code, etc or through a Strangle Zombie's mouth. Once its mission of vengeance is completed it simply crumbles to dust.
AC 16
HD 4
HP 20
Att +4
Dmg Crushing grip (1d8)+ special
Save 13
Move 12/12 Spider-climb

Crushing Grip:
Once the Hand has latched onto a victim it can continue to grip for an automatic 1d8 points of damage per round. Anyone striking at the Hand while it is latched onto a victim has a 50 percent chance of striking the victim instead. The victim can escape by making a Strength check with a four penalty.

The Hand is immune to Charm, Hold, and Sleep spells.
It can be turned but as an 8 HD creature.

The Hand can propel itself forward in a spider-like leap up to 10' distant.
If the victim has not seen this attack before it has a 1-4 on a 1d6 chance of surprising the victim and gaining a +4 to attack.

2 points per round. Does not regenerate fire or holy water  (1d6 per splash) damage.

The Hand can move up walls and across ceilings like a bloated white spider.

The Hand has a 80 percent chance to Move Silently and Hide in Shadows. It can backstab for a +4 to hit and a x2 to initial damage.

Any victim of the Hand can be reanimated by the Hand within thirteen minutes of death as a Strangle Zombie.

Strangle Zombie
Strangle Zombies are merely extensions of the Hand of Doom. They act as it's eyes, ears, and hands. They are puppets and the Hand can speak through their mouths. If they Hand of Doom is destroyed or deactivated the Strangle Zombies will fall over dead.
AC 12
HD 2
HP 10
Att +2
Dmg Fist (1d4) + special
Save 16
Move 12

Strangle Zombies are immune to Charm, Hold, and Sleep spells.
Because they are extensions of the Hand of Doom they are turned as a 4 HD creature.

1 point per round. Does not regenerate fire or holy water  (1d6 per splash) damage.

If a Strangle Zombie hits a victim and the attack roll was five points over the target AC the Zombie latches onto the victims throat and strangles them for an automatic 1d8 points of damage per round. The victim must make a Strength check with a 4 penalty to break free.

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