Monday, 20 October 2014

The Hanging Garden - (not quite) Skeleton Encounter #4

Another Skeleton encounter (well, sorta) that fits on two sides of a 6"x4" index card. Earlier encounters in this series can be found here:

#4 The Hanging Garden

Alone in a meadow is a tree resembling a tall willow with a dense curtain of hanging branches. It sways gently, creaking and groaning, even without wind. If the PCs approach, the tree will burst into blossom; red, white and yellow flowers opening along the hanging branches. The tree reeks of sweet decay and small skeletal birds flutter here and there. This is a CARNIVOROUS PLANT, and the flowers are its ‘mouths’. An aberration, it fed on birds until people settled nearby and began to use it as a way of disposing of their criminals and other outcasts. Years of ritualised murder, combined with whatever residual magic produced the tree, keeps the dead from their rest. Tangled in the branches of the tree are 10 SKELETONS. Some are able walk a few feet from the tree, as if one a leash, while others are higher into the canopy and jerk ineffectively as they dangle. 

The PCs might well conceive of reasonable a plan to destroy the tree; if so they will recover the some trinkets and jewellery worth 3d6GP. However, the tree is difficult to set alight and the trunk cannot be reached without entering the hungry curtain of branches. Unreasonable plans might result in PCs being tangled in the branches – Save vs Paralyzation or be trapped, taking 1d4 damage per turn until a successful Saving Throw is made. Other PCs can help, granting a +2 bonus to the tangled PC’s Saving Throw, but risk being entangled themselves. Skeletons ‘freed’ have a 2in6 chance of attacking the PCs; otherwise they will head towards their ‘home’ village.

This encounter presents little threat to a party that doesn’t do anything silly. Unless the PCs decide to destroy the tree, this encounter serves as atmospheric foreshadowing. The next settlement that the PCs reach will be the one that uses this tree as its means of punishment. A sign outside the village reads, ‘Sinners Shall Tend to the Garden of the God’. PCs should watch their manners…

The 6"x4" index card format really restrained me here. I left out the Skeleton stats, something that I'd thought about before as which ever OSR (or other) game you are using has standard Skeleton that supercedes the Labyrinth Lord statline I would reproduce here. This wouldn't always be the decision - a monster or NPC that varies from a standard would need the statline included - what I want here are index cards that I can draw from a file and [almost] immediately play. 

It also isn't all that Skeleton-y. It started out as an encounter with a number of Skeletons in gibbets, but this gives the players much more to do. Or, well, much more to mess about with. I haven't provided any stats for the 'tree' as it doesn't need any. No more than an oak tree would, anyway. It is an environmental hazard, not a 'monster' to be fought. Of course, it is really an introduction to a proper 'Hammer Horror' village, and the PCs have more choices to make when they find that. 

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