678 Taxidermy Nightmare – – Lv1 Shadowdark Adventure

People at large fear the monsters and strange creatures that lurk in the dark caverns and the Shadowdark below. They tell legends about them, fear them, and even give them a place in their nightmares. But, contrary to what many be­lieve, true evil can be found nearby, even behind a neigh­bor’s hypocritical smile. One must only look closely.

Terror in Arlington

In this adventure, a terrible threat assails the pop­ulation of a large town, Arlington. For two weeks now, people and livestock have gone missing. But the worst is that strange, aggressive skeletons and patchwork zom­bies meander into town at night and attack any living creature they encounter with terrible ferocity.

Father Darlens inspected the remains of the defeated undead and declared that these abominations have been tampered with. Their body parts do not all belong to the same creature. Some of them are mismatched; deformi­ties noticed at a glance. The townsfolk are fearful.

The culprit is Carl, the taxidermist and mortician. Carl lives on the outskirts of town. Months ago, Carl bought a necromancy tome from an obscure salesman. The ar­cane knowledge within allowed him to unleash his grim­mest fantasies about death. He must be stopped.

Adventure Hooks

For Faith. Father Darlens summons the characters and explains the situation. He claims that the locals al­ready suspect the taxidermist after he missed several town meetings about the current problem. (30 gp, 3 XP).

Hunters. A devout priest in the party has a premoni­tion about an undead-filled dungeon. They feel a com­pulsion to clear this place of evil and bring the culprit to justice. This preternatural sense directs them to the taxi­dermist’s home outside of Arlington (0 XP).

RUMORS d6 Details
1 A dozen people and twice as many farm animals have gone missing in recent weeks. People are desperate.
2 People claim that Carl, the taxidermist, is a dour, fellow. A miscreant who is only put up with for his useful trade.
3 People recall a strange hooded salesman who came by Arlington four months ago. He sold strange concoctions and moth-eaten tomes. Carl bought a tome from him.
4 Folks claim that Carl becomes strangely enthusiastic when a corpse arrives for preparation and embalming.
5 Carl must have a workshop in his basement; no one has seen any embalming tools or implements in his home.
6 The innkeeper recalls that Carl has mentioned many times how he wished he could learn magic, when drunk.

Level 1 Adventure

  • Danger. Unsafe. Check for a Random Event every 3 crawling rounds and after loud noises (4-in-6 chance).
  • Light. Some areas have braziers with permanent light spells. The undead denizens are dark-adapted.
  • Evil Bolstering. All undead creatures have advantage on checks versus turn undead and rebuke unholy.
1 Four mismatched skeletons approach with unsure foot­ing and an irregular gait (half base speed).
2 Four farmers with pitchforks (peasants) arrive at the house looking to arrest Carl. They join the party and fight alongside it. They have disadvantage on Morale checks.
3 Two patchwork zombies approach from afar. The zom­bies charge at the party as soon as they see them.
4 Jonah, one of the missing townsfolk approaches the char­acters and begs for help. Jonah claims Carl dissected the other people and animals and reassembled them.

Taxidermist’s Home

The taxidermist’s home in the countryside looks un­suspecting, if a little unkempt. The door stands ajar; countless footprints come and go from the house.

  • The Tracks. Numerous tracks come and go from the main door. Some tracks reveal that some people were forcefully dragged into the home (DC 14 WIS check).
  • The House. An open trapdoor leads down into the taxidermist’s dungeon. Above, the house appears aban­doned. The food in the larder is half rotten. There is noth­ing of value in the wooden containers and cupboards.
  • Treasure (1 XP). Pushing a button reveals that the chest has a false bottom (DC 14 WIS check). There are 8 gp, 35 sp, and a potion of healing in the container.

Warding Glyphs

The trapdoor leads down into a narrow hallway with a stairway that descends 20 feet further. To the west, there is a chamber with a magic circle that Carl created.

Four standing sarcophagi line the walls of this small chamber. A one-foot-tall, stone, rune-scribed, glim­mering circle ebbs arcane threads in the darkness.

After purchasing the necromancy tome, Carl sculpted this summoning circle and used it to craft some arcane implements and to cast powerful necromancy spells.

  • The Circle. A wizard identifies the circle runes as those of occult necromancy incantations. They bind the soul to a carcass and use it to power the spell (DC 15 INT check). Something frowned upon by most mages.
  • Interacting with the circle causes the sar­cophagi lids to open. Four ravenous zombies emerge from the enclosures and attack the characters.

Spiked Pit

The hallway is broken by a 5-foot-deep spiked pit. Two gilded vases on plinths stand beside the pit.

  • The Pit. Jumping across 15 feet is difficult (DC 16 STR). On a fail, the character takes 2d6 damage and may become impaled (2-in-6 chance). If impaled, they re­quire help from another person to exit the pit.
  • The Shadows. If a character falls into the pit, two shadows emerge from the vases and attack. The oppor­tunistic shadows prioritize whoever is down in the pit.
  • Automated Crossbow. Whoever crosses first to the south side of the pit triggers the clockwork contraption. They take 2d6 damage from a bolt (DC 14 DEX for half).
  • Secret Door. A button reveals a passageway that by­passes the pit and crossbow (DC 15 WIS, see map).

Underground Lair

Carl’s real home. The chamber contains a bed, wooden shelves and chests, a dining table, and two armchairs. There is food on the table and a still-warm cup of tea.

  • Treasure (1 XP). There is a metal safe-box under the bed (DC 14 DEX to open). It contains 94 sp.

Grim Prison

Narrow wall sections divide this chamber into ten cells with iron railings and an alcove with a desk.

Carl and his undead minions have dragged people from Arlington’s surroundings into these cells in the past few weeks. The poor folks spent their last days here wait­ing for the mortician to dissect them and use their body parts to craft ineffable, nonliving abominations.

  • Prisoner. Unless he appeared in Random Event 4, Jo­nah (peasant) struggles to pick the lock of his cell with a piece of splintered bone. He begs the party for help.

Taxidermy Laboratory

A grim spectacle of taxidermy and torture is on display on the metal operating table. The dissected, disemboweled corpse’s eyes move around in panic.

Carl used necromancy to dissect the person on the ta­ble and keep them conscious during the process. The person has become deranged by the baleful operation. A swift death would be a blessing. A healing spell such as restoration may still aid this person but the mental con­sequences of this ordeal may take a lifetime to heal.

  • The Tome. The leather-bound, moth-eaten book on the table is the one that Carl bought months ago. It con­tains foul arcane secrets that are best not known. Study­ing the contents of this book may well turn a well-inten­tioned wizard into a foul, crazed-eyed necromancer.

Bone-Welded Abomination

The bones of dozens of beings have been assembled into a horse-sized, six-footed behemoth with large, insect-like mandibles. The wretched entity stands at the far side of a lavish, chapel-like, domed chamber.

Carl (cultist), the culprit of all calamities stands by the bone-welded abomination. He is surprised by the charac­ters’ intrusion but happy to see more potential subjects for his terrible experiments. Carl promptly orders the large skeleton to attack the characters at once. Carl is a necromancy apprentice and knows no spells that can aid him in this encounter. He is a terrible individual willing to dispose of others to further his knowledge and skills.

  • Bone-Welded Abomination. Use the stats for the go­rilla but keep the skeleton’s Undead
  • Treasure (3 XP). Carl carries an obsidian witchknife which came tucked in the necromancy tome. He per­formed terrible dissections with it in the taxidermy lab.

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