Azalin wasn’t the only one complaining about the focus on extinct noble bloodlines in the third Gazetteer. Many reviewers were dismayed about the amount of ink spilled on in-game stories with few spent on adventure hooks. What’s the point of having rich deep history if it doesn’t affect the present? What follows is a series of suggested adventure hooks around the lost noble family of de Boistribue. The entire extended family of hunters and woodsmen vanished from their massive manor one December night in 493 BC, the only surviving servant unable to give any explanation. Each can be played as an independent adventure, or they can be strung together into a campaign arc where the PC’s piece together the unspeakable fate of the doomed family.
1) The Fell Omen
A PC traveling through the Forest of the Ancients glimpses a huge sprawling manor house in the distance. The sight of the manor house is a terrible omen--all who have seen it disappear within three turnings of the moon. Once word gets out, locals shun the PC as cursed, but a local soothsayer declares the curse may be lifted if the PC goes hunting in the forest overnight wearing the de Boistribue colors. If they dismiss it as overreaction of some superstitious locals, the manor inexplicably shows up again and again on the edge of their vision, even miles away from where they saw it last, bringing bad luck each time until they spend that night in the woods.
2) Winter Chill
Not all the servants died in the manor itself. The winter snows were deep that December, and several of them fled the madness only to freeze to death. Their fear, pain and desperation made them into snow wraiths or possibly frost vampires that return with the snowfall. PC’s may be called on to fight the creatures when local logging companies want to extend their season a little more into the winter, only to find their lumberjacks frozen to the bone. The lairs of these creatures surround the manor’s original location; the phantasmal version that stalks through the woods is actually a kind of ghost in itself, but the original holds much bigger secrets.
3) Braving The Manor
Forced to take refuge from storm or foe, the party enters the infamous manor itself to find the ghosts of dozens of servants haunting the many hunting trophies, clawed woodworks and bloodstained walls. These ghosts don’t remember much, except how the entire family turned into animals before their eyes and tore them apart. A few benign ghosts protect the PC’s from the more ferocious spirits, and ask the PC’s to remove their half-eaten remains and give them a proper burial. This may prevent the manor from dogging their steps, but PC’s seeking more answers should have no trouble finding it later.
4) The Sole Survivor
While visiting Saulbridge Sanitarium, a PC is possessed by the ghost of the only earthly witness to the massacre, who lived out his final days in Saulbridge as a Lost One. He was only a teenage boy locked in an animal pen, who heard the other servants being slaughtered. Finally a monstrous bear came for him, but could not do much damage through the bars. If the party escorts the possessed PC to the manor, the ghost confesses that his incarceration may have prompted a few of the servants to do something terrible to the family, for which all these others suffered the consequences. He doesn’t know what his friends did or how they did it, but he’s terribly sorry. With that, he and several of the more vengeful spirits of the house can finally rest.
5) Return Of The Lost
PC’s in the forest on the anniversary of the event discover a spring surrounded by the remaining de Boistribue family, now in the form of talking deer, boars, bears, raccoons and rabbits. Few recall much of what happened that fateful night, but they claim their treacherous servants served a cursed meal that transformed them. They recall their old lives every anniversary by drinking from this spring, but are barely more than ignorant beasts the rest of the year. Strung out over centuries this way, only about a year has passed for them since 493, but their numbers are dwindling, and they demand help. By a solemn promise and a sip from the spring, a PC can establish a bond with one of the animals that will prevent them from fully regressing until they can figure out the solution. This is one interesting way for a PC to gain an animal companion or familiar!
6) The Most Dangerous Game
While hunting a werewolf of the Timothy clan, the PC’s find that the clan dates back to early Mordentshire, but they kept a relatively low profile for centuries...as if none of their victims were the kind that went on two legs and could talk. But what kind of werewolf finds sport in hunting dumb beasts? Records of a more arcane sort indicate that the Timothy werewolves are also known for incredible longevity, and that some of them attribute it to rare game in the Forest of the Ancients. If confronted about it, the Timothys claim the de Boistribues hunted their own servants down like beasts for sport, so some of the servants turned the tables and hunted them right back. Records from 489-491 include accounts of Lord de Boistribue hunting captured bandits under the full moon, but nothing about hunting his own servants. Nor is there any record of the surname Timothy among those servants. But the werewolves believe the PC’s are close to a deadly secret, and will stop at nothing to silence them forever.
Of course, to string these hooks into an arc with a conclusion, there are many questions left to answer: What offense had that teenage boy committed to be penned up in an animal cage? Who were these friends who did a terrible deed, and why are they not among the ghosts? Did Lord de Boistribue continue hunting human sport after wiping out the bandits? Did he really start hunting his own servants? Whence comes the magic of the spring, and by what force did something change the whole family into immortal animals? Was the werewolf clan somehow related to the servants, or the bandits? Or did they just stumble across the accursed animals and cobble their own myth together about the irony of hunting a family of hunters?
There’s room for the lord, a servant or some third party to be a truly monstrous villain, or for a terrible misunderstanding at the heart of it all. And especially you’ll have to decide if breaking the curse means setting the remaining de Boistribue family free into the afterlife, or if they can actually return to the world of mortals and rebuild their legacy. What do you think? Would your PC from this family be a ranger, paladin or barbarian?
Matthew Barrett has been playing and writing for Ravenloft for over twenty years, starting with the Kargatane's Book of S series (as Leyshon Campbell). He married his wife on Friday the 13th after proposing to her on Halloween. By tradition, the first story read at birth to each of their three children was The Barker’s Tour, from Ravenloft’s “Carnival” supplement. He is currently working on a Ravenloft-based experiment in crowdsourced fiction using his “Inkubator” system at inkubator.miraheze.org.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.