Sunday, March 8, 2020

d&d 5e

overall, a fun, easy to run game. the class abilities feel powerful and well drawn, the combat structure is flexible and easy to (basically) understand. the spells are very cool and flexible, and support a flexible, varied sort of game.


there is a sameness and homogeneity to everything that i just can't shake. classes end up feeling sort of similar to each other, even though their powers and capabilities are very different, there is the sense that they are all drawing from the same well. this is obvious in that different spellcasters have spell lists with many overlapping spells. but beyond that there is a sameness. different races feel more like different coats of paint than actually different in substance. same for backgrounds.

this is my big gripe, but i have a few others.


oh man, the technical writing gets so vague at times. i've been playing this edition of dnd since it came out, and we are still having trouble understanding how different spells and effects exactly work. the worst case is spells like "moonbeam" or "cloud of daggers," which only deal damage when a creature "enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there" this is so numbingly vague, it's like looking at a piece of glass, they only say the word turn twice but it looks like it's written four times, and apparently this means that the damage only takes effect on the monster's turn AFTER the spell is cast, or if a monster MOVES into the spell, but NOT when the spell is cast, however there is no indication in the book that this is the case, it is only clarified online by the writers. 

or consider the concept of "clear path to the target." a caster of magic needs a "clear path to the target" to be able to cast the spell. again, this is left a little vague, presumably to allow DMs to give rulings, and also to allow casters to affect things shrouded in darkness or fog. but what does it MEAN?? does it mean a straight line? can the path curve or go around corners? my players were in a dense forest recently and i ruled that the trees were blocking magic, but is this intended? how is the game meant to be played? what is the rule??

throughout the book there is repeatedly this sense that they should not be too specific, and sentences become a sort of equation to be deciphered. Spells and abilities repeatedly refer to specific "conditions" to determine exactly what they do, which are so complex that they can't be effectively memorized, however the conditions page is embedded in the index somewhere after the spell-list and somewhere before (I think) the appendix which lists the different planes of existence. character abilities like "sneak attack" are filled with so many modifiers and buts that it's hard to understand exactly what the intent behind the power is.

why are critical hits not simply double damage? why do we have to roll the dice twice and then add the modifier? every time we get a critical hit at the table, we always have to remind the player how to do a critical hit. double damage is so much simpler and more satisfying, why not just do this?

one of the effects of this is that it becomes hard for new players to understand what their spells and abilities are. i have a player who is a sorcerer who is very reluctant to use her sorcery points, partly because she has trouble understanding what they do. i've had players abandon spellcasting characters because they want simpler characters. 

the other effect is that my players like following the rules in the game, it creates some shelter against my capriciousness, changing moods, and spite. this is true. but then the rules are sometimes vague and difficult to interpret. for instance, one of my players is a barbarian with high strength and the ability to lift huge poundage, when his allies are unconscious and endangered, he wants to be able to move them out of danger. i've encountered this with other players to, when someone they care about is in danger and unable to move, they want to push or move them to safety. however there are no guidelines for this, i feel it is creates problems if characters can simply use their movement speed to move their allies out of danger, however the barbarian character is (through powers granted in the game) very strong, and we have had to have a detailed rules negotiation to find a ruling that threads the needle and works for both of us.

 it's frustrating.


players are able to cast 0-level spells at will. i tried this for a few sessions and found it made the game seem ungrounded and strange, like a weird dream. this is easily edited with a house rule, but it still felt not quite like dungeons and dragons.


why aren't there tables of races and their bonuses? why isn't there a list of all the backgrounds? why is it so hard to find the equipment list? why is it so hard to find the backgrounds chapter at all? why does character creation jump back and forth through so many different chapters? why isn't there a chapter just called "skills?" this stuff drives me insane. i've heavily marked up my book to help but it still barely works.


there's no easy list of steps to just follow. it jumps back and forth through so many chapters. as my new players have started dying, they've started making new characters on their own. it usually takes at least an hour to roll a new character, sometimes more. first its rolling abilities, then choosing a race (back to organization: why aren't the races just alphabetically organized? how on earth are they organized? i don't understand, it's so hard to even just find "human" let alone "tiefling"), then choosing a class, then going through the equipment list, choosing skills, choosing spells, okay we're done!! actually not quite, still have to choose a background, what page is that again...?


So, there is something nonintuitive about proficiency bonus. on its face its a simple and effective tool to provide scaling, but not too much of it. i like that high level characters are still weak against many attacks. however, my players over the years have repeatedly had trouble understanding the purpose of proficiency bonus and what to add it to. i tried to explain it with powerpoint recently and they're still a little foggy. i think the concept is slippery -- its a small, static bonus, added to a few rolls (but only a few of them), only bonuses you're "proficient' in, which increases over time but only very slowly. it's a teflon concept, it feels like padding. 

the smallness of the proficiency bonus (+2 at level one, +6 at level 20) is complicated by the fact that some character powers allow you to double your proficiency bonus for certain rolls. this allows my players to easily attain skill rolls in the high 20s with even a mediocre roll. if i want to create monsters that are competitive, they need bonuses so overwhelming that players without that particular power, even if proficient in the skill, have nearly no chance of success. doesn't this defeat the whole purpose of a slowly scaling bonus? i don't get it.


Again, simple on the surface, and easy to grasp. however, again, a homogeneity to it. so many powers and effects grant advantage/disadvantage, there's a lack of scaling, or of needing to think carefully. okay, you get advantage, great! i've started reverting to old 3e rules of giving bonuses of +2 to +10 for good ideas, but it feels like the rules of the game resist this. 


My new players sky-rocketed through levels 1-4 but now the gap to level 5 is huge. Monsters at the appropriate challenge rating deal so much damage and have so many hitpoints that combat feels really scary and deadly. I can homebrew this. but it's something I've noted.


one of the effects of this is it can be hard to foresee what the effect of adding homebrewed and DIY objects, powers, and spells is. an item i want to be interesting will end up being underpowered because i didn't add the "finesse" tag to it. stuff like that. 

the hardest part of homebrewing is figuring out relative power of monsters. there is very little support for this in the books. the official DMG supplies a chart and a multiple page guideline for writing monster stats. my current system involves three different calculation websites in order to supply them the numbers necessary to make them a credible threat. monsters need to have huge numbers of hit-points to be a threat long enough to use their powers, and need to deal huge amounts of damage to feel like a danger, and it is next to impossible to tell exactly what the appropriate amount of damage is. a CR 14 monster should have 266-280 hitpoints and an AC of 18, however, if you decrease its AC you will need to increase its hitpoints to compensate, by how much, I do not know. i plug it into a website and it tells me, and then i use another website to reverse engineer dice averages, and then a third website to find out the appropriate experience point range for my players. but you can't just hit a target XP range, you actually have to multiple the total by a different modifier depending on the number of monsters present. i don't know, it's insane. the good news is this seems to be roughly accurate, when i do it right the encounters' numbers feel appropriately challenging. 

otherwise, i make a neat monster with a cool concept and weird powers, and my players just walk all over it with their 5e specific powers.

creating new spells is challenging for the same reason. we're instructed to follow some loose guidelines and look at spells of similar strength at similar levels. level 9 spells are supposed to do 14d6 damage in an area, however then the spell meteor swarm deals 40d6 damage. it is all mystifying.


I was raised on 2e and migrated over to 3e, played a campaign of 4e, and have been playing 5e since it came out. i'm an edition follower i guess. there is something in dnd 5e that doesn't quite feel like actual d&d. it's a little too seamless, too integrated, with a lack of flavor, there's not the weirdness, the care for the seemingly unimportant details, the tables of different weapons. it feels too interested in fending off criticism and creating a sort of "language," and not interested enough in fantasy. this is just a feeling, i have no evidence for this.


this is all a lot of complaints, but, we're used to it and it's generally easy to use at this point. it works well enough.


the spell system, particularly, is very well written and easy to follow. i personally love the concept of spell slots, spells known, and spells prepared. it makes using the character much simpler than in past games, and magic users are much more fun and viable to play at lower levels. previously, low level casters were bullshit runts who couldn't do anything, and now magic feels flashy and significant right out the gate. my 1st level cleric "Tom" got a critical hit against a mimic and got to roll eight d6s. it fucking rocked. i did 30 damage. when you cast "speak with animals," it does what it says on the tin, and it's flexible and easy enough that you can just roll with it. spells didn't use to be this way, they used to be sort of fidgety.


Action -- move -- bonus action is simple and easy to remember. early editions had to do all this fussing to create the same effect. 3e had its lame flanking rule, and attacks of opportunity were so ubiquitous that combat slowed to a crawl. the disengage action creates a lot of freedom, and its easy to see the drawback of using it. the action economy is pretty obvious -- if someone is complex or hard to accomplish, i just say that it's an action to do it, and my players understand the immediate consequences. going back to the problem of picking up another character, i ruled that picking up or moving a character uses an action. bingo, problem part-way solved.


after all that, it works pretty well most of the time. i'm able to use the system to create an evocative and strange world, and that's what i really want, as well as the ability to create challenging and tactically difficult fights. the second part has taken a lot of experimentation, but over time i've had some really good results.

Alright, thats my review of dnd 5e. until next time.

final fantasy 7


the greatest strength of this game is in its environments (namely, the art), its characters, and its music. the course of the story is a close second

much shorter than i remembered, speeds up and speeds up as the game nears its finish

sephiroth never quite manages to gain the personality promised by his concept, however his menace is unmistakeable, he always seems to embody a totality of evil that exists outside his personality, he has the most personality when the game is at its best: near the end of disc 1, when aeris is still alive, and the whole team is trying to work together to stop him. his creepy superiority is actually very human, his numbness to human pain a human quality, it speaks to a hidden interiority

when its discovered that he has been existing encased in crystal in the north for years, that he is giant in form, that he may not have a human body at all, that we have never actually met him, this is at first truly weird and terrifying, but then a little blunted -- wait, what was the man we interacted with? does he actually have that personality? what exactly is going on here?

cloud is also at his best here on disc 1, he is confused, in love with two of his friends, plagued by fragmented memory (a familiar state), plagued by mental states he does not understand, betraying himself and his friends even as he tries to stop sephiroth.

the game is also at its best when you are still exploring the world. the rhythm of exploring the map, finding new locations and characters, new items, new small stories, is very good. the bosses are hardest here, the areas you must traverse (particularly mt corel and nibelheim) have the most personality and menace. the broken places you explore, people barely holding on to the fragments of their lives, it is very sad and resonant

the beginning of the game has unmatched momentum and power. starting a story with an explosion is an idea the final fantasy series was never able to beat. the characters in midgar are so strange, quickly drawn, ruthless, funny, and gross, in a way the rest of the game never quite touches. the final dungeon of midgar, shinra hq, is big and quiet and corporate, it feels like its own game. beating shinra hq and escaping, only to find there is an entire world to explore, is a dizzying and unmatched game experience.

the revelation regarding cloud's true identity is good. it feels like a real resolution, like a real wound has been healed, confronting the truth here is dizzying and satisfying. however, cloud's personality after this becomes cloying, a little grating. he no longer has the depth of his earlier personality, he is upbeat and focused, he is saddened by aeris' death but not devastated, he is ready to move forward and accept the challenges, etc etc. this is simultaneously genuinely moving and uplifting, and just annoying. i miss old cloud, he isn't as interesting.

the last third of the game (disc 2 and 3, after the crisis at northern crater, and really after aeris' death) aren't able to match the first third. sephiroth, waiting in the northern crater, while meteor draws closer, does have an excellent dread and anxiety. the characters in the world all gaining new dialogue to match the events of meteor creates the feeling of a living world. however the subplot involving shinra collecting the huge materia never feels urgent enough, and the dungeons and events we are given to explore for this purpose never as interesting as the earlier dungeons. they are repetitive and boring to play. the return to the earlier already explored locations doesn't deepen or reveal enough to really make it worthwhile also, the entire world has already been explored, except for a small handful of false locations gated off by tedious minigames. there is not the sense of exploration and wonder. returning to midgar is interesting and thrilling, but we don't see enough of it to feel its more than an interlude

northern crater, the final dungeon, is excellent and difficult. its strange format (splitting the party) is jarring and scary, you feel less that you're working together than that you're being fragmented by the hugeness of a place. as a kid this really worked. as an adult northern crater's art really doesn't compare to the earlier art. the monsters are hard enough that the dungeon is very scary at first, and becoming powerful enough to eventually (easily) best them is pretty satisfying, less so now that it can be played at 3x speed, but back then, a real feat.

the game's best art exists in the tension between natural beauty and modern ruin. the twisted steel of midgar's smoking beams, broken slums, destroyed airplanes buried in dust, blasted trees surrounding a destroyed power plant, steaming interiors of menacing architectures, and so on, juxtaposed with twisty steel-grey mountains, shining water, the gleam of materia and the glowing green liquid mako, faceless and lonely cliff-faces.


it's still very good. the materia system and the constraints of available slots allows a really good freedom and forces some really interesting choices, while allowing some very interesting combinations and combos. the magic is clean and fun, the nomenclature satisfying. what's better than casting a spell called Ice2 or Bolt3? it's immediate, and the animations match the expectation. the late-game magic is impressive and fun as well, but never quite matches the utility of the early magic -- again this is because of the structure of the game, we are never forced into situations where we need to use them effectively. on the other hand, we get a spell called Ultima that turns the entire screen fried neon green, and it rocks

the summons remain impressive and rhythmic and surprising (what the fuck is typhon?), their use is immediately intelligible (very powerful magic that can only be used once per battle, but very expensive over the course of even a couple battles), it is very fun to recognize characters from mythology, the animations are like interludes of music

ATB is still a really neat combat system, and an excellent hybrid between turn based and complete freedom. it makes sense to control a party in this way, and punishes too much hesitation. i wish dungeons and dragons could emulate this somehow, my players really take so much time to make decisions during combat.


the music really is some of the best out of every video game ever. the opening theme still almost moves me to tears, sephiroth's theme, aeris' theme, the battle music, the junon parade theme, the electric guitar boss music still absolutely fucks, the world map music is so beautiful, tifa's sad childlike theme, the shinra HQ theme, it's all immediately recognizable and communicates something essential about the characters and places, but also adds something indefinable. it maintains this feeling of surprise all the way up to the end when you fight sephiroth's last form, as the angel, i remember the first time i heard one winged angel i could not believe this music existed in a video game. there are a few times when the game's music wanders, but mostly it's seamlessly excellent and i could almost listen to it on repeat.


her death, as a child, was truly surprising, shocking, strange, her absence a strange lack more than something overly telegraphed. i've heard this is what death is like, i have actually been lucky enough not to experience a close death. as an adult it still has that quality.

she herself is a strange and sad character, i like her a lot, she is truly optimistic in a way the others aren't, she teases, she's really a kind person, and she's a flirt. when the game introduces the idea that she and cloud are "perfect" for each other (right before her death, of course, and right after a very difficult early-game boss fight that we don't know is her last combat appearance), it creates a true longing that doesn't quite match her personality, but we can tell that she and cloud both do long for love. she really is a great character.

i don't quite buy, based on this, her sort of spiritual spaciness, and her willingness to go off on her own, away from protection. but maybe i'm still grieving her.


the ending is very good. you kill sephiroth in an attempt to save the world, but the world still ends, probably. at the very least it will be irrevocably altered and it is likely many many people including the main character's died. this matches the urgency and sadness of the game right from the opening minutes, with barrett crying, "The planet's dying!" This is more than just the people, it is about the planet

However the game takes pains to have a resolution of sorts to all the characters, because the game cares very much about the people as well. this is nice and appreciated, and all the resolutions feel pretty true to the characters. i wish there could have been something more for them.


the importance of characters and NPCs, vivid interesting NPCs and an assortment of them invariably give the world depth and interest. gotta do the characters.

not sure what else can be applied. simply observations.

still a great game.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Night Palace of Malice Astarion

Recently, my players accidentally fell in with one of the most powerful women in the forest, impressed her, and wound up in her castle. This is a large sandbox style dungeon full of secrets, chances for roleplay, difficult fights, and high potential for lethality. 

I present to you . . .


Malice Astarion, self-declared queen of Vomic Leth, the Forest of Cats, in appearance a beautiful woman of indeterminate age. She wears a hooded cape of black or red silk, her face is powdered, her lips crimson, purple eye-shadow, and her eyes are a vivid purple. Her voice is like velvet, her ways are soft. She can kill with a word, bind shadows to her will, summon creatures to obey her, and fly. Her spells are of enchantment, illusion, and darkness.

Many have heard rumors of a powerful witch dwelling in the forest. All the animals of the forest know and serve Malice, but few humans know her identity. Those who seek to remain in power must remain in the graces of Lady Malice.

She was a wealthy woman from a great city in the forest, now lost and forgotten. She learned her magic from evil stars and evil trees, and gained power from breast-milk, ground infants, and the cum of married men. Her older sister, Corinne Astarion, tried to kill her with a sword forged from the blood of a priest she loved, but Malice trapped her and imprisoned her in her invisible palace. The palace, mostly abandoned, is now staffed by various cursed forest-dwellers, visited by wealthy patrons and those seeking Malice’s favor, and filled with a number of trapped young girls, as well as the many cruel magics Malice spends her life devising. One can also find a collector’s wealth of rare art, and exceptional desserts crafted from the bodies of the young girls, their brothers, and their boyfriends. 

Malice can lift rare curses; create one-off spells of improbable risk and power; destroy resilient and powerful magic items; and provide the finest desserts in the kingdom. She’s also fond of torture, illusion, cannibalism, the torment of children, the punishment of lovers, and sex in general. 


Malice should be demanding, quick to love, and quick to fall out of love. She is power hungry, capricious, cruel, impatient, and unreasonable. At the same time, she should be beautiful, intoxicating, interesting, mysterious, vulnerable, and willing to entertain interesting or at least attractive people. In my game, a player met her at Black Mass in a nearby town and flirted with her, she responded by summoning him to her palace and forcing him to do a series of tests to gain her favor. She was planning to sleep with him and steal the face of another of the party-members, but one of her exes showed up and she had to leave on sudden business.

In terms of power, Malice should have the power of a 20th level witch. She should be able to cast any spell from the warlock spell list, any spells level 1-3 essentially at will, as well as perform any witchy or creepy magical effect you could plausibly think of. She can fly, use shadows to cross long distances, read minds, and perform any number of cruel curses and enchantments. Level 9 powers and spells should be easily within her capabilities.

I moved the players through the palace by having Malice ask them to perform seemingly simple tasks. "Meet me in the ballroom! I am having a dance." Then, when they got to the ballroom, "Gosh I am parched! I require a cask of wine from the cellar. Here is a key to the cellar." This kept them occupied for a few sessions, until they got trapped by Avelyn in room 6, tried to take the painting from the castle, fought some guards, who then roped in the maneaters, who killed a player as they fled the castle. It was a mess.


She has three familiars: a silver cat, a golden eagle, and a crimson hog. They are all intelligent and magical and generally dispersed throughout the forest doing spy-work and cruelties. These can serve as introduction to her story if your players are too low level to enter the castle.

Silver cat “SEEKETH” 
HP 12 AC 14 DEX +6 May jump 30 feet
  DEFENSES: If anyone touches it they are stuck to it, anyone who touches the stuck person becomes stuck to then, and so on, infinitely and permanently. This can be cancelled by Seeketh, removed by Malice, or removed as a curse or 1st level spell.
Arrows that strike it turn to flowers. 
2 attacks: Claw/claw +4/+4 1d4/1d4. 
Golden eagle “ASTRAY” 
HP 14 AC 20 as long as its flying, otherwise AC 12 
Flight 60’ 
Not subject to attacks of opportunity while flying as long as he leaves someone’s square the same turn. 
May lift up to 1000lbs with his talons. 
2 attacks: claw/claw +6 1d4/1d4. 

Crimson hog “BLACKTRA” 
HP 21 AC 12
DEFENSES: Any weapon that strikes Blacktra gets stuck in its hide, and doesn’t deal damage until its pulled out. 
SPELL: BLACKTRA may utter an oink to paralyse a target for one round (on next turn, target’s feet are stuck to the ground), no save. 
1 gore attack +6 1d12.


Deep in the forest can be found a strange sculpture garden of unknown provenance. Few know that these sculptures are curated by Malice Astarion, and marks the location of her palace.

The trees part and reveal a place of thorns and roses. Among the rose bushes are sculptures of black stone. Some of the sculptures are invisible. They are all ice cold, touching them numbs, the stone is hard and smooth. During the day they steam slightly with black steam. This is night, which Malice has brought down from the upper atmosphere and keeps frozen through magic.

A variety of beautiful young men and women
Tortured poses
Three figures intertwined
Bald giant oversized craggy head (hollow, inside is 400 gold)
Woman crouching down, her butt is down

Giant hands with fingers touching
Eagle with wings spread (in its beak is an invisible right shoe, if you put it on, the right half of your body turns invisible for one minute)
Wolf-headed man (this sculpture is not cold, it is actually just stone, and it’s a real transformed wolf-man who knows the interior of Malice’s palace)

Rodney Mole is totally oblivious and almost insane. His hut has tea pots with tea cozies, corn cakes, a fire always going, a cat named BLANCO, a dog named DRAKE, a small bed covered in blankets. There’s a hut filled with gardening implements. He has no idea that Malice lives right here. His payment appears at his doorstep. He knows he works for the Lady Malice tending her sculpture garden. “She’s a rich lady who lives far away. I’ve only met her once.”

“Don’t go into the thorns! Fierce gargoyles will slay you.”

He works for about an hour a day during daylight and gets tired and goes home.


The paths of the sculpture garden lead up to a flat circular area surrounded by very thick forest growth and giant rose bushes. The palace is beyond this area to the east and is patrolled by Malice’s maneaters. If you try to enter this area, it’s slow-going (one-half speed), you must make a Dex check every 5 minutes to avoid taking damage from the thorns, and after about 100 feet the maneaters will come down and try to drive you off.

The entrance to the palace is up where the thorns start.

Those seeking entrance to the palace must come to the place of thorns and declare their intent to enter. If approved, the palace will materialize in the air. A stone archway covered with flowers appears where the thorns begin, and behind it tall black stairs, leading up to the great gate of the palace.


They wear the masks of old men, their wings are atrophied, their tails end in a snake’s bite, they have huge claws. Their eyes glow green. Beneath their masks are the hideous scaled faces of monsters.

HP 70 AC 15 FLY 40 2 claws +5 1d8+1 and grab, or Bite a grabbed target +5 1d12+6, or Snake bite +5 1d4 and Con DC 14 or 5d4 poison.

They wear rings of gold worth 100 gp per maneater.


A great palace made of dusky, matte black stone, exactly the same color as the night sky itself, with lights twinkling in its high towers and domed buildings. A number of towers are immediately visible. You may wish to show them to illustration. In addition to the three main towers, a broken tower is visible. They may be able to infer there is a missing tower.

Front view

Top view, general layout, the blue ink is about 50% accurate

East tower, west tower, ballroom, library, and garden. I fucked up numbering: East tower goes up to letters A-D, then Ballroom picks uses the original un-crossed out numbers 15-19

North tower, ravine, dungeon, and Twin's tower. 52 isn't keyed, I probably won't use that room.

1. Courtyard

A twinkling courtyard. Noble-people in party dress sleep soundly around a fountain spouting glittering water. The witch’s guards in impenetrable armor stand at watch beside the throne room. Her maneaters cling to the walls above, watching.

Atop the fountain is a double-sided sculpture: a smiling sun and an angry moon. Drinking the water at night causes d10 poison damage, while drinking it during the day heals d10 hitpoints.

The sleeping party are an entire royal family from a castle in the forest, Castle Golden, which held a party for their teenage daughter, Princess Abigail, but failed to invite Malice Astarion. In revenge, Malice invited them to a party in her palace, enchanted all of them, trapped the princess in a tower, and murdered her boyfriend. 

There are about forty sleeping party-goers. Among them can be found a fine lord and lady wearing a golden stag; a young boy with a pet rabbit; and a jester in maudlin.

ARCADE. To the west is another courtyard, lined by well appointed guest suites in a confusing arrangement. Silent, smiling servants refuse to answer questions, and only speak kindly of their mistress. Guests of the castle will be housed here for free.

2. Stables

Stable-keeper Hackrend Ashley can lend horses for 50gp a day.

“My lady Malice is an excellent woman and very beautiful! (My younger brother Horrick went into the castle alone after dropping his ball. Where could he be?)”

Horses: Star, Hound, Magnificent, Drake

Malice’s horse is pure white and named Sword.

3. Merchant

Provisioner Bellamy Forest mans a simple merchanthouse. Standard issue player items and tool sets, as well as simple weapons and light armor, are available for purchase at standard rates.

He has a pet iquana named Bite.

“I wish I could visit Castle Vortaric for the king and queen’s wedding anniversary, but who would watch the shop?”

4. Throneroom.

A dark hall. Tall candles shed yellow light. Flickering and echoey. Malice’s throne is tall and black. When she sits the throne, she wears a simple silver crown worth 5000gp.

If encountered here, she is protected by 8 knights and 20 standard guards. 

5. The only other visible door in the courtyard leads to stairs which climb for about 20 feet, and then splits left and right, with stairs climbing up in both directions.

A single candle gutters at the split. There is a painting of a woman in a green dress sitting on a stone bench. She is in a tower overlooking sunny fields and blue skies. She is animated, but will speak only if spoken to. Her name is Avelyn the Beloved, and was a friend of Malice’s who attempted to steal her suitor, a now-dead prince, and was imprisoned in this painting. She is a 5th-level thief with high charisma and will do everything in her power to convince the players to free her. However, the painting must always hold one mortal soul, and she cannot leave until another being has entered. Depending on the situation, she may try to bargain, convince the players to put an enemy into the painting, or simply wait for them to touch the painting and then pull them in.

The painting can be entered by reaching into or touching the surface. The person touching the painting will appear to shrink to the scale of the painting, while to their eyes the painting will grow as they enter. Inside, it is immediately apparent that the “windows” are simply well-painted walls: the room is little more than a cell.

Avelyn knows the layout of the castle and can give accurate directions, but knows little about the current residents, tricks, or traps.


6. Lengthy stairs and winding hallways lead to this circular room. A red rug on the floor hides a trap door. A statue of a lizardwoman hides the north door. Decorative vases made of porcelain flank the lizardwoman. On a stand atop the red rug is a large glass terrarium will with cobwebs, a small black spider with a red skull on its back, and a small key, which will open the door to room 7. On a bookshelf are numerous books of history and one book of mazes, with one maze bookmarked. If that maze is completed (with pen or pencil), a small key appears in your pocket, which will open the trapdoor.

The spider can bite +4 for 3d6 poison damage, which will recur again in an hour.

7. Spiral stairs lead up to a locked door (opened by key in room 6). Beyond can be heard weeping, and sounds of wood carving.

Inside: a circular room lined with wooden cherubs. 3 hideous gnomes named Havoc, Wreak, and Lordship carve more cherubs as they guard the Princess Abigail. Malice Astarion can see through the eyes of the cherubs if she wishes to.

Gnomes: HP 25 AC 14
Little knives +5 1d4+1 and 2d6 sneak attack
Hide +8, Perceive +8
They can each cast Command three times per day, but only to force people to do something petty.
They have a literal sack of gold (400gp).

8. Princess Abigail is weaving a tapestry from straw using her chapped and bloody hands. She has no thumbs, they were cut off. The window is open, it’s cold in here. She has a cot of straw and a bowl of gruel and a pitcher of water. Her home, Castle Golden, was razed to its foundations by Malice. She knows the enchantment on her family is kept in an orb in Malice’s bedroom, but she really wants to know about her boyfriend, the Prince Weggeth, who Malice tells her is kept in the dungeon, and sometimes shows her illusions to deceive her. Actually he is dead.

9. This room is a landing. A telescope looks out at the night sky. It can be used to look at the castle grounds at into other towers. 

10. Spiral stairs lead to a closed door. Beyond: incessant barking, and a hissing static.

Kennels hold Malice’s savage hounds. One kennel is open, and a hound has escaped and gazed into the enchanted mirror, which for some reasons has been stashed down here. On top of the kennels hides a white cat.

Roaming free here is an insane mutant hound. It is giant, with vampire fangs and spider eyes, which barks in static.

Mutated Hound: HP 40 AC 12 Bite +6 2d8+2
Regular Hounds: HP 15 AC 14 Bite +4 d6+2 and knock down. If attacking a character with 0 hitpoints, the hound devours your face and lips

11. Mirror of Mutation: a long mirror on a stand, on the floor around it is a white cloth. If you gaze into the mirror, you suffer a mutation, which lasts for an hour. Subsequent mutations stack. Roll d6 every time you look into it.
1. Enlarge 
2. Fangs
3. Arms shrivel
4. Tiny head
5. Spider eyes
6. Static voice

Door to courtyard only opens from this side. From the other side, it was unnoticeable, but as soon as the door is opened, it can be seen. How did we miss it…?

12. Houndkeeper Vlad Okleby has locked himself in here. A short, hairy man who dislikes dogs. They don’t obey him.


13. Violet Room. Violet lamps shed violet light, violet couches, violet books and rugs. An ornamental violet dagger on the table. On book on the bookshelf is actually white, but looks identical to the others in the violet light. Inside is a bookmark, which marks a picture of a door between two potted apple trees.

14. Halfway up the tower. Two knights stand guard here. Two apple trees in pots. The apples are poisonous, if you eat them, you choke, taking d10 damage per round. One of the apples has a seam, with a key inside that opens the secret door. Between them is bare wall, and a well hidden secret door.

A. Entertaining room. A chaise longue. Many liquors and spirits in shining bottles. Two servants are immobilized and time-stopped, but come to life in Malice’s presence. A low table is actually a transformed young girl named Gretel, who came wandering into the castle with her brother Hans, and stole food from the banquet hall.

B. Her bed has black sheets. She keeps a black cat named Irish, and on the wall is a small black mirror. If correctly addressed, your reflection in the mirror will answer one question. This works only once a year.

C. A magical cauldron. A glossy, oily, boiling liquid. If you taste a single drop, make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On success permanently learn a random wizard, warlock, or sorcerer spell of level 1-4, which can be cast once per day. On failure, take 4d10 poison damage. If you taste more than a single drop, make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On success take 4d10 poison damage, on failure drop to 0 hitpoints and begin to die.

D. A landing overlooks the palace. A fern grows in a marble planter. The door is locked from the inside. If anyone but Malice climbs here, her maneaters attack.


15. There is always a fancy ball happening in the ballroom, and exactly who is attending should vary hour by hour. In addition to 100 or so enchanted revelers in various stages of undress, in masks, their feet bleeding from their dancing. There is an enchanted orchestra playing strings and light dance music. 

Far above, say 50 feet or so, are sparking crystal chandeliers. Windows are at their height, with landings. The glittering dome is inlaid with brass. There is a small sky-light door up there. Climbing up the dome is a balance check DC 10. Atop the roof is a corpse clutching a gem worth 400gold, as well a green dagger that can be used as a spell focus, and a touch attack spell can be cast into it and stored indefinitely, to be released on a successful attack roll.

GUESTS AT THE DANCE (roll to see who’s making mischief or pick your fave)

1. Green-skinned Tiefling adventuress LAMARKA DRISS, a 5th level rogue, famed jewel thief from the distant city of Flanweth, she wants to seduce Malice and steal her stuff. If and when she fails, Malice will steal her face.
2. The bearded wizard VITHRA THE MAGNIFICENT, a rival wizard of CRAXUS, who Malice has invited to her house to entertain her with magic tricks and possibly buy some trinkets. He is performing courtly illusions, such as birds catching fire, or dragons dancing, stuff like that. He really wants to get into her house in the basement and steal her stuff.
3. DUKE DORIN VON SANTOS, who has been spying on his wife, and believes she is plotting to kill him. He has come here to purchase a spell to make her his slave. In his chambers he has 1000 gold, as well as six bodyguards HP 20 AC 15 Attack +3 `d6+1 (range) or d8 (long).
4. Three children in fish masks: one TROUT, one CARP, and one GOLDFISH. These are forest spirits who are named after their fish, the masks cannot be removed. They are invisible to Malice, who does not know of their presence, and they pass freely through the ball, making extreme mischief. They hate Malice. In addition to being invisible, working together may unlock one lock a day.
5. A bard, the lutist and song-writer BOHUN THE BRILLIANT, who wants to charm Malice with his songs, as well as find material. Classic bard shit. He’s really annoying, but actually pretty good.
6. SIR ELBREGARD and SIR OBRIGON, two knights who have been pursuing each other for months, and battled through endless wilderness to end up in this CURSED PLACE. SIR ELBREGARD failed to stop the assassination of their king, KING VAREST, who was slain by a rival kingdom, because ELBREGARD was dallying with his lover instead of protecting the guard chamber. OBRIGON was gone from the realm when the king was slain, seeking the CHALICE OF GREEN FLAME, and came back at the moment of his murder. Elbregard fled in his shame, and Obrigon is pursuing him to slay him and bring him to justice. They have fought several times already, they are extremely weary, they are handsome and foolhardy men.

16. BANQUET. There is a banquet laid out for revelers to eat at. A tapestry depicting violent death of children. A travelogue writer, Lukas Ex, is here, eating the banquet. Foods: FINE BREAD, MEAT PIE, ROAST QUINCE, BLOOD PUDDING, FRIED TONGUE, WHOLE PIG.

 A random guest from previous room dallying here. 

GRAND STAIRCASE leads down to lower level. Two GIANT KNIGHTS are guarding the stairs. They are watching you closely. 
HP 70 AC 16 Sword +5 2d6

17. A girl, WERONIKA VILE, dances alone, a ballerina from VISIGARDIA, who has escaped the kingdom, and found herself living here. She finds Malice is a strange but kindly mistress, and believes as long as she dances well, she will be safe.

A luxurious dance hall, empty and echoing. Lit by lamps. A bust of a strange man lustily watches Weronika, He has fallen in love with her, but not yet revealed himself.

Hallway leads to bridge over the garden. It’s a covered wire bridge. Butterflies with glowing wings cling to the bridge. On the wall of the library can be seen a massive MOONLIGHT BUTTERFLY glowing pale green. The garden is about fifty feet below, a dense tangle of trees, lamp-light shining through them.

18. A giant crab-armed mutant turtle, he was protecting LAMARKA DRISS but she dismissed him, and now he’s just rampaging in here and attacking everyone. Also in here: two shelves of glass figurines, extremely fragile! They are worth 400gold, but each time an attack is made, d100 worth of glass figurines fall and break. Doors are locked but easily picked.
HP 50 AC 17 Two crab-claw attacks +3 1d10+2 each, or one bite +5 2d8, he can retreat into his shell for armor +5

19. Three statues holding swords. Each of the swords is loose and can be taken. They are greatswords. 


RANDOM ENCOUNTERS (roll every 10 minutes):
1. Cat is a level three wizard, his name is ASHLEIGH.
2. A suitor of Malice, his name is TRENT, he is deranged with love and simply tries to kill the players. A high damage CR 1 guy.
HP 40 AC 15 Three rapier attacks +4 d8+1, or a giant crossbow!! +5 2d10
3. Another guest is a pain, roll on guest table
4. The Maneaters!

20 Rows and rows of locked books. HOLMBY ZOTH, a man with a snail shell, is the librarian. He declares that this is actually DUKE VEATHE’S ARCHIVE, and no one may look at the books without his permission. Duke Veathe lives in the crevasse beneath the north tower. Library is completely unsorted, half of the books have fallen apart. 

Door to Garden is locked. The keyhole has fallen in love with a key in the north tower and gone to live there. Go there to unlock the Garden door.

Stairway is broken, and instead there is a tower of books that you have to climb up. Its a DC 12 climb check, on failure the entire tower falls! It’s 20 feet up.

21. Rows of shelves, on shelves are historians in cages, they are fed by white monkeys with red masks, they don’t allow anyone to question the historians without paying a bill, 100gold pieces.

Door is locked. One white monkey has the key.

22 Giant stained-glass golem depicting the ascension of St. Barenie, a chaste lady saint who declined to eat and climbed a ladder of clouds into the sky and disappeared. The golem is friendly and fragile, lonely, wants to get out, cannot speak, but everything is dangerous, and also very quick to (unwise!) anger (because everything is dangerous). It is looking for a magic lantern to house inside it.

AC 11 HP 250 but vulnerable to all attacks!! 
2 attacks +6 2d8+1
Immune to radiant attacks, cause it to become all shiny and vivid and light up and the different stained glass pictures animate
Every 50 hit points of damage, a stained glass panel is destroyed

23 VIVARIUM. Rows of shelves, inside the shelves are hundreds of snakes. Each snake is a book, Zak Sabbath style. Each cage is locked from the outside.

East door is open.

24 Vivarium keeper. BLOGO WORM. A waxy skinned man with snake eyes and snake teeth. He has been eating the snakes on the sly, that is why he has been starting to look like them. He sleeps here on a cot, he is covered in snake bites, he is immune to poison and has a poisonous bite.

On his desk in a cage is a green snake, this is a book of poems. Cages of mice that he has to feed. Dozens of them! 

He wants the snake reader from Malice’s room, he thinks it isn’t fair that he has to keep all these snakes and he doesn’t even get to read them.

HP 40 AC 20 Move 40
Immune to poison
Bite +5 2dmg, and Con save DC 15 or 4d4 poison dmg

25 Broom closet. Filled with brooms, many of them broken. One broom, the most neglected and broken, is Malice’s flying broom, if tricked into thinking it is her, the broom may fly at will with a fly speed of 80, holding one person, or two people at half speed. Otherwise it will buck and kick, and each round make a Dexterity check 15 or be thrown off. She has lost it and forgotten about it. 

26 Second floor of the library is filled with eye-less ex-librarians who aren’t allowed to read the books anymore. They want to steal your eyes!! 

Hazards: Gaps in the floor have rotted away. Fall 20 feet, 2d6 dmg. Bookshelves can be pushed.

4 CR 1/4 creatures
NO-EYES LIBRARIANS: HP 35 AC 15 (ear-sight 60’, pinpoint hearing, can somersault 40’)
+3 to pluck eyes, d6+1 and take an eye and put it in its own head 

NO-MOUTH LIBRARIANS 2 CR 1/2 creatures
HP 35 AC 18 (very nimble ninja librarians, avoid all attacks of opportunity)
+5 to pluck mouth, d6+1 and take mouth and put it on its own head   

Corpses of creatures missing other bodyparts. 360 gold.

27. Windy, cold hallway. Crouching in front of open door is big, turtle-backed warrior guard holding a club. He’s crazy hard dude! He doesn’t respond to you. He really doesn’t want anyone to see the broken stairs, but you can see the stairs behind him. He has a huge stone club.

CR 4
HP 85 AC 20 Move 30
Giant club!! 2 attacks +5 2d10+4
Or if someone is behind him, fall backwards on you with big shell: everyone in 10’ DC 15 6d10

He has whistle that makes a bird cry, this calls down a snowy falcon that will serve your command. There is only one, if its dies thats it.

28 A hookah. Big lounging pillows. A reading room with picture books. It can be smoked to produce pink smoke, creating partially obscured cloud and getting you HIGH—you’re laughing uncontrollably, you have to make a Wisdom DC 13 save to control your laughter. 
29 Aquarium filled with glowing jellyfish. They’re wonderful to look at! Inside: a human skull, a dozen hermit crabs, a spider-pommeled dagger, a jewel worth 100 gold.

The jellyfish are dreaming. If you disturb them, they vibrate, sending their dreams to everyone in the room. You are floating now, you have to swim through the palace. If you go outside though, you are looking into an endless dark expanse, glowing dark ananome, kelp far above, and there’s a predator of the jellyfish hunting you, it’s a MASSIVE SHARK: CR 5 HP 135 AC 15 2 attacks +6 3d10 dmg. If the shark is killed, the dream ends. If you wake up or kill the jellyfish, the dream ends.


30 Stairs lead up to a broken stub of a tower. Jagged, shattered stones claw at the sky. The stairs end at an empty hallway, looking down 50’ into a dark pit. The stairs have fallen, the floor is decimated, great cracks lead down the stone facade. The dragon of the forest, whose name is Valanir, and who hates Malice, attacked the palace in days past, and was repelled, but destroyed this tower.

 Vines grow down into the pit, it is a perilous climb down, and anyone weighing over 50’ causes the vines to tear off, you fall 5d6 damage to the bottom. Otherwise you can climb the stones, it’s athletics DC 20.

31 A single lotus flower blooms at the bottom of the tower, where a single drop of the dragon’s blood fell, watered by starlight and moonlight. There is a welling of water from the earth. The lotus’ spirit, a nymph, dwells by it. Her name is Albrael, she knows that the lotus is birthed of Valanir’s blood, this spring is holy, she has hidden it from the witch’s knowledge.

She rises from the spring, she is wearing the water for a shift.

“Do not disturb this holy place! None may know of my existence. Begone!”
“If only my father could know of my love for him. Does he even know I live?”

The stablekeeper's brother Horrick has fallen into the broken tower. He has with him a ball made of gold cloth. The ball is enchanted, and can jump and roll on its own to create pleasing entertainment. If you're a cruel dungeon-master, Horrick could be dead or badly hurt, if you're kind, maybe he's just stunned.

The Nymph Albrael
HP 75 AC 17
May not leave 30 feet from the lotus, is not visible or detectable by any means from outside of that area
If the lotus dies, the nymph dies
As a reaction, once per turn, any attack that targets the lotus instead targets the nymph
2 attacks: Water whip +6 2d8 (reach 10)
Stunning glance (4-6): DC 14 Wisdom save or paralysed with beauty, save at end of each turn to resist, while paralysed, while obey all commands of the nymph
Spells: Cure Wounds, Lesser Restoration, Enhance Ability (8 hours)


32 A dense, thickly overgrown garden. Vines, curly trees, twisty ferns, fences overgrown by plant life. Lamps partly overgrown by the trees spread beautiful, soft light. Mushroom men here want to kill you.

Growing in the middle of the garden, just under the bridge, is a big open flower, fluorescent violet.

Obstacles: overgrown thorn bush 1d8 damage
Overgrown trees
Bridge over ravine — hidden under the bridge is a buried bottle, in the bottle is a wizard scroll of SCORCHING RAY

One CR2 jacked mushroom man!! Size large, mean face, very strong looking. He is standing very still at the center of the garden, obvious even from far away. He won't bother you unless you get close, and then he'll immediately go totally aggro.
HP 80 AC 11 (Vulnerable to fire!!)
1 punch +4 3d12

5 CR 1/4 small mushroom men. These tiny mushroom men the size of cats around hiding throughout the garden. If you stumble over them they scream and run away, but if attacked, they all come running to attack, and the jacked mushroom man comes too.
HP 40 AC 13 (Vulnerable to fire!)
Bite +5 1d4+2, or Spores Range 30 DC 12 2d4+2

Two exits from this place:

A door to the south is stuck, it looks like it rusted over. It can be fixed pretty easily, opening a secret tunnel under the ballroom: it goes south, east, south, west (here there is a SKELETON MERCHANT holding a lantern and a bag of goods. “Oh, you found me! Well, would you like to buy something? Not many people have come to visit my shop in quite some time!! He has for sail: Jar of fireflies 20g, hooded lantern, fluorescent paint 50g, and a stub of an invisible candle, if you light and hold it, you turn invisible, lasts for an uncertain amount of time, roll d4 at the end of each minute, on a 1 the candle goes out, 200g. If you attack him he laughs and disappears in a puff of purple smoke), south, east, south, and then ends at an empty wall. There is an easily found secret door that opens into the courtyard.

To the east, a locked iron door leads to the dungeon.

Up on the north wall of the library is the MOONLIGHT BUTTERFLY. This guy is a FUCKER, he’s glowing, he’s beautiful, he’s big, he’s extremely dangerous but hard to aggro. He’ll ignore up to 15 damage before coming after you.

HP 155 AC 15 Fly 50
Shoot 3 glowing green missiles +6: 2d10+2 Radiant damage, but can only target separate targets
When at low health, he’ll go and land on the flower and drink nectar. This will give him 10d10 hitpoints back, while he’s drinking he’ll glow with energy, and then at the start of his next-turn he’ll EXPLODE DC 15 for 4d10 radiant damage on anything in 30’ of him.
wings worth 200 GP + 7 50GP gems studded in his underbelly + if you make a cloak out of his wings, you get a choice to enchant it with one of the following:
1/day explode for 4d10 radiant damage
1/day as an action heal for 2d8+4 hitpoints


34 The door is locked. An elaborate door-knocker with a scowling face, a window slot. If you knock on it there’s an imp. He is bright red and his name is VORACIOUS VIPE. He asks for the password to the tower: the password is MURDER. He can also be convinced to open the door for a bribe of 200 gold. Why is the password called murder? For this is the murder tower, and anyone knows it, though they will not say it loudly, or where anyone can hear. Here is where the finest girls in the castle are housed until the time of their death, at which point their faces are taken and their bodies dismembered and made into dessert. The imp is not about to say this.

INSIDE: CONFECTIONARY. Elaborate tarts, jellos, multi-tiered cakes. There’s a cake that looks like a castle, a cake that looks like a mountain, a cake that’s all glittery, there’s a bright red jello mould, there’s a pie. The CHIEF CONFECTIONER is a man named ALSTON BLAINT, he has bright red cheeks and a big white hat and chef’s suit, he’s really strong looking, he’s making a cake for the ball. Everything here is made with girl blood, if you cut into the pies everything is red fruit, there’s a tangy, hard to place taste to everything… a careful investigation reveals a curly HAIR, is this a pube???

There is a MAGIC TART in a glass container, it is NOT FOR SALE, it is a piece of the most delicious tart ALSTON BLAINT has ever made, he is saving it for a special occasion. If you eat it, you are stunned for one round by how good it is, then you gain 2d8+4 hitpoints and 100XP.

IMP HP 10 AC 13
Resistance to Cold and nonmagic weapons, advantage on saves against magic
Immune to fire and poison
Bite: +5 1d4+3 and Con DC 11 or 3d6 poison damage
Can turn invisible at will
TREASURE: Silver Scorpion, cures poison once

HP 30 AC 13
Rolling Pin +7 2d8+2

35 HOT CHICKS. A fancy apartment suite where two young girls named FIONA and ROSIE are living. They’re like 17 years old, they’re very beautiful, they were kicked out of their homes in the forest and came here to live, they don’t know why they’re staying here but they’re happy to be safe, they’re eating tons of cakes and confections but they’re just getting thinner and thinner! They bathe in the sugar bath every day. They’re so hungry… They’re not allowed to leave.

Beds, night drawers, big spider painted on the ceiling. That’s creepy… 

36 SUGAR BATH. A big gold bathtub emblazoned with golden skull, its completely filled with sugar. The hot chicks have to bathe here. On the walls are knives. Under the bathtub is a drain stained with blood.

37 CREEPY PORTRAITS OF PAST GIRLS. Locked. The walls of this circular room are covered in dozens of painted portraits of past girls the queen has killed. There’s a single lamp in the middle of the room, it casts a green flame, one shadow appears for each cast by the flame. The flame can only be extinguished with SALT.

AC 12 HP 16
Vulnerable: Radiant
Resistant: Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, Thunder, and Nonmagic Weapons
Immune: Necrotic and Poison; Exhaustion, Frighten, Grapple, Paralyze, Petrify, Poison, Prone, Restrain
Touch +4 2d6+2 and 1d4 Strength damage

 There’s one painting of a girl slyly tapping her nose, if you tweak her nose, the entire room rotates, closing the exit and opening a door to the upstairs.

38 FACES. A dark room, a chandelier, set in niches in the walls are lifelike, beautiful girl faces. There’s like 20 of them. These are the faces of Malice Astarion, which she wears when she wants to feel different. They are all lovely in their own ways, their eyes are closed, they seem to be sleeping. To put one on you have to take off your own face first, there is a shining razor on a table for that purpose, it hurts terribly, but the results are worth it. A basin, a folded cloth, a small mirror. In a drawer is a golden key to Corrine’s tower and 27GP.

Opposite that shelf is a full-length mirror covered in frost. You can see a figure behind the frost, is that your reflection? If you clear the frost, you can see into another tower chamber, in this one sits a handsome older woman, she looks much like Malice but less beautiful and a little older, there is a window but only darkness out the window, a flower blooms, this is Corinne Astarion, she cannot hear or see you, but Malice uses this mirror to spy on her. It frosts over again.

39 DISCARDED ARTS. The imp has been throwing them down the stairs. The stairs are clogged with bad art—paintings, sculptures, papier mache, uhh, drawings, furniture, stuff like that. It spills out into a cold, drafty room filled with rubble and friendly mice. An open door leads out to the ravine. The keyhole to the garden is upon the open door, hanging out with this door that it’s fallen in love with. It is conspicuously not belonging to this door.

40 Thorns, roses. The ravine is 30 feet down, it’s actually pretty far! A horrible grinding, murmuring noise, moaning, strangled. This is DUKE VEATHE, a pale-skinned man in fine clothes, his arms are glued to his sides, his legs are glued together, he wears a red crown, he has a long tongue with a face on it (named HAMB), he slithers through the roses, it was his library before the witch stole it and put it in her palace. He came here with his men demanding it back, she killed them and cursed him but it went off wrong, and now he can’t die. If he’s not fed he moans too loud, so Weevil has to feed him periodically, but he doesn’t like to.

He’s malicious, he demands desserts and treats, he WONT let you pass without them!!

HP 45 AC 13 Resistant to all damage (squelches)
His bites cut bone: +6 1d10+4 and Dex save DC 13 or lose a finger
When he dies, he just lies there crying and can take no damage, in 24 hours he’ll be fine

Behind him is a small hallway burrowing into the wall, at end of hallway is an even smaller stone door, only 2 feet tall. It opens into the garden.

40A A tiny white door in the side, white roses grow in front of it. It’s locked! It can’t be opened without the white key. The white key is in the basement, in the Twin’s tower. This was Corinne Astarion’s secret bedroom. It addition to a finely appointed, but small, secret bedroom, with a lamp that projects friendly, animated, story-time shadows, there are also three healing potions: one heals wounds (4d8+5, golden), one heals general sadness (purple with blue flecks, and one heals a broken heart (dull, deep blue, like night sky). There’s also a music box with a dancing girl and dancing boy, they are real and can talk to you, their names are OWEN and MATRISKA.


41 A dark, horrible hallway. A stale smell. The floors and walls are slimy. The chiming of a bell. The guard here controls the keys to the prisoners with her bell, she has hypnotized the locks with her bell. You must turn the bell in the right movement.

1 CR 2 LEATHER CHICK BELLHOLDER and her CR 1 servant
BELL-HOLDER She holds a bell in one hand and leash in the other, she’s got a leather strap across her mouth and her tongue’s sticking out, and her tits got leather all around them, and she’s in thigh high heel boots, but she’s all burned, her skin’s all burned and scarred, she serves the witch now, and her servant serves her.
HP 60 AC 15 (Magic armor)
Ring bell! +6 2d12 damage, range 30, or ring bell to paralyse you DC 14 for next turn (5’ radius), and then she can ring it again to CONTROL YOU for one turn.

GIMP SERVANT is on a long leash, he’s got a gimp mask, he’s naked, he crawls on all fours, his tongue is hanging out
HP 50 AC 13 2 attacks +4 d8+1 and he crawls up on and you’re grabbed and he’s physically on you and biting you

Bell has d4+1 charges left in it, away from the bell-holder
1 charge: It can do a spell-attack for 2d12 damage (with Wisdom/Perform
It can paralyze Wisdom DC 14 for 1 charge, and then for 2 charges can control the target for one turn (no save)

42 CELLS!! There’s a withered, horrible prisoner in each cell. It’s the worst. These are just people who stole from Malice or wronged her. The locks are enchanted by the bellholder, but they can be picked DC 20, on a failure by more than 5 they call out to the bellholder.
Some notable prisoners and things:
1. A SILVER cell contains a vampire of Visigardia, NANDOR OF HOUSE ZORDAS, languishes in the darkness. A thin, pale man, pale eyes, gaunt even, across his chest is tattooed the sigil of House Zordas, though the players will not recognize this. He will call to the players -- “The bellholder commands the locks! Get me out of here and you will be rewarded!”
Nandor is a hostage, to protect Malice from Visigardia. He is fed often enough to keep him barely alive. Dad is Duke Stavros of House Zordas.
House Zordas keeps its promises. If they free Nandor and make their way to Visigardia, they will be granted one night free from molestation in House Zordas. If they ignore or harm Nandor, and he escapes, House Zordas will be their enemy to the end of their days.
The cell has the following enhancements: 
The bars are made of silver, and worth a total of 500gold, and they are hollow, and enlaid with salt.
During day-time, light pierces from above and shines light down in a line across the cell.
2. A skeleton holding a ring, wearing the ring allows one to cast DISPEL ILLUSION once per day. He’s holding it really tightly, it’s on his finger
3. Malice and Corinne’s father, an elderly man with a long long beard, laughing, crying, and singing to himself, he remembers his name, which is FRUGIA LORN.  He was a wealthy man, respected, the head of a happy family, in a fine large city, he cannot remember the city’s name, but he remembers his daughters, how Malice grew into her name, Corinne left him alone . . . 


43 Door is ajar, horrible squelching sound from inside. TORTURE RACKS!! A slavering torturer hacks at a pile of meat! He’s hostile and totally nuts, as soon as he hears you he comes at you, wielding an entire iron maiden.

CR 2 
AC 11 HP 60
IRON MAIDEN +6 2d8+4 and trapped in the iron maiden, make an Acrobatics or Athletics check DC 13 to escape, and at the start of each turn take another 1d8+2 damage, and he can keep swinging the iron maiden at other guys while you’re trapped

 In torture room:

Stretching rack has snapping zombie stretched across it HP 4 AC 9 Bite +2 1d4
Closed iron maiden has zombie with dagger inside it HP 6 AC 11 +5 1d4+2 + 2d6sneak attack
Flaming furnace has hot poker in it, ready to go! As well as a branding iron of a binding sigil, if you’re branded with this, Malice can use it to compel you to come to her (as geas)

44 WINE CELLAR!!  A bunch of wine casks with various old dates. Snakes coiling among the casks, they aren’t poisonous, they are black.

45 AIR LOCK. Door to this room is a big turning handle, it takes an entire minute to open this room, and in the room beyond is another big turning handle. You have to close the previous door to open this one. There’s a broken drain in the middle of the room, a horrible tangled spider swarm lives down there, all their legs are tangled together, and there’s a rat embedded in it too, if the doors are closed, the swarm comes up!!

AC 12 HP 22
Resistance to weapons
+5 4d4 damage (halved if at half or fewer hp) and Con DC 11 or Poisoned 1 minute plus +5 rat bite 1d4+1 plus Con DC 11 or Diseased (can’t recover HP on short rest, save again at end of each long rest)

Down in the drain is a severed hand that’s all gnawed and decaying, it’s holding a poisoned dagger with a spider pommel, once per day it can be poisoned, next attack that hits deals an additional 1d6 damage at start of enemy’s turn for 1 minute (Con DC 13 to end damage)

46 A pit in the middle of this massive room. A ladder leads down the side. The walls are wet, slimy algae grows on the walls, water is dripping from above. There is a distant plinking sound. The ladder leads down to a metal pipe that crosses the pit. Its Acrobatics DC 8 to walk on it, if you fall it’s 6d6 falling damage. The next pipe is 20’ feet below that, another pipe 20’ below that, and then the floor. 

4 EYEBATS nest under the pipes!!! If disturbed they attack!! If you get hit while you’re on the pipes, you have to make Acrobatics DC 8 to not fall.
HP 12 AC 14.1 attack, drip acid on you from their eyes while flapping at you with their wings +5 1d8+1 acid damage
Fly 40, Darkvision 

There is a narrow hallway leading from the middle pipe, it goes and makes a turn, there is a door rusted shut. Strength check to open DC 10. Inside is a skeleton holding a magic ring, it can be used as a reaction once per day to give +5 to armor and the attacker must Strength DC 15 to knock back 10 feet.

At the bottom is a pool of water ankle deep. Chains lie in it, they used to anchor an elevator. The north door is made of solid gold and has a huge elaborate lock system and is decorated with a massive gold dragon. It will open with the golden key from the Tower of Murder, but the dragon will address the players, “I do not know you, and you are not Malice Astarion. You may not pass this door.”  Its name is Chiron.

Half Dragon, CR 5
It is only half a dragon, and it will peel off the door to attack.
HP 90 AC 17 2 attacks: Claw +6, 1d8+1/Bite +6 1d10+2 and 1d4 fire damage
Resistant to fire
Saves: Str 4, Dex 2, Con 5, Int 1, Wis 2, Cha 4
Breathe Fire in half a wedge, DC 13 Dex save or 6d6 fire damage (5/6)
Reactions (3 per round):
Someone moves while within range (1 action): Tail swipe +6 1d6+1 and knock down 
Someone ends turn next to dragon (2 actions): wing swipe +6 1d8+1 and knock back
Someone hides (1 action): Perception check

The south door is small and made of metal and has a simple lock on it. It is enchanted by Malice to be impossible to open by any but her. No amount of tugging or pulling or magic will open it. It leads to Malice’s old house.

47 and 48. I'll save for a later date. If you're in a pinch, put a small, two-story house here, filled with tasteful furnishings. This is where Malice prefers to live. There's nothing special or magical in here, except that Malice can teleport her house to other places in the forest, and thereby cross large distances very quickly.


Past the golden door is a vast, lightless space. A long, narrow, stone span, crumbling with age, extends outward and stops. The Twin’s tower is invisible unless exposed to moonlight or starlight, much like Malice’s invisible palace above. However it can be felt.

A face carved over the far side of the Golden Door is looking for Corinne Astarion. If seen, she will alert the rest of the castle, and it should be hostile from now on.

If crossed, two stone, headless gargoyles wielding spears will fly down from the top of the tower and attack. A third will join on the third round of combat, and this one can breathe poison gas.


HP 50   AC 16
Fly 60 Move 30
Spear +5 2d4+3

Axe +3 1d12+4
POISON GAS in a line 30’ long, Con DC 13 or 3d8 poison damage (Recharge 5/6) 

If the tower is revealed, it is a simple black tower, like the ones above. A cool light burns in the top window. 

49 The door is locked from the outside. On the inside, a stand with old roses, a vase of dusty water and a cup. A painting of a ship on a sea. Behind the painting on the wall is a panel. Opening the panel reveals a turning knob. Turning it causes a white, wrought iron staircase to rise up the inside of the tower and join with the door.

A door is far up the side of the tower on the inside.

50 Guardian’s Chamber. A quivering mass of red jelly covered with vivid yellow eyes sits in a room adorned with flowery doilies. It has long, hairlike feelers. It projects a voice into your mind.

“What is your business with Corinne Astarion?”
“I have not felt the touch of a kind animal in many a year”

The guardian can read minds, control emotions, and command. 

HP 30 AC 12
PSYCHIC WAVE: All in room, Int save DC 13 or 4d6 psychic damage
Or, attack all within 10’ with creepy feelers: 2d4+2
Spells (at will): Detect Thoughts, Command, Charm Person, Calm Emotions, Cause Fear

51 Room of Blindness. Room is full of invisible objects Corinna has manufactured with her imagination. A spindle, a kettle, a pottery kiln, a dog named Oaf, an easel with paints. She looks much like Malice, but older, she has not seen another living being in a long time. She will believe the players are more figments of her imagination, she does not really want to leave, if she left, would she survive? She remembers trying to kill Malice, she hates her sister, her lip curls. 

This room is much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Her memory is fragmented. She will need to have her memory restored to gain back her full strength.

“To simply exist just because one’s been born is the sort of notion that I hate. I can’t stand it.”

Treasure in here:

An imaginary rapier is invisible, granting a +2 to attack
A basilisk egg, requires the kiss of a murderer to hatch
A white key with a rose on its handle, opens the door to Corinne's secret bedroom