Greetings unaugmented humanity! Magos Geologis has returned from a harrowing expedition that should serve as excellent fodder for you budding Games Masters out there in your adventures. Draw close and listen but always remember to keep a holy icon close at hand.
Our setting for today is the Cursed Town. This setting can serve as a side plot, a puzzle the characters encounter on the way to the larger goal, or as a whole quest line in and of itself. I first developed this setting for use in Dungeons and Dragons but I will also examine how it could be used in a Deathwatch campaign.
Dungeons and Dragons
The party is travelling along a road heading to some destination and it is getting late in the day. They come across a town as evening approaches and decide to stop for the night. It is a quaint town, small but flourishing. A large fountain dominates the central square and facing it is a sturdy stone and wood tavern. Villagers are moving about, running last minute errands and closing up shop for the night. Everything is normal and everyone is relatively friendly and welcoming.
The adventurers enter the tavern which is large and well lit. A roaring fire dominates one wall and a long bar spans the back wall, save for a staircase at either end which lead up to lodgings. Large tables, rectangular and round, fill the space and a sizeable crowd is eating and drinking. A minstrel plays a local melody in the corner near the hearth. The adventurers get a room or rooms (depending on their means or avarice) and settle down for the night.
At some point during the night an adventurer awakes and everything has changed. The room they are in no longer has a roof or exterior wall, and all around them the building is in a terrible state of ruin. The inn appears to have been abandoned for decades and left to crumble. Danger abounds as loose floorboards, rotten beams, and missing steps make the journey out of the tavern treacherous. Once outside the adventurers find the whole town in a similar state. The baleful light of a full moon illuminates ruined houses and shops. On a hill overlooking the town a black tower looms. As the party takes it all in skeletons crawl from the ruins, intent on slaying the trespassers.
For GMs who want a little more inspiration or who wish to make a whole adventure out of this encounter here is some further information. The black tower houses a powerful wight. He is the tormented soul of an ancient lord who once ruled this land. During said lord’s reign, raiders came and burned the village. The lord tried in vain to defend his people but was injured in the fighting. His retainers pulled him back to the tower. He felt himself a complete failure and turned to one of his advisers who secretly dabbled in black magic. The adviser betrayed him though, and rather than assisting his lord in defeating his enemies, he cursed him and all his people. The lord’s anguish at his failure bound him to the mortal realm. The adventurers can learn of this history through the tapestries adorning the tower walls as they fight their way through the tower guards to the throne room. There they can confront the lord and either slay him in battle or convince him that the failure was not his, he fought nobly and was simply overpowered. If this path is chosen then the lord reveals the location of his father’s tomb and a powerful item before peacefully going to his final rest. When the adventurers leave the tower, all trace of the town and tower are gone. Should they simply slay the wight, the village will remain, but come nightfall, the curse will return.
Incorporating the Cursed Town concept into a Deathwatch campaign is easily achieved with the use of Chaos as the antagonist. The Kill-team is returning from a mission and stops aboard a way station to refuel. Each Battle-Brother has with them the gear from the previous mission, fully rearmed aboard their vessel. The vessel itself would also have reserves of any standard weaponry (specifics are left to the GMs discretion). The station appears to be normal and the Kill-Team makes their way to the secret automated Watch Station hidden inside its heart to retrieve the data it has recorded. They enter the Watch Station and the trap is sprung. Any Librarians sense a powerful surge in the warp. The Marines emerge from the Watch Station to find themselves aboard a station that has been derelict for centuries. Portions are open to the void and power is faulty. They can either fight back to their ship as reanimated corpses attack (cultists), supplemented by daemons (flavoured as the GM prefers). Alternatively they can attempt to fight to the command deck and access the data archives to determine the cause. Should they do so they can learn of a cult spreading through the region (which can fuel future missions). After finally winning back to their ship the Kill-Team can obliterate the station and return to the Watch fortress.
Hopefully my tale has inspired GMs out there looking to incorporate some Halloween flavour into their games this time of year. Remember to keep your blessed flamers close at hand! Knowledge is power, guard it well.