It’s Fall again, and the leaves have nearly all fallen (at least in my part of the world), exposing the bare branches near my window which whistle and whine in the wind from time to time. Ghouls, zombies and ghosts linger in the imagination… So it’s the perfect time of year to run a horror-themed adventure for your next Pathfinder Beginner Box game!
The Ghoul Plague is the 3rd free adventure you’ll find here. I’ve previously shared Orc Invasion and Green Hag’s Revenge. All of these are free standalone adventures which use only the monsters, skills and rules found in the Hero’s Handbook and Game Master’s Guide that came with your Pathfinder Beginner Box. Feel free to run only the adventure(s) you like best. And simply use the encounter building guidelines on pages 26 and 27 of the Game Master’s Guide to adjust the adventure’s difficulty up or down as needed for your gaming group.
And once again, as I mention at the beginning of each adventure, if you’re a player — you probably should not read through the outline below.
Instead, just share a link to this post for your Game Master right now & say, “Hey, check out this free adventure for our next game!” You’ll enjoy your game much more if you don’t know what’s going to happen… 🙂
And now, on to the latest free Pathfinder Beginner Box adventure!
I’ve written the below assuming that the party would have reached Level 3 or Level 4 at the time they start this adventure. I’d also strongly suggest that the party be at least Level 4 by the time they reach the final battle (it’s going to be a tough one 🙂 ).
The Ghoul Plague: Another Adventure for the Pathfinder Beginner Box
Adventure Setup / Background
This adventure takes place in and around Sandpoint. As I’ve mentioned in previous adventures, Sandpoint is one of those oases in the wilderness — a place of relative safety where civilization has secured a tentative foothold (thanks to fortifications & the vigilance of Mayor Kendra Deverin and the Town Guard).
If you’ve already run your players through Orc Invasion and/or Green Hag’s Revenge, then you could set up The Ghoul Plague as the next challenge for them to face a little while after they make it back to town.
Adventure Hook & Suggested Plot + Encounters
Your band of heroes enjoys a well-earned few days of rest and relaxation in Sandpoint after their latest adventure in the Hinterlands. They are able to restock their supplies, repair or replace weapons and armor, and shop for various other necessities throughout town.
Roleplaying Encounter Option
After they’ve restocked their supplies:
It has been raining off and on throughout the day. They visit the Rusty Dragon tavern/inn to get out of the rain and warm themselves with a hot meal by the fire, and the beautiful Ameiko Kaijitsu approaches them. With a DC 10 Knowledge Local check, they recognize her. She is the owner of the Rusty Dragon. She looks their way and nods with a smile from behind the bar. She is helping the bartender to replace an emptied barrel of ale.
If the party members fail the check, they just notice that a beautiful tough-looking woman, who apparently works at the tavern, has greeted them politely.
She approaches them a few moments later, and introduces herself as Ameiko Kaijitsu. She engages them in some polite conversation, and asks them if they are indeed the group of heroes who has recently accomplished _______ (use whatever heroic deed or deeds that your players have recently been responsible for to fill in the blank). If the party members make a DC 5 Sense Motive check, you can assure them that she is genuinely curious and wants to confirm that they are who she thinks they are.
If they confirm that they are who she thinks they are, she lets them know how impressed she is with their deeds. She grants them the honor of free rooms at the inn from now on. She has heard of their recent adventures, and this is her preferred way of honoring fellow adventurers who have proved their mettle against worthy foes (as discussed on page 89 of the Beginner Box’s Game Master’s Guide).
If there is a Fighter in the party, Ameiko may also offer that player character a paid position as new “muscle” to help keep things under control. She tells them that there have been more customers than usual lately due to more soldiers being stationed in the area. If your players ask why there have been more soldiers, you can relate their presence to the events in Orc Invasion, if you have run that adventure for your players — if you haven’t run that adventure, then you can talk about unrest due to some orc activity in the south (which would be a nice way to help set up the events of the Orc Invasion adventure for one of your future sessions).
“The Dead Walk!”
Draw the Rusty Dragon — you can create a 10 x 10 square building on the empty side of the flip mat that came with the Beginner’s Box. Include some tables, chairs, and the front door with some stairs leading up to it. Also draw the road leading up to and past the front of the tavern/inn. You can draw some other buildings along the road, with some carts, a few barrels, etc. around those buildings. The road leads off to the southeast. Refer to the location of the Rusty Dragon on the Sandpoint town map on page 89 of the Game Master’s Guide.
- It is a rainy evening. It is chilly outside, and the streets have mostly turned to mud. It’s shaping up to be a miserable night outside.
- A short time after the roleplaying encounter above — perhaps later that night, while the tavern’s patrons are enjoying the music and ale that makes the Rusty Dragon the kind of rowdy place that could use some extra “muscle” from time to time — a man bursts into the main room through the front door. He is covered in mud and blood.
- He screams out “Help! Help!” The music and singing in the tavern go silent. He runs into the room and grabs the shoulders of one of the nearest patrons and continues shouting, “The dead! The dead walk again!”
- The man collapses from exhaustion and loss of blood before he can continue. But a few moments after he collapses. With a DC 10 Perception check, a party member will notice that the man is clutching something in his left hand.
- If they pry open his hand while he is unconscious, they see a ring of rose gold, with some strange runes engraved on it. (If someone casts Detect Magic, then it only takes a few moments to sense that the ring is magical.)
- But before the character can determine what the ring does, people begin screaming outside.
When the party investigates the panicked screams, they see a handful of people running down the street.
Behind the fleeing citizens, they see:
- 4 Skeletons – page 80 of the Pathfinder Beginner Box’s Game Master’s Guide
- 1 Skeletal Champion is also with them, walking about 10 feet behind the group – page 79 of the Game Master’s Guide
Ameiko sees the creatures as well, and begins guiding her customers and her staff to safety, out through the backdoor. Helping her customers and the people who work for her are her top priority. It’s up to the party to solve the skeleton problem.
These undead creatures are covered in mud that the rains are slowly washing away, as though they’ve only recently crawled out of their graves. They appear to be armed with rusty weapons & shields — presumably the items they were originally buried with. They are in varying states of decay — a few also still seem to be wearing remnants of leather armor and so on. The Skeletal Champion is larger and better armed than the others, and with a DC 10 Perception check, the player characters get the impression that the Skeletal Champion also seems to be coordinating the movements of the rest of the group. And they’re not attacking everyone in sight. They are behaving as if they’re looking for something…or someone.
- If one of the party members has taken the strange ring carried by the man who burst into the tavern, the Skeletal Champion acts as if it is catching a scent on the air. The Skeleton leader quickly hones in on the person carrying the ring (with a DC 10 Perception check, the players will realize that it wants the ring), and the group of skeletons attacks.
- The skeletons will fight the other party members, if attacked by them, but whenever possible, they will strike the person with the ring. The Skeletal Champion joins in the fight as well — focusing his attacks on the person carrying the ring, whenever possible. If they knock that character unconscious, they attempt to take the ring and drag him away…back the way the skeletons came (to the southeast).
- If none of the party members took the ring, then the skeletons will continue to approach.
- Once the creatures come within 50 feet of the entrance to the tavern, the Skeletal Champion senses the presence of the ring and they move in to take the man — and will attack anyone who tries to prevent them from doing so.
- The skeletons do not attack the man, the Skeletal Champion simply tries to grab the man by the arm or the leg and drag him away through the mud while he is unconscious.
* Ghoul Plague!*
Anyone who is struck by the skeletons’ claws begins to sweat, feels light headed, and is sick to their stomach. They must make a DC 13 Fortitude Saving Throw at the end of the fight. If they fail, they collapse in just the same way as the man who ran into the tavern earlier, carrying the ring. They remain only barely conscious and half of their HP is lost.
A cleric in the party, or one of the healers in town can use Remove Disease to cure the victim.
However, if they are not cured, the victim will need to make another DC 13 Fortitude Saving Throw when they wake up every morning morning for 3 days. If they succeed, they awake that morning feeling weak and sick to their stomach, but otherwise recovered (their HP is back to normal and they can function as before). If they FAIL all 3 daily saves, then on the 4th morning, they awake that morning as a ghoul! See page 70 of the Game Master’s Guide for details on ghouls — their stats become those of a ghoul (HP, damage, attack roll, etc.). The person playing that character now must play them as a ghoul until they are cured by a cleric, or are destroyed. They will hunger for corpse flesh and will attack the townsfolk, and even their former party members.
If the skeletons kill or otherwise incapacitate the person with the ring, then the Champion will take the magic item and the creatures will try to leave. They will head down the street toward the southeast, outside of town. They will not attack anyone, but they will defend themselves. (They will have gotten what they came for.) However, if this happens, you may choose to either allow the skeletons to leave town, or have members of the Town Guard will show up and charge the remaining skeletons — preventing their escape. It’s up to you as the Game Master. 🙂
If the party destroys the skeletons and loot the remains, you can roll once on the Minor Random Treasure chart on page 30 of the Game Master’s Guide.
The Ring of Command
If the GM does not allow the skeletons to escape and they are destroyed, then it is up to the party to find out what the magical ring is, and why the skeletons came for it. A party member can cast Detect Magic again and concentrate long enough to determine that this rune-covered ring is an evil Ring of Command. This is used by evil wizards or evil clerics to control an undead creature of CR 2 or lower for up to 1 minute (10 rounds) once each night. It can only be used at night, and only by intelligent beings of Evil alignment (for example, Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil). Each time a Good aligned character attempts to use it, it instantly heats up and burns whoever is holding it for 1d4 fire damage.
If the skeletons are allowed to take the ring and escape, then the party may track them back to wherever they came from. The party will be able to easily follow the skeletons’ trail. The ground is muddy and the skeletons make no attempt to hide their tracks as they staggered and dragged themselves along. And if the party destroyed the skeletons, they can easily follow their trail back the way they’d come.
Anyone with Knowledge Local may make a DC 10 skill check. If they succeed, they remember that there is a graveyard outside of town to the southeast — the direction from which the skeletons came. If no one succeeds on the check, eventually the trail they follow will lead the party to an old, walled graveyard.
The Graveyard + Ghoul Encounter
The party is able to follow the trail out of town to the southeast. Not far from Sandpoint, just off the road, on the edge of the woods, they will find an old graveyard that is no longer used. The rain will have stopped by the time they reach the graveyard, but it will be fully dark. However, the sky will still be cloudy, so there will not be much moonlight to help them.
Describe the cemetery as being surrounded by a crumbling stone wall (about 5 feet high). There is an entrance with a broken wrought iron gate — it is hanging from a rusted hinge. Consider the entrance difficult terrain which will slow the movement of anyone going through the gate by 10 feet (2 squares on the map).
You may draw the old graveyard scene on the blank side of the flip mat that came with your Pathfinder Beginner’s Box:
- The road the PCs have been following leads past the cemetery. The graveyard rests about 40 feet away from the road.
- Indicate the low stone wall which surrounds the graveyard.
- There are about a dozen graves visible before the woods obscure the rest of the area.
- The woods extend to about half-way through the graveyard. This obscures the back of the cemetery from view. (Use Heavy Undergrowth statistics for creatures within the wooded areas — see page 40 of the Game Master’s Guide).
When the party approaches the cemetery, your players are welcome to make DC 20 Perception checks. There are 2 ghouls on guard duty near the front of the graveyard. However, the creatures are well hidden behind the stone wall which surrounds the old cemetery. That is why there is a high DC to sense their presence, or hear them as they change their position, etc.
If the party succeeds on the Perception check, then they sense the presence of the 2 creatures. They also hear a distant chanting come from the back of the cemetery. It sounds like someone may be performing a ritual, or spell of some kind — but the sound is too distant for them to be able to make it out.
But even if they fail their Perception checks, ask the players if they want to approach using Stealth. If so, have them roll once they come within 20 feet of the stone wall. Their Stealth checks will be opposed by the Perception checks of the 2 Ghouls that the Ghost of an Evil Cleric has set on watch near the front entrance.
If anyone in the party fails the Stealth check, the Ghouls will be alerted to their approach, and they will set up an ambush against the first person who enters the graveyard. The first round will be a surprise round too — where the 2 Ghouls will have a free attack against that character.
See page 70 of the Game Master’s Guide for the statistics to run the encounter with the 2 Ghouls. Once the first Ghoul is killed in battle, the 2nd one will attempt to flee into the woods deeper into the cemetery, where he will alert the Ghost of the Evil Cleric of the party’s approach.
If both Ghouls are slain, then shortly after that battle, the party will hear the ritual chanting rise to a crescendo & then stop suddenly. If they choose to Stealthily move into the graveyard toward where the sound of the chanting had been, then after about 10 feet, they see a spooky green glow further into the woods. As they approach, they hear a disembodied voice say “Thank you for providing the final sacrifices!”
The Cleric’s Ghost
At this point, you can role-play the encounter with the Ghost of an ancient Evil Cleric. He was awakened when the man who fled into town robbed his grave and stole his Ring of Command. He wants revenge on the man — to take his life and then raise him as an undead servant. If the party killed one or both of the guardian Ghouls, then the Ghost also insists that the party members who destroyed the Ghoul(s) also replace those servants…with themselves. He tells them that resistance is useless — he has just completed a ritual which restored himself to his full power.
The demand to replace his Ghoulish servant(s) will probably lead to a battle with the Ghost… He will not take “no” for an answer. 🙂
See page 70 of the Game Master’s Guide for the Ghost’s statistics.
If the Ghost kills one of the heroes, then after 3 rounds of remaining dead, that hero suffers from the Ghoul Plague described above. He rises from the dead and joins the Ghost in the battle against the remaining party members. A cleric can use Remove Disease to restore the Plague-infected character to his/her “normal” condition during this battle. If the character is saved in this manner, he/she is Dazed for one round (see the Dazed condition described on page 94 of the Game Master’s Guide for details), and rejoins the party at whatever HP remained while he/she was in the Ghoul state.
For example, the party’s Fighter becomes infected by the Ghoul Plague after he is killed by the Ghost and remains dead for 4 rounds. He rises as a ghoul at that time, with the 13 HP that a ghoul normally has (as seen on page 70 of the Game Master’s Guide). During the next 2 rounds of battle, he takes 10 HP of damage from other party members. He therefore has just 3 HP left. Then the party’s cleric casts Remove Disease on him and he is changed back into his “normal” self — the party’s lovable Fighter. Once this transformation happens, he is Dazed for the next round, and then he rejoins the battle on the side of his fellow party members with 3 HP.
Once the party defeats the Ghost, roll once on the Minor Random Treasure table found on page 30 of the Game Master’s Guide. The party finds this Random treasure on the Ghost’s remains (you can describe it as a puddle of ectoplasmic residue).
If the party searches the cemetery, then they find the original grave of the Evil Cleric whose resting place was disturbed by the grave robber (i.e. what led to his becoming the angry Ghost they just fought). The grave robber was driven off before he finished looting the grave, so roll twice on the Major Random Treasure table on page 30 to determine what the party finds.
From here, you can have the party return to town and seek out the grave robber who started it all.
What do they do with/to him? Do they turn him in to the authorities? Do they try to find out how he learned of the grave in the first place?