When last I blogged I apologised for the long delay in the release of a blog series detailing a campaign setting from a village out. No sooner than I hit post I knew the setting I wanted to detail. I won’t promise I’ll be back to this project soon but I hope there is something here you find inspiring.
Village of Orphans and Nightmares
The black, slightly avian, crystal monolith that towers eighteen feet over the center of Ravenstone’s town square once drew scholars wizards and sages from across the world. These experts in occult and ancient history sought to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Ravenstone but instead helped to found one of the region’s most prestigious academies of higher learning and a thriving town surrounding the university.
The Terrors began suddenly with a lunar eclipse but have continued for five long years. That night every child became trapped in a terrible nightmare until the first faint light of dawn touched the town. Unfortunately, waking did not end the children’s nightmare. The children found they were alone every adult fifteen and older had vanished.
Around the village’s perimeter a dense mist shrouded forest appeared overnight. As the older children ventured into new forest they discovered the fate of the adults. Every tree nearest the village had grown around some neighbor or loved one so that the corpses partially trapped within the trees. Even now five years later the trapped skeletons are still visible. Bleached white skulls stare silently out of the dark bark into the menacing depths of the forest now known as the Blightwood.
Since the start of the Terrors the orphans of Ravenstone have been unable to sleep without suffering deep ensnaring nightmares. As time has passed the nightmare curse has grown stronger. Sleepers are unable to waken from their dreams unless touched by sunlight. Many of the orphans try to remain awake as long as possible while others surrender to the nightly horrors. Only fools or madmen wander into the dark of the Blightwood for any length of time that would require sleep.
That is until recently. A few townsfolk (including the PCs) have been receiving dream messages attributed to the Ravenstone itself. These messages seem to be encouraging them to explore the Blightwood and find a way back to the normal world. But first they’ll need equipment, resources and answers that may only be found in the ruins of the university. Unfortunately, not every member of the community wants an expedition into the wilds. Many fear the monsters such an expedition may rile up others fear the loss of personal prestige.
Over the last five years the orphans of Ravenstone have tried to preserve some sense of normalcy and society. They have had some success although it is a fragile arrangement with numerous factions vying to influence the direction of the village. This balance is further complicated by the loss of every member of the local clergy and nearly everyone trained in arcane magic.
Ravenstone is a village setting intended to be the starting point for a human centric horror themed campaign. Isolated from the rest of the world, Ravenstone is home to the three-hundred some orphans of the university town’s twelve hundred original residents after magical tragedy claimed the lives village’s adults. While the campaign is intended to occur about five years after the start of the Terrors. A GM could run a horror survival campaign that begins when the children first awaken from their first nightmares.
The principle themes of a Ravenstone campaign include isolation and impotence. The heroes are children and young adults who have been effectively abandoned by every authority they knew: adults, gods, and even the natural world. In time the PCs will discover what caused the Terrors and what role the Ravenstone played in it. Ultimately in order to get home the PC’s will have to face not only the power that caused the Terrors but also the forces of darkness that threaten both the village of Ravenstone and the whole world.
Ravenstone For Pathfinder
A Ravenstone campaign can be run with human PCs and standard heroic classes or for a more horrific feel you could opt to run it with NPC classes only at least to start. My recommendation is for the later and allowing the adept class to cast spells from the adept class list as psychic spells.
PCs younger than 16 are viable character options in this setting. You should at least apply the ability score modifiers from Ultimate Campaign. [Detailed here.]
I also suggest you use the Sanity and Madness rules from the Game Mastery Guide. [Detailed here.]
Low-level Adventure Ideas
- [A Prelude or Day After Adventure] The town needs to secure new food supplies. An expedition is mounted to head into the Blightwood to see if the nearby Adler’s farm survived the disaster. Either to find help or to bring back needed food stores. Along the way the PCs encounter a number of threats stalking the Blightwood.
- The PCs nightmares reveal a secret from before the time of the Terrors that may unlock a secure vault beneath the university. What secrets and dangers lurk in the sealed tunnels?
- A young boy has wandered into the Blightwood at the behest of voices only he can hear. His older brother and sister beg the PC’s aid in finding him. The PCs soon discover his route through the thick underbrush and it leads to an ancient ruins and a small tribe of goblins.
- The skeletons in the trees around the village begin screaming. Despite the lack of sun every sleeper in the village wakes.