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Introduction

Media vita in morte sumus

What do I utter? what conceive? did breath

Of demon howl it in a blasphemy?

Or was it mine own voice, informed, dilated

By the seven confluent Spirits? — Speak — answer me!”

-From The Seraphim by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It is rare for a powerful witch to receive a burial upon death. Most witches ultimately die in the working of their wild and dangerous magicks. Thus no body suitable for burial is left. But there have been tales of fabled witchmothers whose funeral rites served as a final act of sorcery. A culmination of their life’s work. Such graves are strange and terrible places. A witchtomb is to be avoided at all costs. The lure of strange and powerful magic must be ignored for the preservation of one’s soul.”

-From Witches: Fact and Fable by Gulfrey Shaw, Witchfinder of Rosechurch

A Note on Witches and History

In the setting assumed but unenforced by this adventure, witches are considered evil” by much of society and witchfinders hunt them. Witches are not inherently bad. Like all people, they are capable of both good and evil. Their activities often disrupt the order of civilization”, leading those in power to view them as evil. They sometimes gain power through pacts with otherworldy entities who may or may not be evil as well. While it is of course up to you and your table, I generally depict witchfinders as fearful, power hungry, or brainwashed and witches as devotees of secret knowledge and freedom.

The concept of witchfinders and witch hunting has been displayed in fiction many times. But it is based on real tragic history. It is conservatively estimated that at least 40,000 people, mostly women were murdered between 1450 and 1750 in Europe’s misogynistic witch hunts. And witch-hunts continue today in other parts of the world. This module is meant to be played in a fantasy game for fun, but there is potential to offend or harm if real world tragedy is taken lightly or thrust upon players unexpectedly. Always talk to your players about potential troubling content and consider how you want to handle or not handle it.

Background

For three centuries a witch inhabited this forest. When she felt death approaching she performed a funerary ritual. Burying herself in a tomb where she took on a new form: a red tree whose roots slowly spread through the forest she loved. Now the forest is a feared place where people disappear, shadows whisper, and blackbirds sing low dirges in the moonlight.

People do not travel through the forest anymore. Children are forbidden to play near it. Woodcutters abandoned it after the new church rotted as soon as it was constructed. As the witch desired, her beloved forest is mostly left alone.

The Witchfinder’s Bounty

Hearing reports of the cursed woods, the witchfinder’s guild sent a novice, Lestam Carbuncle, to solve the problem. Carbuncle camps by his wagon at the forest edge, too scared to go on. He offers adventurers 500gp and his silver witchfinder brooch to destroy the witch for him. He directs them to the tombstone but doesn’t have any other information. He fled before investigating further.

Witch Children

People transformed by witch milk into strange creatures that serve and protect witches. They are often actual children, abandoned or lost, who are taken in by the witch. A witch child does not age and if returned to original form they will be the same age as when they were transformed and have no memory of it.

Appearance: Blue skin, white eyes, dog like snouts, large fangs, black claws, manes of black hair down their backs. They cannot speak but understand basic language. They communicate with guttural howls and usually walk on all fours.

Witch Milk

It flows in the red roots that are found in every room of Witchtomb, it is how she feeds her children. If a player drinks witch milk they must make a constitution save to avoid transforming. If they become a witch child, have the player make a new character. Witch children serve and protect the witch and her tomb. This would likely be at odds with the player’s autonomy. If the spell is broken the player can regain control of the character.

New characters can be adventurers who happened upon the tomb, luckless knaves who fell through a magic mirror into room 5, or they can awaken at the Tea Party with no memory of how they got there. It’s up to you and the players.

Map of the Witchtomb

Map of the witchtomb.

Wandering Monsters

Roll a d12 or choose on this table if you need an encounter for an empty room or if the players dawdle for too long in one place.

  1. 1d6 black cats thirsty for non witch milk.
  2. 1d4 Witch Children eager to protect their dead mother’s slumber.
  3. A red anaconda seeks a way out of this plane of existence.
  4. 2d4 Imps hungry for mischief.
  5. 1d6 flaming moths eager to spread their fire.
  6. 1d6 Thorny red roots break through the ground to strangle living things.
  7. A floating torch burning with green flame.
  8. A witch child banging on a rusted pot with a stick.
  9. 3 hell hounds with their tails tied together.
  10. An blood stained broom sweeping up a cloud of dirt. It will attack any who stop it from sweeping or litter in its presence. If tamed, it can be ridden. It can fly to an altitude of 100 feet and its max speed is 15 mph.
  11. 1d4 bloated zombie gnomes overgrown with moss. 1d4 violet cave flowers sprout from their bodies. If a flower is picked the gnome explodes for 1d6 damage. Save to dodge.
  12. A smoky shapeless shadow forms and follows the party for 2d6 turns. It’s freezing cold to the touch and any flame that touches it is extinguished. When it disappears it leaves behind a green emerald worth 50gp.

1. Tombstone Entrance

In a patch of black roses is a 6 foot tall blank tombstone carved from obsidian and polished to the point of being reflective. On top is a fat unlit candle. Streams of dried wax stretch down the sides and back of the stone. When the candle is lit, the face of the stone opens to reveal a tunnel of dirt and rock descending into the earth. Thick red roots form arches every few yards, supporting the tunnel. It the roots are cut, witch milk drips from them.

2. Demon’s Tea Party

A small cavern with sweet steamy air. A large split trunk table with stumps and stones for chairs. Various odd creatures sit at the table, with cups of hot black tea. Tulspetch, a green spikey demon, brews a cauldron of tea. A stack of chipped mismatched teacups is balanced next to him. There is enough tea left for 3 cups. A cup of the bitter tea heals 1 hp and after each sip the drinker hears sad gentle harp music for five minutes. Tulspetch gives the tea freely but mentions that a song or tale is the customary payment. Tulspetch needs more violet cave flowers to brew more tea. In exchange for a 10 flowers he’ll brew a bottle with 6 servings of special demon tea that turns the drinker into a swarm of wasps for 5 minutes.

Tea Party Guests

  1. A black cat with small human hands. It sips its tea and purrs if petted.

  2. Garol, a moss-bearded gnome with mushrooms growing on the side of his head, pours whiskey into his tea. He’s lost a locket he stole from a nearby village. It contained a portrait of a circus strongman.

  3. Hilsoot, a goblin with no fingers on her left hand. Keep your fingers away from mushroom mouths! In fact, don’t touch them at all!”

  4. Chewy Evangelo, a skinny man in a black suit. My father, a reverend, came to cleanse this place of evil. In a dream, his spirit told me he died and asked me to recover the family bible he carried. I am afraid to go further.”

  5. Boswell, a toddler sized bat, laps up tea. I should be out hunting like the others, but I’m scared of flying. I need blood berries, for courage. They grow on the witch’s corpse. Bring me some and I’ll teach you the Bat Song! Sing it and any bats that hear it will come to your aid.”

  6. Vincoli, a living wooden doll in ratty school clothes. I was a real boy until, on a dare, I peed on the witch’s grave. Now I am a freak, not welcome among people. I prefer it this way.”

3. Screaming Witch Shrooms

Giant mushrooms with wrinkled old women’s faces. The faces of other witches the dead witch knew in life. Some are faces of still living witches from the surrounding area who are only suspected of witchcraft. The faces look like they are asleep. If touched, a mushroom will wake and scream. All near must make a wisdom save or faint for 1d4 turns and a wandering monster should be rolled. They keep screaming until fed something, then they’ll return to sleep. If cut down they contain one of the following items. Four violet cave flowers can be harvested in this room but must be picked carefully to avoid waking the mushrooms.

  1. Scroll of Become Cat
  2. Golden owl feather worth 20gp
  3. Silver ceremonial dagger worth 50gp
  4. Gold scissors worth 25gp
  5. Large snake egg
  6. Pouch of d100gp

Witch Shroom.

4. The Nursery

A twisted mass of red roots grows through the ceiling. Five witch children gather around it, gnawing on the root ends, suckling milk from them. A pile of dirty clothing serves as a communal bed. A pair of ragged leather boots next to the bed belonged to the witch and give the wearer the ability to walk on water or any slippery surface securely. In one corner bones of visitors are stacked to form an altar. On the altar is a vase with 5 violet cave flowers, a black conical hat, and a leather bound bible with Evangelo embossed in gold on the spine.

Witch Child

5. The Looking Glass

A tall oval mirror is held up by red vines. A ring of 13 violet cave flowers grows around it. Close inspection reveals grooves in the glass that spread out from the top and meet again at the bottom. At the top, a small funnel is built into the frame so any liquid poured in will flow down the grooves. A removable silver cup in the bottom of the frame is positioned to catch any liquid that travels down the mirror. When liquids are poured down the mirror it can be used for scrying or as a portal.

Hiding behind the mirror is a moss covered skeleton. It whispers, trying to sound as if its voice is coming from the mirror. Leave your gold at my feet and I will show you your future!” It will snatch any gold and try to escape to room 7. It’s wearing a golden locket with a portrait of a circus strongman inside.

Liquid Effect
Milk portal exit out of the tombstone entrance above ground
Tea an infernal creature passes thru the mirror, a hell hound, imp, red anaconda, or pig devil
One’s Own Blood A smirking doppelganger reflection stares out
Another’s Blood A smirking doppelganger reflection steps out and tries to replace the pourer
Water See tomorrow’s sky
Salt Water See a strange ocean teeming with glowing cephalopods
Urine See a lost item’s location
Wine See an asteroid with a silver coffin on it hurtling through space

6. The Witch Corpse

A red tree with a vaguely human. Its knotted trunk suggests a wrinkled face. The arms extend into branches with black poisonous leaves and red blood berries. When eaten, the berries make the eater immune to fear for 5 minutes. Grasped in the finger like twigs of the highest branch is the witch’s spell book. Four witch children sit in the branches. They will protect the tree at all costs. The legs extend into thick red roots that go into the ground and spread throughout the Witchtomb. An ax is lodged deep into the trunk, partially grown over as if it’s been there for years. It can be pulled out with great effort, causing the tree to shudder as if pained. The ax head is bleached white from witch milk. It does +1 damage against summoned creatures and magical armor.

If the tree is destroyed the witchtomb will shake and collapse within the next hour and all witch children will revert to their original forms, mostly children lost over the past century. They will have no memory of their time as witch children.

The Witch’s Spellbook

Mostly written in her personal undecipherable language, only readable with her eyes, which are buried deep inside the tree trunk.

Readable portions include recipes for digestive soups, names of stars, and two rituals:

  1. A complicated hour long dance that causes two full moons to rise the next night. A frog skin mask and fur cap must be worn.

  2. Break one of your own bones. Walk backward up a treeless hill, pour a cup of tea. Grey John will drink it. Never look at him. Describe a building. The cup will fall and shatter. The building will collapse in 3 days.

7. The Skeleton’s Cache

The moss covered skeleton who hides behind the mirror in room 5 is a cursed thief who was caught stealing from the witch long ago. It can’t remember who it was in life and is consumed with kleptomania. It hides all of its stolen items here.

The room appears empty but a false wall of moss cuts it in half. Behind the moss wall are the following items:

  • d20x10gp
  • A witchfinder’s capotain hat
  • A musket
  • Two silver throwing daggers
  • A book of erotic gnomish poetry
  • Three silver forks
  • A pouch with 200gp worth of gemstones
  • A gold coin with an eye on it and unknown symbols
  • A toy duck that quacks when a string is pulled
  • A pouch of silver and gold teeth worth 150gp
  • A bottle of orange perfume worth 25gp
  • A magic belt that buckles on command

Bestiary

  • Black Cat: HD 1, can teleport between shadows nine times throughout their life.
  • Boswell: HD 1, can heal itself by drinking blood
  • Broom: HD 2, sentient, must be tamed through battle to be ridden.
  • Chewy Evangelo: HD 1, can cast St. Martha’s Prayer twice per day to heal 1d6 HP.
  • Flaming Moths: HD 1, can only be put out by dirt. Attracted to fabric.
  • Floating Torch: HD 2, only animated when flame is lit. Will obey simple orders given in infernal tongues.
  • Garol: HD 2, skilled thief. Wears magic silent shoes.
  • Hell Hound: HD 2, impossible to hide from if they have your scent. Always thirsty, distracted by water.
  • Hilsoot: HD 1, armed with 5 pine cone grenades that do 2d6 damage in a 10 foot radius.
  • Imp: HD 1, bat-like wings, scorpion tails. Can transform into large rats at will.
  • Lestam Carbuncle: HD 3, silver hatchet and musket.
  • Red Anaconda: HD 4, Constricts victims to death in 4 turns before swallowing them. STR save to break free from its grip. Immune to fire.
  • Skeleton: HD 1, takes ½ damage from piercing and slashing weapons.
  • Thorny Red Roots: HD 2, Attracted to blood.
  • Tulspetch: HD 4, Can shoot spikes from his back.
  • Vincoli: HD 1, very flammable, immune to pain.
  • Witch Child: HD 2, fast as dogs, can climb like cats
  • Zombie Gnome: HD 2, covered in moss, full of gasses and ready to explode for 1d6 damage.
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