With a book coming out in May bringing back the feel, flavor and lore of Ravenloft, it gets me thinking of what they could possibly be bringing to the table. We already know that, unlike Curse of Strahd, we’re getting not one but a multitude of varying domains and big bads as well. As I did a deep dive into the Ravenloft books and lore not long ago, a few things are fresh on my mind. Of course, if you read my article on the PYRE ELEMENTAL and BLOOD ELEMENTAL, you know the one thing that had a lasting impression on me was the Dread Elementals.
The Dread Elementals were elementals which had been tainted by the corruption of the mist. Tragic reflections of what they were; they now pollute whatever plane, domain or world they infect. Past that, besides individual traits and powers, there’s not much given. As I see it, this blight upon reality can’t be summoned by normal means. Much like Elven High Magic like Mythals, it would be cast in ritual and the more participants, the more powerful the summoned creature. Even as magic like Mythals demand a high cost, sometimes taking the life of one or more of the casters as payment, these Dread spells even more so take blood to cast.
We now come to the most disguising and repulsive of the Dread Elementals; although all are an ill sight to behold. The ROT ELEMENTAL is an ill wind of disease and blight. What this creature needs to be summoned is a plague of epidemic proportions. (This creature was created for my 20th level all Lycanthrope campaign but can be scaled down for lower CRs.)
THE ROT ELEMENTAL
Now the original Dread elemental in this slot was actually a Mist Elemental. Being in Ravenloft, the element of air had become tainted with the mist that seemed to wrap on the domains of dread like a chain. Not many could transverse the mist; a rare talent that the Vistani mastered to a point. Maybe, when we’re done, I’ll go back and develop an actual Mist Elemental. Unfortunately, I became more enamored with the corruptive nature of disease and blight.
The story of Woodsend was a tragic and, yet, a victorious one. They spent years in the grip of a plague they called THE ROT. They called it that because once it set upon a person, it would rot them from the tip of their limbs to their very heart. One intredpid doctor stepped in and, through treatments and amputating the corrupted limbs, saved the town. That was about 20-30 years ago. Now it’s back. And it’s angry.
The old treatments aren’t doing it this time. The town is loosing ground, time and patience. Scattered tales of a rolling mist pouring out of the forest at night; bringing with it a storm of destruction and disease. It was on the wind and they knew it. Many of them could still remember the stench trying to always force its way deep inside each and every one of them. And, if the good doctor couldn’t figure something out soon, the town of Woodsend is done.
That’s where your party comes in. In our game, one of their number was from here, his name was SHAM, and survived the rot, but lost an arm and a leg in the process. Luckily, he had learned to Artifice from the Dwarves to the north. Building himself appendages of metal, he had been out adventuring. Looks like he was in time to either save his hometown or die with it.
This was an epic level encounter, but feel free to scale it down to your liking.
The first encounter came just outside of town. A group of the town guard was trying to save some hunters from an assualt of the most foul type. One of their large, old-growth trees just outside of town on the hill had come to life and was attempting to pound them into the putrid ground they grew in. And it was succeeding.
The Rot Tree is a variation of the Gulthias Tree from Straud. It is alike it and nothing like it. It is alike in that something foul and diseased died and gave it life. It is nothing like it in that it was a minion of the Elemental.
As you can see Below, it is a high CR creature and the Dm will have to guage just how far to take that first fight. It would be appropriate to wreck your party and, then, have the tree seem to explode into a poisous cloud of rot (Only to return later). This will set the tune for this adventure as it is a mystery within a highly intillegent elemental of disease and decay that intends to finish what was started so long ago.
This creature is destined to return toward the middle of the adventure; once the party has had a chance to rest and gather themselves. Now, of course, you can plug this in anywhere but it has been built as a menion of the Rot Elemental.
But the secrets have yet to be discovered. An elderly paladin, Sir Haddock Belen, and his young son, Aylen, work in the church that acts as a hospital for the town. But, recently, it has been no more than a morgue. The son is a dark, angsty teen who is rude, secretive and aloof from everyone. He lost his mother last year to the ROT and his father has secretly lost his faith; therefore his being a paladin helps no one.
ONE BIG SECRET: The mother was an earth genasi who had become more attuned to the trees than the dirt and rock. She became infected and died. Only she didn’t. The Rot Elemental corrupted her. It used her to create an artifact called the MASK OF BLIGHT. Now I haven’t fleshed this out, but it basically used her to infect much of the plant life around Woodsend. Weird turn…the mask is her face. She sacrificed it to become one with the life around the town and, ironically, part of the death the Rot Elemental brought.
SECOND BIG SECRET: The son knows the mother is still ‘alive’ and serving the Rot, because he is too. Using the newly created MASK OF BLIGHT, he has gotten in touch of his own inner earth genasi and has become a corrupted paladin of sorts; serving as his mother’s protector. If the party can catch the boy without the mask and discover the artifact, they have a good chance flushing out mother and finishing this part of the corruption.
Now, from here, you can play this as a redemption story for the aged paladin where he snaps out it, finds his faith and helps the heroes stop this abomination. You could also play it where he’s in league with them both. I went the route inbetween. He was lost and of no use to the battle ahead.
The kid, Aylen, being the lynch-pin in this whole adventure is illusive and secretive. He snuck off at night and, because of his newly found earth genasi abilities, he’s hard to follow. But given the proper tracing abilities or perception, your adventures can follow him to his mother for the second fight against the Rot tree. In my game, they got curious and nabbed the kid. Because his abilities only surfaced when he wore the mask, taking him before he dons it, made things simpler. Putting it all together, they used the kid as bait for the mother.
One clue is that people that cross the kid seem to erupt into a diseased mess. An angry encounter at dinner. A run-in with a bully in the street. Harsh words from the Mayor. They all seem to end the same. Once these marks explode, those around them become infected and irrational.
Every night, as flavor, a storm descended upon Woodsend; bringing rain and wind and lightning. This is a part of the Elemental’s power as well as the wizard that serves it. This bridges the gap between the air/mist elemental, the Rot and disease and the wizard that splices this study together.
Picture in right by Fantasyart0102 on Deviantart
Standing in the balance is the doctor who studied under Sham’s father. Living in the massive shadow of the doctor who saved this town before, Doctor Devvy Rotstocker struggles to understand why the tried and true remedies mean nothing now. It seems everyone living in Woodsend lives under a tremendous strain; between the scars of the past and the agony of the present. For the good doctor it’s the loss of his only love, Macy Myburgh, the daughter of the mayor, who he was ready to marry. He now struggles with the complexities of his new dilemma and the moral struggle with his need to bring her back. You see, in this land, to bring back the dead is a crime.
But taking out The Rot Tree aka Mother will only call the Rot Elemental to them. Do what you want, of course, but once my players put mother to rest, the Rot Elemental attacked the town. This put them between two harrowing encounters. There may need to be, at least, a short rest between. There’s many ways of handling these two encounters.
Another set of encounters we will explore down the road are Necromancers who mesh this dark art with Evocation magic (NECROVATION); thus creating a corrupted version of Necromancy (seems like an oxymoron, right?). I will be developing a tainted version of Necromancy touched by the four elements. And not just that, but turned by the Dread Elementals they have learned to summon.
For the Rot Elemental, it would be a Rot Storm Wizard who’s spells seep and ooze with the Rot. The wind this spellcaster brings will be ill and foul and it carries upon it death itself; willing to sacrifice a whole town to the pleasure of the Rot Elemental that empowers them. Even giving their health over to this foul primordial will fuel it’s rage making it ever so hard to stop.
Let me know what you think. This is all in playtesting, so it can always be improved on. Leave your comments and suggestions below and, hopefully, the full adventure will be published soon.
OTHER CAST MEMBERS:
Lady Vernonwelle is the widow of former council head, Lord Vernonwelle. She has devoted her later life to serving the sick ever since her husband pass not so long ago. She works with the good doctor and also uses her manor to house travelers to Woodsend. She will have rooms for your party as well as Aylen and his father. Below is a few other guests your group may encounter.
Rewis Tinstocking is a halfling Scholar from abroad. He swears he’s just taking in the country, but a decent perception will tell you otherwise. He’s been following legends surrounding this area. He believes there’s more to these storms and this sickness than it seems. Aylen will see him as a threat.
Art from Artstation/Hazem Ameen
Ausan Muarte, human bard (low level) ‘entertains’ at the pub THE RANCID RANGER. She’s a vindictive, snippy thing who lost a sister to the ROT this last year. Her songs have become a bit dark and somber.
Mallia Naaven, human Council Woman, current head of Woodsends council such as it is. She doesn’t like the Mayor and thinks she can be better. Plans on outing him in the next election. She also lost her husband and stays in Vernonwelle Manor having lost her estate.
She has a tendency to speak her mind and her opinions of the ‘good doctor’, the failed paladin and what should be done with Aylen may set him against her.
Mayor Myburgh has run this town after his father who survived the Rot before only to die of old age. He’s a paranoid kind and he’s scared to death of this new plague. He always wears a mask, always telling people to stay back and only speaks to people personally when he has to. If he sees your party, he will do so with six guards who make sure they keep their distance.
Aylen will deliver a package to him on the second day of the party’s visit. Within a day of that, the Mayor will catch a hasted version of the rot and explode within minutes. If any of the party saw him that day before, acting mayor, town council-woman, Naaven, will suspect them.