RPG Location: The Dark Mansion
I created the Dark Mansion to use as a location to inject a bit of horror into a fantasy campaign. The nice thing about it is that it involves no combat and a is a great psychological scene.
The characters should be in the middle of a long weary trip, far from civilization. Any Rangers in the party should roll to notice a huge storm coming in. A search to find a place should reveal a large dark mansion up on a hill. Lighting strikes in the area encourage the characters to move towards the hill.
The path up to the building is guarded by a creaky gate. One seems to be half hanging off it’s hinges and rusted into place. They should think that the mansion is abandoned ruins, but when they get up closer they notice that it’s just in bad repair. But it may be good enough to protect the party for the night.
As they approach, a butler opens the door. He’s a tall human, possibly with a bit of Orc blood. He is holding a rusted lantern that dimly flickers and says “The Master has been expecting you.” He directs the party to leave their equipment in the hall, and he’ll take care of their mounts if they have any.
He takes them to a somber dining room. The dining room is a huge table with room for about 30 people + how ever many members of the party there are. The master is at the end of the table, and is an obviously decrepit old man who can barely feed himself. The dishes on the table are a mismatched collection, the tablecloth and linens are all thread bare and stained. A pair of candlesticks light the entire room, leaving deep dark shadows.
Everyone else at the table is a hodgepodge collection of people and they are all eerily quite, doing nothing but eating. When the characters sit at the table, they are served bland looking and very bland tasting food. No one will ever talk to them at all. Besides the occasional clink of silverware, no sounds are made during the dinner.
After a while, the butler will come in to take the Master away. He’ll be escorted and supported as he slowly walks out of the room. The rest of the diners will silently leave one by one, or sometimes as a couple. When the dining room is cleared of others, the butler will appear again saying “Your lodgings are ready,” and he will take them upstairs to their rooms.
It’s obvious that the mansion has seen better days. Paint is peeling off walls. Water is leaking through the ceiling. Carpets are worn and dusty. Doors and floorboards squeak. The piano in the drawing room is out of tune and missing several strings. Paintings on the walls should have signs of mold and rat droppings are in the corners of every room.
The next morning, have the characters roll a Will Check (I change the DC depending on characters level,) if they fail they wake up and find the house is in perfect shape. They’re part of a very happy extended family and have no wish to leave the house at all. Everything is bright and cheerful, all the NPCs are laughing and joking and having a fun time. Meals are a joyous time, with delicious food being served. The master is a young charismatic, generous man. Those characters who failed the DC check are having the best times of their lives and feel they belong to this family.
The characters who make the Will Check still see everything as old, worn out and decrepit. Outside of meals, everyone sits quietly in the library, pallor or drawing room staring into space. Including any PCs caught up in this. They will notice that the “family” in the house is too diverse to really be related.
The Will check is repeated every day the characters stay in the house, with an increasing penalty each day for the characters who failed it already. Characters who failed the Will Check refuse to leave the house under any circumstances. To make matters more interesting, if anyone who failed their Will Check is attacked, they will take no damage and will think they are having a mock duel. If anyone who made their will check is attacked (or dies,) they are automatically brought into the dream state with a benign back story that explains the injury away. IE, “Too bad your horse spooked and threw you.” Or “How has your old war wound been doing lately?”
– Something or someone in the mansion is creating this dream state. Is it the Master? The Butler? Someone else?
– There is a particularly ugly statue up on the second floor in a small shrine. Only characters who are in the dream state can see it. What would smashing it do?