In this review we will be running through The Zombraire’s Estate by Russ Westbrook. This is one of the modules contained in AA1 – Adventure Anthology. The adventure is recommended for characters of Levels 3 through 6. It contains a single map of The Estate and the surrounding area. There is no included wandering monsters but due to the small size of the adventure they really aren’t needed. It also includes a few included plot hooks to get a DM started.
Long ages ago, when the village near the marsh was settled (on order of the king, being all villagers were disgraced and exiled refugees), a family of Magic Users known as the Wrenwalds served as the settlement’s overlords. The Wrenwalds weren’t particularly good or kind, but they did protect the villagers from the ravages of the marsh’s beasts, and as long as the heavy and oppressive taxes rolled in, nobody died from Magic Missile. One day in the reign of Lord Justin Wrenwald III however, this all came to an end. One night while the family reveled with friends, the Swamp Witch Julieann demanded entrance as an honored guest. Seeing the ugly Hag (and fearing not the stories of her horrible power) the lord laughed in her face and ordered her put off the grounds. For this insult the Swamp Hag cursed the family, and horrible magics rose from Dark Realms. Many simply died; others transformed into living death, and the very estate itself took on the taint of Evil. A few villagers who served on the grounds escaped to the village to tell the awful tale, and since that night the villagers have avoided the grounds like the plague. It is said the ghosts of the dead still haunt the grounds, and the sounds of life can be heard from within, but that if anyone goes there, they never return. The current governor has done nothing to alleviate the people’s fear of the old ruin, and has decreed that anyone going to the ruins and not returning shall be deemed a suicide.
Setting the Hook
In the adventure before this, two of the adventurers died from a blast from a White Dragon. Their patron, the Wizard Elias Firebrand called in a favor with the high cleric of Chordax to raise them. As payment for this, she asked the party to look into the strange going ons at the Wrenwald Estate in the Norwood forest.
Fitting it In
It really didn’t take much to take the back story and work it into my campaign. I just stuck the town and estate into the northern section of the map. The only thing I did was make the Wrenwalds agents of the new Barony and the townspeople loyalists to the old government. Its obvious from the back story they aren’t really nice people so I stuck with that. The adventure never defined what happened when the Zombraire died so I decided that the curse was tied to him, so when he was destroyed, the curse over the surrounding land was lifted. So when the adventure was done, I bent the stronghold rules a bit and let my players keep the estate for themselves. It helped bleed some of the excess gold from them to get the place fixed up and to add a temple to Chordax there. I also had them petition the Duke to allow the town of Wrenwald to pay taxes directly to him at a much lower rate then they were paying the Wrenwald clan. They also presented the mayor of the town with the magic pitchfork they found.
Also it needs to be noted that although the swamp witch laid the curse on the Wrenwalds she doesn’t play into the adventure at all. I had a few of the NPCs that were local to the area know some rumors about her and she may tie into another adventure in the future.
The players were all around level 3 when they went through this. The adventure was challenging to them and they took enough punishment that they needed to rest as soon as they could get into an area they could secure. However two of the toughest encounters in the adventure actually went really easy for them. The wraith in the main room was taken down pretty quickly due to some great rolls by everyone the first round of combat. The second was the Zombraire itself. I even allowed him to cast one of his spells ahead of time, but once again some great rolls by the players reduced him to ash pretty quickly.
Let me state for the record that this was one of the most bizarre adventures I ever ran but the players LOVED it. It has alot of horror elements which give it a very creepy feel, but then some of the other elements such as zombie chickens and undead cows also give it a campy ‘Evil Dead’ feel as well. When the players opened up the stall and saw zombie milkmaids milking zombie cows and getting zombie milk, you could see the ‘What the Heck?’ look in all their faces before they all started laughing. Well that was until the cow attacked them. As stated earlier the players were around level 3 when they started and it gave them a good challenge without being extremely difficult. I would suggest that players be at the lower end of the recommended levels when running this. I think that a level 6 party would walk through this adventure too easily unless additional challenges were added.