It’s a given thatÂ your October- or Halloween-themed 4E-dungeon’s going to have a hovering ghost (page 116, Monster Manual) haunting the undisturbed crypt, at least one gruesome hag (page150) stirring a kettle with a noxious brew and a blood-thirsty vampire (page 258) waiting in the wings – so to speak – to strike.
But here are some other monsters from that glorious tome you could use to slip into a Gothic horror setting and not sacrifice one iota in suspense, or at least good fun.
The Over-eager Undertaker
It’s not that the undertaker Imargo is ever lacking for work – people are dying to give him business. But Imargo sees himself as an artist of the funereal craft. What’s the challenge of preparing an unmarked body for an open casket viewing?Â The old who die in their sleep are boring. He wants to work on young, beautiful people whose remains are marred ever-just-so. Fixing a victim that had been dismembered or scarred or gutted like a fish, and presenting that body with nary a mark visible? That’s art. Sadly, too few of his customers arrive in such a condition. And he ever-so-much wants to master his craft.Â The answer: arrange a few of the deaths himself.Â He already has all the tools – all he needs now is an opportunity, and a few well-chosen victims.
Imargo is a Dark One Dark Creeper, small shadow humanoid. Level 4 skirmisher.Â
The Ghost-cat of Barrow Boneyard
It goes without saying that the graveyard is haunted. Such things always are. But since when did the spirts of cats come to haunt it? Ghostly white, as large as a hound, they say. A wizard’s familiar? A good luck spirit? Or is it a dire omen? The cat’s only been glanced atÂ out of the corner of the eye, darting between tombstones, or sitting imperiously at the far end of the lane that passes between the markers. Odd things have been happening since the thing appeared. For one, the caretaker of the crypt’s gone missing, and in many places, it looks like theÂ ground’s been disturbed. Is the ghostly cat to blame for these strange occurances, or does it simply watch over the boneyard while other, more sinister powers are at work?
Ghost-cat is a Fey Panther, medium fey beast, Level 4 skirmisher.
The boneyard’s true threats are the caretaker-eating Ghoul, medium natural humanoid (undead), Level 5 soldier and the emerging zombie threat of the Corruption Corpse, medium natural animate (undead), Level 4 artillery and his gang of Zombie Rotters, medium natural animate (undead), Level 3 minions.
The Good Doctor
Â Strange things have been happening in the old manor house since the Good Doctor moved in. Strange flickering lights, the sparks and flashes associated with lightning have been seen through the narrow slitted windows of the attached tower. The Good Doctor just shrugs when asked. “Weather experiments,” he says behind a thick pair of goggles and a lab coat covered with greenish chemicals and what looks like splotches of dried blood.Â There’s mud on his shoes, and there are rumors he’s been making late-nightÂ visits to the cemetery. “I’m laying a wreath at the grave of some dear relatives,” he admits, his eyes shifting left and right quickly as he answers. He then slams the door and raises the bridge over the moat. The townsfolk are alarmed. “It’s more than peculiar, it’s unnatural!” they complain. Pitchforks and torches are being distributed. Can the heroes act before the mob is assembled?
The Corpse Given Life is a Flesh Golem, large natural animate (construct), Level 12 Brute.Â
The Failed Experiments are two Spirit Devourers, large shadow humanoid (undead), Level 11 Elite Soldiers.
The Good Doctor is Human Mage, medium natural humanoid, Level 4 Artillery.Â Adjust using the Death Master template, creating an Elite Controller (leader).
The Good Doctor’s Laboratory contains five dangerous electrical fields and/or devices. Treat as Electrified Floor, trap, Level 10 Obstacles.
One of the things I liked about the Shadow Chasers campaign setting (published as a mini-setting in Dungeon, then again in Urban Arcana, for 3/3.5) is that they created a setting in which every monster, from the beholder, to the bugbear could be used for horror. A lot of it was in the old trick of not naming things, but describing them: a club bouncer that appeared as a normal human to everyone but the shadow chasers but was in reality “a huge hairy THING with giant fangs and claws” is a heck of a lot more intimidating than “a bugbear.” and the technique of making them unique. Every nightclub having bugbear enforcers, for example would lose it’s edge.
You may have to stretch the descriptions of the creatures a bit, but even half-hitdie wonders like kobolds can be frightening if described as such (of course in 4e, they’re pretty frightening in their own right)
And, of course, if you want to get “old school” (not really) shadowchasers is more or less just a rehash of the old “Masque of the Red Death” boxed set for 2e (1e in a pinch) except that Masque is victorian.
I like the mix; there’s snippets of good story in each, but also a nice balance of roles in the last two examples.
Shadow chasers is indeed an ideal Halloween setting. It’s Buffy meets X-Files meets D&D monsters.
Unfortunately, d20 Modern never really caught on — and for the most part — most of the support for the system was for Urban Arcana, which I was never really jazzed about.
I thought d20 Past did an admirable job of adjusting Shadow Chasers with its Shadow Stalkers campaign model, adding Gothic horror to a fantasy filled 1872.