Light of Despair
Three: Spectre in the Present
Light of Despair is a short adventure for four 5th-level characters.
The adventure takes the characters from the high plateau of a semi-seaside
community down a steep cliff and to a haunted lighthouse long disused.
It is an acceptable challenge for characters of levels 4-6. It is not
adaptable to lower-level characters due to the creatures involved, and
higher-level characters would find it far too easy. It uses the Lighthouse
the January 2001 Map-a-Week feature.
one constant throughout all of the episodes is the weather. Additionally,
there are some constants throughout the lighthouse episode, which
are included below.
The DM should consider having one of two things happen during the
story when it comes to weather: drizzle or sun. Using the sun makes
the storms that the ghost calls forth even more impressive. However,
setting a more horror-oriented mood with a gray day full of drizzle
and a hint of chill to the air might be even more effective. Gauge
it by how your players normally react to situations with their characters.
You could even start with a sunny, brisk day and transition it into
more gloomy, threatening weather as the PCs approach the lighthouse.
Just keep in mind that the ghost has her own ways with the weather!
Inside the Lighthouse: Unless otherwise noted, the rooms have
a layer of dust, and the air is free of any scents of humanoid habitation
(no cooking orders linger, for example).
Inside the Lighthouse: Most of the doors (exceptions are noted)
are sturdy wood doors with a weathered look to them. Roll percentile
dice at each door to see if it sticks (25% chance to stick).
Doors: 1 in. thick; hardness 5; hp 10; AC 5; Break DC 18.
Most rooms contain a rounded window that allows in daylight.
If the room description states that the room has no window, it is
pitch black when the door is closed. Rooms with doors to the outside
can allow in daylight when the door is open.
characters found a dying man in the road, who had a key to an abandoned
lighthouse. He was a descendent of smugglers that used the lighthouse
for illicit activities, and he was going to claim their abandoned treasure.
On the way there, other descendants attacked him; they wanted the key.
They reached the cliffs and climbed down, and had to fight a manticore
along the way. Then they crossed the shallow reef bed and now stand
at the entrance, ready to brave whatever drove the smugglers away.
in the Present (EL 6)
lighthouse door has not been used in a hundred years, and it stands
swollen shut due to the humidity. Opening it requires a Strength check
DC 23 (strong wooden door). It is not locked. Unless the characters
climb the side of the lighthouse to the lookout loft, this is the only
way in. Climbing the lighthouse requires a Climb check DC 25 (it is
not perfectly smooth), and this action attracts the attention of the
ghost (see below).
the characters wander the lighthouse, they draw the attention of Ferrina,
the ghost. She meets them on the ground floor, and summons a severe
storm with her single remaining wand of control weather (see
below). This takes 20 minutes to manifest, but the weather gets progressively
worse throughout that time. The effects take the form of torrential
rains, high winds (about 45 mph), and/or lightning and thunder (review
the spell control weather on page 188 of the Player's Handbook) based
on what season it is. The storm lasts for 35 hours unless Ferrina abates
it sooner, and it covers an area with a radius of two miles centered
on the lighthouse. Have lightning strike close to the lighthouse. The
storm should heighten the mood and provide some obstacles, not become
a weapon with which to kill the characters.
never speaks to the characters. She was so horror-stricken by her death
and return as a ghost that she simply does not speak. After she summons
her storm, she uses telekinesis to throw things at them (1d4
or 1d2 damage, depending on the size of the object). Then she manifests
with a fearful visage for a split second, appearing as a young girl
drowned and dripping with water but with her face contorted with hate
and terror. Then she disappears instantly and flies straight up to the
light for a minute or two, letting the intruders, as she sees them,
leave. You could use a false Will save here and there to terrify the
players, if you want. If the group stays, she remains invisible and
watches them curiously. Not many have stayed beyond the first set of
actions she usually takes.
the characters explore the lighthouse, Ferrina tries to scare them away
unless they appear friendly and make overtures of peace toward her or
act in a generally honorable manner. If she decides that they are not
evil smugglers, she then uses her powers to help them understand what
happened, but in ways that are scary or startling, but not harmful.
For example, if she wants them to see an object lying on a dresser,
she could hurl it at their feet rather than just levitate it. Her own
appearance and expression does not change even if she decides to "help"
the characters. See Tactics for further actions that she takes to get
them to understand her story.
rooms have not been used in one hundred years, and they show it in the
layer of dust and the general run-down appearance. The smugglers, the
last occupants, were not neat, so there is a clutter of items scattered
around each room.
Storage: The smugglers stored their loot in here. It served as a
storage room for the lighthouse as well, and the PCs can find lighthouse
equipment as well as treasure here. This room is locked, and the key
they acquired in the first episode is required to open it from either
side. The treasure is left for you to determine, but it should be mostly
coins, jewelry, and art, and should total about 3,200 gp worth. There
is a ledger of the ships that were salvaged, and what was acquired,
in this room. The ledger shows when the smugglers sold things as well.
The last entry lists a merchant vessel called the Dimming Sun,
with no entry for the loot. This is the ship that Ferrina's family was
Room of the Journal: The small room beyond this door was used to
store maps and documents pertaining to lighthouse operations. There
are several old books, some journals of the keepers. The last journal
entry is normal ("all's well") and is dated 102 years ago.
Common Room: The characters enter the common room first as it's
the one with the doors to the outside. Somone did repair work here on
the large table in the center of the room. Four chairs, with one broken,
sit around the table.
Kitchen: The lighthouse kitchen is small but functional, with a
fire pit that vents through a pipe into the ceiling and out the window
shown for this level on the elevation drawing. The pans are well used.
The sparse food remains are long molded and now unidentifiable. Some
knives and other utensils are scattered around.
Dining Room: The keepers seldom used the dining room, but the smugglers
used it to count and log loot. The large table and eight chairs are
in very good shape considering the environment.
Bunkroom: The room beyond the door served as a bunkroom for additional
keepers or as a place for guests to sleep. The lighthouse occasionally
took on additional workers in bad storm seasons, and harbor officials
visited occasionally. Six beds are in bunk arrangement, with six chests.
Lavatory: A lavatory of sorts, this room contains a large bucket,
a basin, and a pitcher. The bucket has dried stains inside; it was used
as a toilet, and it has not been emptied in a long time. This room has
Visiting Room: The visiting room has five comfortable chairs set
against the wall, and a small table is lying on its side about where
the number is on the map. A bookcase stands against the outside wall,
but the books are lying on the floor in a moldering heap. Those that
are salvageable contain material of general interest, and all books
are at least one hundred years old. They are not valuable.
Bath Room: The bath room boasted a bath tub of metal, which is quite
rusted. Anyone stepping in the tub will break out part of the wall.
A rack for towels stands to one side, but it is empty.
Large Bedroom: The bedroom contains a four-poster bed with rotted
curtains and a moldy straw mattress. A dresser stands to one side, and
a table with a mirror sits on the opposite side of the bed. A few pieces
of clothing remain; they have been attacked by moths and are now very
useless. The head of the smugglers used this room too, and there is
a map of the reefs is on the dresser. It is not very detailed, but it's
accurate for what it shows. (This was the keeper's bedroom, but it'd
take magic of some sort to determine this.)
Barrel Room: Nine barrels, three of them containing lamp oil, stand
in a grouping in this room. Player characters can find lens parts and
implements to start fires if they look. Two beds have been set in the
corners (where smugglers slept). Under one of the beds is a skeleton
(non-animate) -- the remains of one of the smugglers. When Ferrina first
appeared, he hid here and refused to come out.
Bad Bathroom: This room was converted into a second toilet room,
but it was hardly ever used because the bucket was seldom emptied, and
the smugglers did not like the smell. They did use it to wash and shave.
There is a mirror set above a basin, and a pitcher lies broken on the
Small Bedroom: This is where the assistant keeper slept, when there
was one. The lighthouse usually had two keepers, but just before the
smugglers came, the assistant left and was not replaced. The party sees
a small canopied bed, a dresser, a mirror, and a table. One of the smugglers
slept here, and his clothing is scattered around the room like it was
tossed in a windstorm.
Bunkroom: The smugglers converted this bunkroom into additional
sleeping space. Five bunk beds and ten chests line the outside wall.
Some rotted cloth and old personal effects are in the chest, but it's
nothing really exciting.
Light: The light is an inventive combination of a bright flame and
a large mirror array. The keepers would burn oil in a bowl, and mirrors
above would reflect the light back and forth until it was very bright.
Then it would be reflected at the main lens and out into the night.
The light is still functional, though one of the mirrors cracked in
a storm about 53 years ago. The outer walkway is open to the outside.
Female human Ari4/Adp1; CR 6; Medium-size undead (incorporeal); HD 4d12
plus 1d12; hp 32; Init +2; Spd 30 ft., fly 30 ft. (perfect); AC 14 (touch
14, flat-footed 12); Atk +5 melee touch (1d4, corrupting touch); SA
Corrupting touch, frightful moan; SQ Incorporeal subtype, manifestation,
rejuvenation, telekinesis, turn resistance +4, undead traits; AL LN;
SV Fort +1, Ref +5, Will +7; Str 11, Dex 14, Con -, Int 12, Wis 9, Cha
and Feats: Diplomacy +7, Hide +10, Innuendo +6, Knowledge (arcana)
+5, Knowledge (nobility and royalty) +5, Listen +16, Perform +5, Read
Lips +5, Search +9, Sense Motive +6, Spot +16; Alertness, Iron Will,
Touch (Su): A successful hit with this attack deals 1d4 points of
damage to a living target. Ferrina can use this attack only when manifested.
Moan (Su): Ferrina can moan as a standard action. All living creatures
within a 30-foot spread must succeed at a Will save (DC 14) or become
panicked for 2d4 rounds. This is a sonic, necromantic, mind-affecting,
fear effect. A creature that successfully saves against the moan cannot
be affected by Ferrina's moan for one day.
Subtype: Can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, +1 or
better magic weapons, spells, spell-like abilities, or supernatural
abilities; immune to all nonmagical attack forms; 50% chance to ignore
any damage from a corporeal source (except for force effects, such as
magic missiles, and attacks made with ghost touch weapons); can pass
through solid objects (bot not force effects) at will; attacks ignore
natural armor, armor, and shields (though deflection bonuses and force
effects work normally); moves silently (cannot be heard with Listen
checks unless desired).
(Su): Ferrina can become visible but remains incorporeal. However,
she can strike with her incorporeal touch attack in manifested form.
When manifested, she remains on the Ethereal Plane but can be attacked
by creatures on both the Material and the Ethereal Planes. In this form,
her spells (except touch spells) work normally against targets on both
(Su): If Ferrina is "destroyed," her spirit reforms itself
in 2d4 days with a successful caster level check (1d20+5) against DC
16. Ferrina can be put to final rest by taking her remains and those
of her family to their final destination.
(Su): Ferrina can use telekinesis once per round as a free action,
as cast by a 12-HD sorcerer.
Resistance (Ex): Ferrina is less easily affected by clerics or paladins.
When resolving a turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempt, the creature
receives a bonus of +9.
Traits: Immune to poision, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease,
death, effects, necromantic effects, mind-influencing effects, and any
effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects; not
subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain,
or energy drain; cannot heal damage if there is no Intelligence score,
(though fast healing and regeneration work normally); negative energy
heals; not at risk of death from massive damage, but destroyed at 0
hit points or less; darkvision 60 ft.; cannot be raised; resurrection
works only if creature is willing.
Spells Prepared: (3; base DC = 9 + spell level): 0light
Wand of control weather, pencil sketches of family and ship in
of Control Weather: The wand of control weather contains only 5
more charges of the control weather spell. It was one of two
that Ferrina's mother had created and carried with them on the ship.
Ferrina had been looking at them in secret just before the ship ran
aground. (She had been fascinated by the shifting cloud carvings on
each wand and loved to watch them, and she often went off by herself
to look at the wands.) The wand was created from wood and is traced
with delicate carvings of clouds. When held, the clouds shift, and occasional
flashes of lightning within the carvings make the wand glow silver for
a few seconds. When not held, the wand's carvings remain static. The
market value is 50,000 gp.
Ferrina tries to communicate with the PCs if they do even one honorable
or good thing while she watches them. If they don't do something specific
but merely search for stuff, she continues to watch. Should she see
them do one dishonorable or evil thing, she'll start attacking, and
the chances that the PCs kill her off instead of trying to understand
her become very high in this latter circumstance.
will first show the PCs a sketchbook of pictures that she had also carried
with her during those last fateful minutes of life. The sketches are
a bit runny with water streaks, but mostly understandable. Ferrina had
a steady hand at drawing, so the pictures should evoke some sympathy
with the PCs. If not, they should provide clues at the very least. Here
are some of the pictures that Ferrina points out specifically:
Mother at the Mirror: Ferrina drew a picture of her mother (though
the PCs don't necessarily know that right off) brushing her hair at
the mirror. The PCs can see the back of her head in the foreground,
and they see the mother's face in the mirror. There is a resemblance
to Ferrina, though the mother's gaze is relaxed and thoughtful instead
of evocative of fear.
Father Leans Against Mast: A man with some of the same features
as Ferrina (her father, though the PCs don't necessarily know that right
off) stands leaning against a mast. He is holding a book and reading
it. There is a sailor in the background moving across the deck.
Calm Skies: Ferrina drew a sunset or sunrise with part of the ship
framing it. This image has some color to it since Ferrina wanted to
catch some of the hues.
Brother and Sister: An early adolescent boy with features exactly
like Ferrina's sits holding a candle, and a younger girl with some features
similar to Ferrina plays with a doll on the floor. There's a rat peeking
into the picture on the right. They were probably in a ship cabin.
other pictures are quick sketches of parts of a ship and some of the
sailors, including one sketch from a distance that has the words Dimming
Sun featured. She probably drew this latter sketch as she was waiting
to board the ship.
characters have a problem. To claim the treasure, or the lighthouse,
or both, they must lay the ghostly child to rest forever. But this path
lies underwater, and other dangers await them there.