|Just Add Map and Numbers|
You've heard that deep within the Vodehorne's spires and labyrinths there lies an enormous treasure, a modest treasure and the key to an even greater treasure elsewhere, or phenomenal power.
Once Vodemarche's name was associated with mercy and generosity, before the changes got to him. One word from that Vodemarche's lips and a generations-old blight incurred by sinful ancestors will be removed from a neighboring kingdom.
Chiroryders wish to resurrect Vodemarche, all of him, as an army of god-kings to rule them and lay waste to the world. You'd probably better stop them.
Vodemarche was the only thing keeping the doubling-demon, Nikkeuradedafesas, from breaching the bottomless mirror. If the horror is loosed then no meat will sate, and no man or god shall see another face but the wailing shape of the multidevil.
All of these are of course true.
Some things which maybe aren't: Rumors of the Vodehorne
1. Ghostly servants are only visible in the lightless new moon. They still keep the place spotless.
2. The Arrow of Erasure lies within. Getting shot with it erases all memory of a lost or forbidden love.
3. No one can enter the larder, stocked with dragon fats, oils, blood, tears, meats, eggs, etc....they never spoil or age, but the door has vanished.
4. The answer to all riddles within is "autumn."
5. The shadow of the Vodehorne sweeps like a clock across the face of the land, scouring it of the unconsecrated dead.
6. Vodehorne was bestowed as a wedding present by a king with no right claim. The bride and groom still journey here, and their taking possession will have horrible wonderful consequences.
7. The Vocehorne crypt contains the Five Sacred Wives, who rise and come to town with prophecies midsummer and midwinter.
8. There is a torture chamber which stalks the halls of Vodehorne, moving from room to room, as if it were located there all along. It follows music.
9. Children who enter Vodehorne become summonable.
10. Secret signs and spells within the turquoise tower contain the mystery of the world milk.
11. Vodehorne is the crown of the one true Vodemarche, star giant and catastrophe.
12. Nets never need mending when trawling through the runoff from Vodehorne.
13. Each stone was stolen from another castle. A different one for each stone. They correspond with their sisters.
14. The number of gargoyles changes from viewer to viewer. No one knows how many are really there.
15. It's never fully dark around Vodehorne, always bright, like a bonfire reflecting off night clouds. (New adventure title: Bonfire of the Night Clouds.) Some think the lord secreted a private sun to power his tower's shadow.
16. The archtower rotates, facing this town or that, as if searching.
17. You never thirst or hunger or tire or sleep within Vodehorne, now Vodemarche is not there to decree that you do. You simply drop where you stand and die for want of well most things.
18. Only the inebriated man may tred the iron jawbridge and not be burned.
19. Another you has lived your life, followed your path, and come to Vodehorne. You will meet her and one of you must die.
20. Dogs roam the grounds, from all kingdoms and worlds. They are only ever glimpsed eating something still alive, dragging it away.
________________________________________Getting to Vodehorne...
...by foot takes a full day out of any village, geographical oddity or sorcery? Leave any time but before breakfast and arrive in the middle of the night.
...by horse requires a check to make sure you and your ride can keep your balance on the steep and crumbling trails. Otherwise you arrive in three hours.
...by stranger mounts will be a gamble. If the animal you are riding is typically thought of as fierce it will become feral and escape if it fails a save. If it can be described as cute or mundane it will refuse to trudge up the mountain, warned off by aeons of genetic survival math. If the animal you ride can be described first and foremost as exotic then you will arrive safely within 2 hours. This is a spell effect, and a trap. Your mount will be inexorably drawn as if through gravity toward the garden, and touching the grasses will render it a topiary. Slowly. Easy check to escape the same fate.
...by coach will require a lot of gold and some serious negotiation. Your coachman will be driving like a thing possessed. You must make 6 checks using YOUR saves (not the coachman's), Dexterity/Death Ray/Luck whatever you have, to make sure he doesn't flip the damn thing careening around everywhere. If it flips then in addition to whatever damage everyone takes the coachman will disappear and you will arrive in the middle of the night. If all goes well then you'll arrive in an hour. You will never see the coachman again.
...by air shows that the buildings are laid out like the surrounding countryside. The archtower is where Vodehorne is, the inner keep is the mountain, and the surrounding buildings correspond out of scale to the neighboring villages. This also inevitably alerts the gargoyles, who are only an alarm. They raise and lock the jawbridge with their cry, save to avoid deafening, save to maintain dead reckoning as you go full vertigo, save to remain aloft.
...by boat and sewer requires a lot of rope, a day's climb straight up in addition to your normal travel time, and bolting on a subdungeon. This is an open concept dungeon with cavernous openings, occupied by a 9 autoghuls. Seeing you wakes them from a torpor state and sends them into a feeding frenzy, whereupon they begin trying to eat their own hands. They still try to kill and eat you, running into you like footballers, but pose the greatest danger in their potential to knock you back out of the subdungeon and send you plummeting to death.
...by teleportation, wishing, or other magic is really difficult. If you accomplish it then you will find yourself horribly changed and your company scattered.
...by invitation following a successful Raise Dead spell or its ilk will result in an uneventful arrival, usually in less than half a day.
If you're some high level badass, by the by, Vodehorne makes dragons explode. Additionally, if your game has it, Stone to Flesh will not work within Vodehorne because the masonry of the structure is already a kind of patient hissing flesh.
Viewed from a distance when placed in a hexcrawl the shadow of the archtower reaches to nearly the edge of the hex but never quiiiite to or beyond that edge, no matter how far away Vodehorne actually is from the viewer, and if you face the bottomless mirror then you see (distant and wee yet somehow so clear) an eye not unlike your own staring out from that shadow's genesis.
The Ancient Skull of Vodemarche is the Football.
You Want the Football.
a.) You begin with the skull in your possession. Maybe you get the skull before you even hear of Vodemarche or his castle or the craziness. Maybe you can pry it away from its custodians if you explain the situation.
b.) Chiroryders begin with the skull, and you must race them to the castle, intercept the skull if possible, and prevent their awakening of the Vodemarches.
c.) Neither party has the skull, and it must be recovered from a ten-times-consecrated chapel, ever wracking and darkening from the power it seeks to contain, in Blankanova, two days' ride from Vodehorne in a valley that never sees stars. The blessings fade because the temple at the burial site receives no worshipers. The citizens are all monstrous "walking eels," capable of casting Disguise Self at will. They have a church of their own in the waterfall, and worship the monster within, but they aren't up to anything sinister.
d.) The skull is buried in a mound of treasure within Vodehorne. Once uncovered every trap will reset and door relock. Otherwise it is not conspicuous, and the party may well leave it alone and be off with their treasure, never paying it any mind. It doesn't get up and come at you or anything.
What Manner of Being Lies Within Vodehorne?
- Chiroryders are a company of faerie demon vampires sealed in walking crypts of cold iron armor. They can move in daylight but can never feed or transform and so are weaker than normal creatures of their ilk. Damaging their armor in the daylight kills them outright. Damaging them at night summons a vampire with the same number of HP and Charm Person x2. They have hemokinesis, and can make your blood gush like a firehose from any scratch. This means you take twice normal damage from them once unsheathed, and they heal equal half of any damage they deal each round. They do not have other abilities associated with vampires. They can be turned sure but also avoid the sign of St. Vestalk the Chaste, the Eye of the River Empress (which you'll only have if you slay the god in the waterfall above), and the Book of Torch. They are considered always capable of a Detect Magic-like radar for thirst, ash, and fucking.
- Empty suits of armor, in styles reaching back centuries, some missing arms legs or heads, some just torsos, patrol and crawl along the corridors of the ancestral keep. Animate stuffed animals also prowl but freed from hunger, urge, or instinct, they keep to themselves unless threatened. This is Vodemarche trying to come back, proving unable, and the magic of his resurrection grounding itself in empty bodies like lightning rods.
- There are indeed spirits of favorite servants still haunting the halls, but they manifest them only as a benign phenomenon: leaving a room and then re-entering it sees the room completely put back together, absent whatever being you destroyed in it. This can make keeping track of which way you just went tricky.
- Mummy butlers inhabit the crypts. They attend the remains of the Vodemarches and will only attack if you approach Vodemarche. They attack by covering those they touch with their own wrappings, which then constrict while also conferring normal mummy vulnerability to fire to their target. The butlers then fight as a normal Skeleton until they are destroyed or until all PCs in the fight are killed, at which point they turn to ash anyway.
- There is a demon spider here. It is as large as a fat garden spider but has dragon AC and 100HP. Its bite wounds, heals the spider, temporarily paralyzes, and has a side effect of directed paranoia. You will come to distrust someone specific around you. If you don't Perceive the spider, you may even blame them for your maladies. The spider has an ability like Shadow Step, only between cobwebs throughout the castle.
- There are three children here, toddler age, favored progeny of Vodemarche once. They make no menace and know nothing of value apart from the location of one (1) of the secret passages. They cannot leave Vodehorne, and will tell you that. Attempting to take them turns the good Samaritan into a toddler themselves and transports the child back to the inner courtyard.
- There is a red thing.
- A prisoner has been here since before the Vodehorne was raised. The other cells were built around hers. She is from a time before titans, a woman who never knew magic, god, or hell. She is tall and fit. She is gray, with long brown hair, otherwise unremarkable. What's the biggest giant in your game? Use those stats. She is mute and once freed will wreck her way straight through the castle. Even if you survive her wrath the castle may not. Some structures will collapse. Have fun with that.
- Storybook illustrations will crawl out if their book is opened. They are pleasant but patient. They will try to burn and eat you in the night.
- Vodemarche's thirteen headless skeletons.
What is Vodemarche's Deal?
Vodemarche achieved a kind of serial immortality by transplanting his head to new bodies as the old one (already extended far beyond a normal life span) gave out, preparing his new bodies from birth. Yeah like that character you're thinking of. And like that one issue, yes. And that character, right. Moving on. These transformations had a profound effect on Vodemarche as time went on, and his personality fluctuated wildly, sometimes a savior sometimes a destroyer. To the people in the Dracula-Towns, Vodemarche is like Godzilla. Sometimes he would revisit old bodies. Sometimes conquerors or assassins would slay him, but he would always return, the spells he prepared at birth drawing a youth to the Vodehorne and forcing them to remove their own head and sew on Vodemarche's. Sixty two years ago this went awry. Vodemarche's new "project" was turned vampire and Vodemarche passed before he learned this. The girl walked toward Vodehorne and burned in the daylight. The undeath of undeath fell to those who had wronged Vodemarche. His skull was taken by a local parson to a holy place and kept safe. Until now.
The lower you go into the spiraling crypts, the older a Vodemarche you find. Distant relations, daughters, husbands, and favorite pets may also be found properly entombed here. Vodemarche himself sits on his many thrones. Vodemarche was fond of redecorating. Any Vodemarche may be awoken by affixing the head to the spine, where the two will join together like magnetism and reknit.
For convenience's sake, use ascending dragon stats for the Vodemarches, including spell lists, apart from Vodemarche XIII. A brief description of each is provided.
Vodemarche I: Tamer of the mountain and builder of roads. He knows every secret of Vodehorne and how to transfer your head safely. He knows nothing of the other Vodemarches. His skeleton is too old and ruined to come together properly, but he can answer twelve questions before collapsing again with finality.
Vodemarche II: Madman. Giggles a lot. Sits regarding a boot on a raised, velveted pedestal. Wants nothing to do with Chiroryders or the party or clemency for past grievances, any of that. Advises you to be like the boot. Will ask for the party's footwear, or offer to buy it. If refused he can animate boots, forcing you to dance or run up stairs and off a parapet. Otherwise will only attack if you try to take his head or approach the boot. II is himself wearing Sparkshoes, iron-soled boots which emit a small spark when stamped on stone and which cause one item he can see to catch fire.
Vodemarche III: The eater of wombs and killer of saints. His skeleton actually stands, sort of, supported by old armor, his bony fingers wrapped around the throat of a great hound's skeleton, still trying to throttle it to death. He will kill you unless you pledge yourself to him and give up 2 levels to give him power enough to become whole again.
Vodemarche IV: Penitent man and Vodepope. Gives up his life willingly but otherwise will not aid PCs unless they convert on the spot.
Vodemarche V: Weeper and gnasher. Lies slumped upon his seat, almost slid out. If you wake him he will scream, ringing through every hall in Vodehorne (3 wandering enemy rolls), rip his own head off again, and throw it into the darkness.
Vodemarche VI: Takes on the guise of a gorgeous human lady who then bequeathes Vodehorne to the PCs and leaves. If the PCs stop her or ask her any questions or detain her in any way she vanishes. PCs left holding the skull, and the body that was there is not there now. PCs no longer have a claim to Vodehorne and everything in the castle will try to kill them, even normally benign inhabitants.
Vodemarche VII: Speaks and reads every language. Only speaks the secrets of Nikkeuradedafesas and the bottomless mirror. Sharp PCs will note that this is how they seek to resurrect all Vodemarches at once while also using their combined power to seal the multidevil away forever (or drawing it out under their united dark control?). He then falls silent and life leaves him. Adorned in a gown of silver and rubies. Each ruby's reflection shows something you did that made you feel super awkward and uncomfortable.
Vodemarche VIII: The animal. Gorilla skeleton. Will cast spells and attack relentlessly.
Vodemarche IX: The Curse. Reassembled skeleton vomits dark smoke which envelops everything. When the smoke clears each PC has some horrible curse and must save vs Fear or flee the castle. The dark cloud will follow any PC who flees, even into town, where it changes everyone there, and so forth.
Vodemarche X: The James Bond villain. He will lead you quietly to a study which is impossible to detect when not in his presence. He will cat-and-mouse the PCs into revealing everything they came here for, and any other important information about other active quests. Everything in this room is poisoned. Everything hides some kind of weapon. Only killing him again unlocks the door. Exiting the study exits the castle. Reentering causes painful boils to appear all over your skin. Pressing forwards causes them to burst, likely fatally.
Vodemarche XI: The child. Waking it casts a Raise Dead on the whole castle. This kills Chiroryders and leaves them as just other animated suits of armor, fighting the other suits, for eternity. Once this begins neither side of this fracas will be picky about who they attack. Any other dead people, for example PCs who expired, will be raised with Young Vodemarche's mind. All of them. Vodemarche just wants to play as a child, and he will insist on this. He will bring his other new bodies down to encourage you to play.
Vodemarche XII: The freak. Great bony growths everywhere. How many spells can XII cast? That's how many arms it has, and all spells are administered by touch. This is the mutant protector who the villages respect as well as fear. If you caused some trouble in town before coming here, he will only slaughter you. If he finds out the villages actively opposed his resurrection he will silently weep then promptly release the prisoner.
Vodemarche XIII: This body still sits in the throne room high in the archtower above the central keep. The throne is a massive thing with spikes and spires like Sauron's head. It is nude, intersexed, and its neck stump still bleeds. Attaching the skull will not stop this bleeding nor will it regrow his face flesh. XIII will thank you for your service and send you on your way with 1 level's worth of gold and 1 fulfilled Limited Wish unless you have taken anything else while you were in Vodehorne. Then you are forbidden to ever leave, and magically cannot until XIII is dead again. It will dress itself in Prince John clothes but should always be treated as having stone golem skin. Approaching the corpse without the skull causes the throne to come alive, dump its occupant, and climb up on its spires like spider legs and try to kill you. He cares little for other affairs and must be negotiated with carefully. If left to his own devices, after the PCs depart, he will declare war on a neighboring kingdom within 3 days. He may offer to hire the PCs as lieutenants if they return. Raising XIII lights a fire in the great hall, out of which crawls a serpentine, 8-legged cougar, XIII's familiar, who always has at least as much HP as XIII has...it can only be damaged down to whatever XIII's hit points are. The blood which flows from XIII's stump can unconsecrate holy ground and disenchant magic items. It also renders poisons inert. Otherwise harmless. XIII knows any spell contained in his library downstairs.
There is a red thing?
You can only see it if you know about it. Seeing it means it can kill you.
The beast whose capture so warped XII. Every round he creates another you. Each you knows the other(s) must die. Some may suspect you are the multidevil. He will hide amongst you in your forms once the madness begins. When the original you dies, all the other yous turn into Nikkeuradedafesas, and the legions of the multidevil fly away to plunder other places. They will always target the church first. Smashing the mirror summons it. Looking into the bottomless mirror has a reduced effect: you see another you who gets sneak attack damage, who sees another you who gets sneak attack damage on him, etc. These yous are different levels (never higher) and different classes. Whichever you survives this circle of madness (d20 yous) with the most HP is the new you, and always has been the real you, the only you. You may be further back than you started in the death conga, though. If you were HOLDING the mirror, better catch it before it breaks. But do it with your eyes closed, or else all this happens again. Nikkeuradedafesas can be temporarily distracted and appeased with ripe melons and whiskey.
TRAPS IN VODEHORNE
Other than the usual spikes, darts, poisons, spell-sealed doors, and mutation triggers, the most conspicuous traps are either the wandering torture chamber (A shadow passes over the hall, and safe and mundane things are revealed to be deadly instruments of pain administration, your armor and arms are revealed to be rags and twigs, a force tries to grab you, you are bound to rack or wheel, there are walls where there were no walls...), jellyfish chandeliers (touching the thin strands of wax paralyzes you, draws you in deeper, and smothers you with scalding wax), and of course the webs of the demon spider, which can summon him from across the castle.
LOOT UP IN DIS PLACE
The library contains 100 spells and histories, poems, and legends found nowhere else. That would be a mighty prize. You may each read one book before the library crumbles to dust. Only XIII's revival can restore it, but he will only allow you further access in his company, and with conditions. There is a mighty looking book locked and chained and held under a glass jar. It appears a mighty grimoire. It is actually a Basilisk Book, and reading it turns you to stone. Illiterate characters are immune to its powers unless they flip to the watercolor illustrations.
If the dragon larder exists it would outweigh the value of anything else by far.
All of the art and furnishings are antique and weird like from another world. All would fetch fair trade prices.
There is an armory containing lots of master crafter arms and armor. These are mundane but worth something to an esoterica collector. XIII's chambers contain his personal armor, thick furs which give you giant strength, and his spear, which blinds anyone who sees the sun glint from its spearhead, save or you're blinded forever or until Cured.
A clockwork cock roams the grounds, crowing and flying clumsily. It'd be worth a lot. It has no special properties and is tacky. It was a gift.
There is an H-style hoard in a vault whose passage is known only to Vodemarche. Within are three treasure maps. The first treasure was long ago cleared out. The second is a map to the fortress of the main asshole in your campaign. The third is a cave where dwells a powerful fortune elemental from the Plane of Treasure. Its body is worth 20,000gp for every HD it has. This is a greed punisher. Ask your players to estimate how powerful the elemental "who guards the treasure" must be , or show them the pile of loot before it "wakes up" and ask them how much of it they want and estimate is in there. It has a gaze attack which turns you to gold, which it can then absorb, healing it your HP at the time of becoming gold.
One of the riddles within can be weaponized, decapitating all who attempt to answer it and fail.
There are thirteen, sealed into the door of XIII's chamber. XII knows the answer to all but two, XIII does not know the answer to the final riddle. These are repeated throughout the castle, on doors or chests or traps. Don't be dicks with these. If they get close or come up with an acceptable answer you like or a better answer then that's the answer. Sprinkle them in places where there would be contextual clues, e.g. the atrium in the unkempt gardens for the autumn riddle.
- She couldn't face winter. She fell and died. (Autumn)
- Sunlight sparkling on sapphires brings only envy. (Green)
- Sword of the ancient tiger. (Saber)
- Speaks twice, rattling brave men as he lies. (Snake)
- Hiding place of love, hate, and hope. (Chest)
- The balm which destroys. The trap that gives life. The untakable. (Love)
- The watcher above, who only blinks, and sees what you fear. (Moon)
- The part of you only silver shows, which only the vain seek. (Eye)
- You never see it but it knows your name. (Tombstone)
- They delight you but always look down at you. (Birds)
- What's always around to play with? (Ball)
- This thing is also a symbol of itself and also a symbol of the lack of it. (Skull)
- How many Vodemarches are there? (None, at the time you open the throne room door)
Probably. You can't need me to lay that out for you though.
You mentioned secret passageways?
YES. GOD. And trap doors. Want two things to be connected? They are. Maybe trap half of them. God.