Scratch & Howl: Sketching an Adventure

There's a specific concept that constantly shows up in my game-prep but, by virtue of being just slightly out of the way, has never actually come to fruition: a luper colony being picked off by an imposter, and a group of dryads (tree-nymphs) irritated over the years at being the werewolves' scratching-posts. The original premise was that the party is employed to deliver new furniture to the luper colony because they keep destroying what they have. The initial complication, before the party comes upon the more dire situation in the colony, is that they can't use any pack animals because the werewolves will helplessly and regrettably eat them.

This is my attempt to finally flesh out this scenario once and for all! My immediate inspiration is my experience playing Nova (a.k.a. Idle Cartulary)'s adventures Bridewell and Hiss, especially for their mix of social intrigue and exploration. This one I expect to be much less complex, but hopefully good fun for one or two sessions. Below is a work-in-progress; still have lots of framing and maps to do, but I think this is all I need to really run at least one session if not more. I see this eventually taking the form of either a zine or a little paperback book like the one I've been working on for Hiss, only because I like to have physical versions of things.

One more thing: I lifted the basic concept of Miss Hudson from a really fun adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, called Case File N. 221 Kabukicho, that my partner showed me. Mix that with a Euphoria plotline and baby you’ve got drama!

If this is something you want to play, don't read if you're picky about spoilers!

Dramatis Personae

Keep three suits of cards: hearts for random encounters, diamonds for gossip, and clubs for daily murders. Remove the ace of clubs. Whenever a villager is murdered, as found by drawing a club card at random, remove their corresponding card from the suit of hearts.

Villagers will share their own piece of gossip first, but will also share gossip they heard elsewhere if pressed further.

1. Matthew Dowell, Teenager

Good kid. Does errands for the villagers. Doesn’t deserve his disease, nor any of this.

Gossip: Saw someone suspicious sneak into the woods due south. Better check that out!

Secret: Matthew is the serial killer. Kills lupers to try to impress nymphs. In his own head.

2. Dmitri Ivanov, Angler

Big hairy man. Speaks with an accent, though he spends his days speechless on the lake.

Gossip: Always sees Ashley going into the forest, but she never comes back with any wood.

Secret: Not really diseased, with lycanthropy or anything. Was exiled for insurrection.

3. Sally Willow, Apothecary

Learned it all from her great aunt. Seeking a cure for the virus. No one can stop her.

Gossip: Easy to keep Josie happy. All she needs is smoke-weed. Favorite customer.

Secret: Never finished her apprenticeship. Not really sure of what she’s doing.

4. Bradley Hale, Baker

Heart of brioche, stale-crusted. Resigned to routine. Doesn’t see a way out; doesn’t care.

Gossip: Saw the Mayor depart, disheveled, from Miss Hudson’s tavern just before sunrise.

Secret: Crushes on Lydia, though he knows better. Resents the powers above for everything.

5. Penny Steele, Blacksmith

New arrival. Fine with ferrous tools, even better with gems and fine metals. An artist.

Gossip: Shania asked for a new set of knives and saws, but didn’t want to explain why.

Secret: Hoards silver jewelry in case it comes handy later, but much of it went missing.

6. Shania LeBouf, Butcher

Friendly, if gregarious. Probably trying to keep her mind off things.

Gossip: Ebenezer seems clinically paranoid. Definitely going to shoot someone someday.

Secret: All her tools-of-the-trade went missing. Nervous she can’t go to market next Sunday.

7. Josie Cooper, Carpenter

Free-wheeling. Not everyone chooses how to react to their circumstances, but she does.

Gossip: The church is older than it looks. Ancient ruins underneath. Causes foundation issues.

Secret: Smokes in the buried ruins. Heard someone else, dragging something along the floor.

8. Ashley Oakes, Forester

Strong-willed, and stronger-armed. Spends most of her day in the woods.

Gossip: Catches Dmitri hanging out with bears. Bets he’s actually an arctanthrope.

Secret: Conducting a secret affair with a nymph. Imports wood to avoid harming trees.

9. Miss Hudson, Innkeeper

Full-time camp queen. Younger than she looks, older than she acts. Sees all, knows all.

Gossip: The Mayor is a doubly confirmed bachelor. Had a wife; doesn’t seem to miss her.

Secret: Wishes to be female. The lycanthropy doesn’t help. What is she meant to do?

T. George Kingly, Mayor

Quietly re-elected every year, out of habit. Dresses his Sunday best for the outsiders.

Gossip: Eddie lost his temperance with age. He really should retire. Everyone’ll take care of him.

Secret: Fucks Miss Hudson on the down-low. Embarrassed, even resentful. Of whom?

J. Lydia Hallow, Priestess

Young. Dedicated her life to providence a few years ago. Only the rest of her life left.

Gossip: Bradley doesn’t attend church service. Tries to encourage him the best she can.

Secret: Raising an undead army to wreak vengeance upon a world that rejected the sickly.

Q. Eddie Spur, Sheriff

Bitter old man. World’s too far-gone for him. Forgets he’s a luper. One of the ‘good ones’.

Gossip: Damn kid Matthew up to no good. Looks no-one in the eye. Disturbs the damn peace.

Secret: No secrets. Believes in nothing but truth and only the truth. What did you expect?

K. Ebenezer Fudge, Hunter

Bundle of nerves wet and writhing. Looks both ways twice before crossing a street.

Gossip: “Don’t look at me,” he says, “I’ve got no silver bullets!” Though he bets Penny does.

Secret: Definitely has silver bullets. Keeps in his gun safe. Isn’t the murderer, though.

Quarantine Woods

Regional Encounters: (1–2) Ebenezer Fudge, (3–4) 2d6 wolves, (5–6) 1d6 boars

Hexes take ~2 hours to traverse, and have a fifty-fifty chance of a random encounter. Refer to the general encounter table for non-keyed hexes; results from local encounter tables override that one.

Besides what locations are mapped, the village is surrounded by densely packed woods inhabited by wild beasts. Most healthy people keep away from the forest, and those who venture inside—you know the cliche—don’t usually make it back alive.

XX. Holington Village

Local Encounters: N/A

The founding lupers were not ones for subtlety. Originally an abandoned town designated as a quarantine zone for lupers, those who were sent made it their own over the decades. Their home is isolated, but not lonely. See XX.

XX. Troll Tollway

Local Encounters: (1) Aidan, (3) Braden, (5) Caden

A massive wall of closely-knit trees bisects the barely trodden path between Holington and the outside world, stretching on either side into the dense forest. Three troll brothers charge a toll at the gate, equal in value to 10% of whatever goods or money are passing through into the village. Self-declared lupers are restrained and retained until nightfall to confirm their disease, or sent back on a moonless night.

The brothers are Aidan (the suave one, wears red), Braden (the smart one, wears blue), and Caden (the sweet one, wears green). Two brothers keep watch on either side of the gate, while the third brother sleeps; they rotate their tasks every eight hours. They also all insist upon the toll to maintain the wall, since it protects lupers and outsiders from each other. Besides, it’s a small family business from which one would be cruel to withhold support.

Half the time, there is a human man named Luke who insists constantly that he is a luper. The brothers oblige him, no questions asked, since he became a regular and they all more or less enjoy his company although they don’t let him pass (and never would, though they don’t tell him that). Luke will hushedly ask passersby to sneak him through the gate or even make him a luper if they can. There is clearly something else wrong with him.

XX. Ashley’s Bush

Local Encounters: (1) Ashley Oakes, (3) 1d6 naiads, (5) 1d6 dryads

Where Ashley goes to get wood, ostensibly. The truth is that nymphs live here. Ashley has eyes for none but Chloe, the naiad of the spring deep in the woods. Elena, Chloe’s rival, and her dryad sorority disapprove of their affair on account of lupers defacing trees while inebriated by moonlight, whereas Chloe’s (smaller) naiad sorority tends to lay low about it. Ashley resents herself, and fears that she will slowly resent the other lupers too. She stopped cutting trees to avoid offending Elena.

Chloe’s spring would prove a solution if it didn’t only transform males (due to some tragic myth which originated the pond—every nymph tires of retelling the story to newcomers). The naiads also hesitate to accept new “entries” in general, especially at the prospect of having to cohabit with a stranger as well as having to teach him/her the ropes of sorority. They will stop anyone approaching the spring, even with force, if awake.

The murderer spikes the victims’ transformed heads as “gifts”. The nymphs will ignore and bury them usually, and Ashley avoids reporting them to not cast suspicion on herself (although any of them will answer honestly and present the head if asked). If Ashley is murdered, however, Chloe and her sorority will confront the village that morning and threaten vengeance the next day if the murderer is not delivered to them.

XX. Dmitri’s Hole

Local Encounters: (1) Dmitri Ivanov, (3) 1d6 adult bears, (5) lost baby bear

Dmitri’s favorite fishing spot. He catches trout with bears who were once, coincidentally, human beings. Only Dmitri knows this, and he often brings with him what little comforts of civilization he still has, like warm blankets and sweet delicacies. The bears return him the favor by helping him catch fish for the villagers. Indeed, it’s not unusual to find Dmitri selling bitten trout in the Holington marketplace. The others assume Dmitri goes fishing even while transformed, a true feat of self-control.

The bears inhabit a den on the opposite side of the river where they collect Dmitri’s gifts as well as random things stolen from lupers and outsiders alike. The adults can find ways to communicate if willing, but their children were never human. There are also silver earrings, necklaces, and bracelets belonging to Penny, worth about 1,000 coins total, which the bears hung up to decorate the entrance to their den. The murderer stashes their weapons here—Shania’s missing knives and saws, and Ashley’s forgotten axes.

A cave under a waterfall leads directly into the catacombs of the old city, kept guard by a heavy stone door inscribed in moonlight: “SCRATCH AND HOWL”. Opens to an old luper mass grave where the bodies of recent victims may be found, XX. If Dmitri is murdered, the bears will mourn at the door and attempt to garner the attention of passersby.

Figure Statistics

For use with Fantastic Medieval Campaigns, itself a facsimile of the original 1974 fantasy adventure game, or with any similar classic set of rules. You’re smart.

Misc. Figure Notes AC MV HD
Bear 2 attacks; add d6 damage if both hit. 7 [12] 12" 5d
Boar 7 [12] 15" 3d
Luper-form Immune to non-silver weapons. 5 [14] 15" 4d
Skeleton Undead. 7 [12] 6" 1/2 d
Villager 9 [10] 12" 1d–1
Wolf 7 [12] 18" 2d
Zombie Undead. 9 [10] 6" 1d


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