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  • In Walls That Talk, Part 3 – The Second Floor
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The creak of the stairs echoes across the house’s second floor, shocking the movement in the opposite room to silence. But the sound dissipates without any violent retaliation. The group of nervous adventurers continues through the dilapidated rooms. They watch for signs of danger or any horrors waiting to strike, ever wary of what might still inhabit the manor. There is nothing to be seen, of course, as the many spectral eyes that watch the group do so from beyond the Material. They will bide their time until the party has no chance to escape.

The characters have already seen the house’s gardens, first floor, and basement, but much remains to be found upstairs. The second floor has many more rooms to discover and explore, bringing the party even closer to the estate’s secrets. Each of the group’s interactions, investigations, and the information they gather leads them towards exposing and confronting Gabrien and finally reaching the house’s treasure. But what they do with their discoveries may prove even more important than uncovering them, as this adventure’s conclusion looms ever closer.

Refer back to the previous entry and the adventure’s index to learn more about what brought the characters here…

Second Floor

14. Landing and Hallway

A long, T-shaped hallway connects the rooms of the second floor, its walls lined with various doors and a single landscape painting. The room is otherwise bare aside from a small chandelier, dresser, and standing suit of armor.

The second-floor hallway serves simply to connect the many other rooms. A long landscape painting hangs on the western wall opposite the landing and depicts a port city. There is little else to find, as any valuable contents of the dresser have been removed and the suit of armor is decorative and unfit for practical use. An open door connects to another smaller, un-decorated hallway that leads to areas 16, 17, and 18. The doors to the other rooms are all closed or only slightly ajar, except for the door to area 15, the ‘Master Bedroom‘, which is wide open.

A character that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check of the north-eastern wall notices a spot where a painting was once hanging.

Door to the secret study. A character that looks closely at the doorknob of the door connecting to area 18, the ‘Main Study‘, or that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check of the door itself, notices that the knob is decorated with a family crest: a lance-wielding knight atop a rearing stag, with a warhound beside them. The crest is the same as that of the complete trifold MacHale key, indicating their possible connection. A character that compares it to any of the individual key pieces can also recognize the similarity. A successful DC 15 Intelligence (History) check of the crest, or a comparison with another successfully identified example of the crest, such as Vincent’s MacHale Amulet, confirms it to be the MacHale family’s.

Developments. The door that connects the hallway to area 18, the ‘Main Study’, can be unlocked with the trifold MacHale key, causing the doorway to instead open into area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study’ (see the ‘Enchanted entrances’ section of area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study’).

After ghost appearances…

Developments. When the ghosts first make their appearance, a fading ghost that is marked by Gabrien moves to the suit of armor and inhabits it. Any character that is nearby hears the sounds of the armor fidgeting, then breaking free from its stand. The ghost, following Gabrien’s orders, then attacks the party to shepherd them towards Gabrien, who appears under the guise of helping them (see the ‘First appearance’ and ‘Gabrien’s deception’ sections of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘).

While inhabiting the suit of armor, the ghost uses the stat block of an animated armor with some minor adjustments: its AC is lowered to 16 and the fading ghost is ejected from the armor if the latter drops to 0 hit points or is knocked unconscious. The same happens if the ghost is turned or forced out by an effect like the dispel evil and good spell. When this happens, the fading ghost reappears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the suit of armor and the armor falls and breaks apart.

Curious child. After the encounter with the animated armor, the ghosts of a halfling boy and a thief peer through the doorway of area 21. Any character that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check hears the creaking door and sees the boy watching them (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 21, the ‘Child’s Bedroom‘).

15. Master Bedroom

A double bed stands in the center of the room, with tall windows and a variety of candles behind it. Its pillows and sheets are tossed around as if only recently and restlessly used. The rest of the room sports similar damage. A sofa and dividing screen surround the fireplace, while a pair of dressers and a carved bust decorate the wall to the right of the door. Another smaller statuette appears to have fallen from one of the dressers, leaving shards of painted clay across the floor. To the left is another closed door.

Though named the master bedroom, it and the neighboring room alternated as the bedrooms of the leading MacHale according to their own preferences. They are some of the most decorated due to this, with much of their furniture having been left behind both because of its size and from their inhabitants wishing to leave their most familiar environments. Any other prized valuables were taken. One of the only items of interest remaining is the sculpture against the western wall. It depicts a woman with short hair and a kind expression. The bust is labeled with a plaque that names the woman as Valeria MacHale, who was Christof MacHale’s wife and Ulrich’s mother, and its artist as Lucia MacHale, Ulrich’s daughter and Ira’s mother.

The room now holds objects that would be key to Gabrien’s success, were he to find them. Since his summoning of the ghosts into the house and his subsequent death, Gabrien has fallen prey to Ira’s memory leeching multiple times. The MacHale ghosts continue taking Gabrien’s memories any time he makes progress towards finding the house’s keys or hidden study. The same goes for his memories of these encounters with Ira. To keep him from reclaiming them, they have also moved his body and the book containing his memories into the master bedroom’s storage room, knowing that Julia Adler’s consistent presence in the room dissuades Gabrien from entering.

Damaged furniture. Most recently, the bedroom was the subject of the bandits’ robbery and subsequent panic when the house’s ghosts attacked them, resulting in the open door and several areas of damage to the room. A character that looks over the room can easily recognize the following damage:

  • The bed is tossed from someone quickly scrambling across it to escape the room.
  • The bed’s corner post has a gash from where the blade of a weapon was swung into it.
  • The dresser closest to the doors is cracked and dented from an impact and the statuette that was atop it has fallen and shattered on the ground.
  • There is a hole in the dividing screen from where a crossbow bolt pierced it. The bolt itself is lodged into the wall on the opposite side.

A character that looks over these clues can make a DC 12 Intelligence (Investigation) check to confirm that they are signs of a struggle or panic. On a 15 or higher, they deduce that the conflict likely involved multiple people but doesn’t appear, on the surface, to have been combat between the people involved; there are no bodies, blood, or other signs of injury. The path of the bolt suggests that it came from the direction of the doorway that leads into the hall.

Storage rooms. The smaller rooms attached to the bedroom served as a closet and other storage. With most of their contents taken, all that remains are the storage containers and a number of Lucia MacHale’s art supplies (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Gabrien Hereca’s corpse. In the corner of the smallest connecting room is the corpse of Gabrien Hereca. The body, as well as the book containing Gabrien’s stolen memories, was brought there by the MacHale ghosts after they killed him. The presence of Julia Adler’s ghost in the room has served to keep Gabrien away, aided by his being unaware of the book’s existence.

When a character opens the door and sees the body, read the following:

The door swings open and you are met by the gut-wrenching smell of decay. Through the stench and behind stacks of small furniture draped with covers, your eyes find the source of the smell: a half-rotten corpse slumped in the far corner, its arms clutched around a book.

The body is a half-elven man, wearing a long coat and thick scarf. Its skin is dried and discolored and its hair has fallen away. A character that has identified the damage to the corpse in the downstairs study (see the ‘Desiccated corpse’ section of area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘) or that succeeds on a DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) or Intelligence (Arcana) check of Gabrien’s body recognizes the effects of necrotic magic. Additionally, there is a long cut across the body’s forehead and dried bloodstains that run down across its eyes. The corpse’s arms are wrapped tightly around a book titled ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘ (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

A character that has seen both Gabrien’s ghost and his body can identify them as the same person by his clothes and general features.

Treasure. A character that looks in the bedroom’s dressers finds a flute and a horn.

The chest in the first storage room contains a number of rough paintings of nearby landscapes and four sheets of blank paper, as well as a set of calligrapher’s supplies and a set of painter’s supplies. In the nearby cupboard is a tattered set of fine clothes that are currently ruined but could be restored by a skilled tailor.

Gabrien’s body in the second storage room is holding ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘, which contains text holding Gabrien’s stolen memories.

The MacHale Trophy Room by Ira MacHale

A book that reads as an embellished inventory of the MacHale Estate’s trophy room. Each item is given a short entry that covers its history and the context for the object’s acquisition, presented as one might describe relics in a museum.

Though much of the book is faded, its remaining legible passages do provide insight into the objects they speak of.

The legible text in the book is interrupted by passages of Gabrien’s stolen memories, like those found in the library and other rooms (see the ‘Imprinted memories’ section of area 4, the ‘Library‘).

In ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘…

… of the Red Falcon
A wand wielded by the eponymous ‘Red Falcon’, a mage of some renown for her claimed ability to step effortlessly between worlds. Her reclusive and transient nature meant that these claims were never verified by anyone but who I was can remain in the flames with them granting them ironic believability. Regardless of the truth to them, I will be who Brandon believes I can be, not the shame my family would have had me inherit. The Falcon’s reputation left her wand as a relic of considerable worth.
Whatever magic the wand once held has been expended for some time, yet it remains in one piece, contrary to the behavior expected of similar items. It also displays the curious habit of reorienting itself when left alone, pointing like the needle of a compass. Though it is little more than speculation, the former curiosity may perhaps be linked by the wand’s persistent aura of infernal magic; it possessing the ability to reconstitute itself in its home plane when destroyed anywhere else, as many devils and other infernal beings can, would explain both. Its routine turning in place has proven more difficult to explain, particularly as its chosen orientation has a tendency to change over time.

Founder’s Blade
The longsword wielded by Vincent MacHale in the Duel of the Founders. I cannot deny the frustration I feel returning here. Though I do not come to this house to reminisce, the memories it holds are impossible to ignore. But they do not tempt me, as Brandon may have believed they could. No, this place makes me furious. To remember them sickens me.
… It is believed that the blade was commissioned exclusively for the fight and never wielded prior or since. Vincent had kept they are nothing to me and I am not one of them “A reminder of where Greybanner began.” It was later added to the MacHale collection by the Adlers are gone. I am Hereca because I choose to be. I have earned it.

Amber-sealed Medallion
A platinum medallion, uncovered by more than a day now. I have spent too long searching this accursed house, digging up its basement, and solving its inane riddles by Ira MacHale. Stories of its discovery were both sparse and varied in their veracity, though several shared details recurred through the different accounts, lending them the first of the keys was simple to find, once I knew to look. But I am tired of this insufferable game. Tomorrow, I will return to the plan I came here to enact and I will see how they enjoy playing within my rules.
They speak of ruins unearthed by errant miners; subterranean hallways and living areas with no discernible pathways to the surface. The miners on the project, who were promptly reassigned after the discovery, recounted a point where the halls became entirely filled with heat-resistance amber. Sealed within the amber wall was a medallion.
Something has happened but I cannot explain what. No matter how hard I scour my thoughts, I only uncover feelings of rage, pain, and then a confounding calmness, yet there are no tangible memories. I have been changed, in a way, but I struggle to understand how as the amber holding it seems to also fill its interior space. Efforts to remove the almost crystalline coating have risked damaging the medallion. The amber itself has also been noted to obscure magical identification or observation. Regardless of these numerous setbacks, further work will be done to understand the medallion in tandem with those continuing to study the ruins from which it came.

Venom Drake Head and… Dragon Slaying
The head of a venom drake slain by Vincent MacHale during his time leading I see their faces. How could I possibly be seeing them? Even in my addled purgatory, I can remember what happened. I watched the flames. I checked the ashes. Yet here she is, wandering aimlessly as if her very purpose is to repel me with her disgusting presence. And he too looks at me as if he remembers. The creature is said to have wandered from the southern Bramblejade and threatened surrounding farmland, requiring the intervention of the Gallows’ Sons. Vincent sought out a Spear of Dragon Slaying after losing several men to the drake. After several days of hunting, Vincent tracked the beast to the remains of a farmstead, cornering it within the ruins. The battle cost another two lives, though Vincent managed a decisive strike to the monster’s eye, felling it but breaking the spear in the drake’s death throes.
The defeat of the venom drake there is little else to do but wait for others to come and to learn what I can of those trapped here between Vincent MacHale and Alessia the Thorn of the Bramblejade druids. According to Vincent’s journals, Alessia approached her appetite for consuming memories themselves is fascinating. The repulsion she would feel, were she to remember herself, makes it all the sweeter reclaim the drake’s body and return it to the earth of its home. Vincent, both curious of the druids and understanding the risks of confrontation, relinquished his prize. He later commemorated the victory with a model of the drake’s head.

Crown of the Iron Apostles
A treasure kept it appears that I am fortunate, either for my own power or previous lack thereof. Like some of the others, I still hold remnants of my magic, albeit somewhat altered and recovered upon the raiding of their central hideout. The crown had been positioned as an item of worship by the cult, though was found to hold no magic of its own. Later research also found no connection between the crown and any known religious sects, cults, or creeds, matching the sudden and unexplained appearance of the Iron Apostles my progress has been satisfying. Perhaps I can make something of this prison and its less coherent inmates. They also vanished as swiftly and strangely as they had come. Popular conjecture is that the Apostles were tipped off to the impending raids on their meeting places, as not a single member remained to be captured. The raids still appeared to be successful, however, as it was the last the Apostles were heard of.
Though this mental fog and increasing bouts of lost time weigh on my mind, some of my time I can almost enjoy. My father, for one, has given me far more in his current state than his blood ever did was granted to Ulrich MacHale after it was confirmed to be nonmagical, owing to his leading role in the raid that discovered it.

… said to match armors created for and worn by champions of the Reavers. In the time of Vincent MacHale, this would most likely have referred to Gorim Steinsson. Given Steinsson’s Dwarvish heritage, it is likely that this suit belonged to his successor, though some believe that it was created as a gift to Vincent MacHale after the Duel of the Founders, as a show of the Reavers’ sentiment. The damage to the armor suggests a more convoluted and eventful origin. The unfortunate fate of the Reavers leaves these questions unanswered, as so much of their culture and history was lost as the order slowly disbanded. This, alongside the armor’s missing plates disrupting its enchantment, has hamstrung all attempts to study the half plate.

The Everblack Heartspike
A most storied blade, the breadth of whose rumored history would require its own book. Tales of the Heartspike and other weapons resembling it I should remember more, shouldn’t I? I’ve planned for when others come to the house, yet I notice changes as if someone already has always included two unifying factors: the blade being wielded by the most heinous individuals one could imagine, and it being the only thing left behind after its wielder’s ‘disappearance’. It does not take a scholar to infer the cost of using the ‘Everblack Heartspike’ from these stories, even disregarding its ominous name…
Could she? No, I would not allow it… But the signs are too clear to ignore. I know not how long it has been but I must have made attempts before now. How many times have I tried? How many times has she after its most recent appearance and archiving, the Heartspike was studied by a carefully selected group of scholars and mages in an effort to finally purify the weapon. The discoveries gleaned from their time with the blade were officially rendered confidential. The only public information was the disturbing speed at which the Heartspike was confirmed to be cursed and its later designation as purified.
With the Heartspike left inert, it was granted to Ira MacHale as thanks for her leadership and funding of the project. It remains on display in the MacHale collection to commemorate their achievement and remember those members left permanently affected.

After ghost appearances…

The fading ghost of Julia Adler, Gabrien’s mother and a housekeeper for the MacHales, appears in the bedroom when the ghosts awaken. She goes about fixing the damage to the room (see the ‘Damaged furniture’ section) by making the bed and casting the mending cantrip on the dividing screen, dresser, and bedpost. Julia is initially absorbed in her duties but is hostile to any living creatures that she sees.

Gabrien repelled. Gabrien Hereca refuses to lay eyes on his mother and does not willingly enter a room that he knows Julia is in. If the party venture inside, Gabrien says that he will wait outside and out of sight. He lies and claims that his parents’ deaths were the reason he returned to the house and that Julia was the one who killed him, should the party ask (see the ‘Gabrien’s deception’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘). A character that succeeds on a Wisdom (Insight) check against Gabrien’s Charisma (Deception) notices deep resentment and bitterness in his words, though he refuses to elaborate.

Gabrien is willing to bypass the bedroom and pass through the wall into the storage rooms if requested.

Developments. If Gabrien becomes curious about the possibility of him missing memories and then discovers the existence of the books in the library, he begins deducing where the MacHales might keep the book containing his memories. Shortly after, he is able to guess that they must be in the master bedroom, due to Julia keeping him away. Gabrien prompts the party to investigate and find the book, which he explains must hold information important enough for the MacHales to hide it.

Julia leaves the master bedroom if any of the house’s other bedrooms or living areas, such as areas 3 or 5, are disturbed to a greater extent than the room she is in. She walks to the room in question and rearranges objects or repairs them with the mending cantrip to return the room to the state it was in before the party entered the house.

Julia does not have any distinct memories of Gabrien but does still feel a connection to him and does not attack him. If she encounters her son, she becomes distracted as she stares at him and attempts to recall her memories, but is unable to. Gabrien grows immediately frustrated and does not allow this interaction to persist, leaving quickly after noticing Julia.

Restoring Gabrien’s memories. If the party finds ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘ and makes Gabrien aware of it, he asks that they allow him to read it. Interacting with the book for one minute sees Gabrien reclaim his missing memories of his identity and time within the house. This allows Gabrien to better lead the party through the house but also brings him closer to achieving his own goals (see the ‘Restoring Gabrien’s Memories’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca’, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘).

If the party does not allow Gabrien access to the book, he becomes insistent and frustrated but does not resort to conflict. Gabrien continues manipulating the characters to gain their trust in hopes of them relenting and giving him the book. If the party is hostile to Gabrien for any reason, he waits for any opportunity to reach the book or to separate it from the characters.

Have the characters become hostile to Gabrien, either by exposing or just distrusting him, and have also discovered Tobias in area 22? Gabrien can release and command Tobias to take the book. Tobias is able to physically interact with the house and can use his Shadow Stalk and Shadow Stealth to quickly steal the book and return it to Gabrien.

Gabrien’s other half. Gabrien recognizes his own body regardless of whether he has had his memories restored or not. Once he has discovered it, Gabrien can spend one minute marking the corpse in the same way that he has marked some of the ghosts. He does this out of sight of the characters, asking for, “a moment alone, just to… reconcile this,” when they move to leave the room. Gabrien is then able to raise his marked corpse as an obedient zombie that he can command telepathically. He keeps this hidden and only uses the zombie to protect himself if the characters attack him, likely as part of the adventure’s conclusion.

16. Secondary Bedroom

The door opens into what must have once been a beautiful bedroom. A bed sits to the right of the entrance, still neatly made but its colors faded, opposite a set of windows and a door that open onto a wooden balcony. The view looks out over the estate walls and to the gently swaying forest trees. Dust covers the furniture that still remains within the room, including a mounted stag’s head on the wall and a footlocker at the end of the bed.

The final resident of the manor’s second main bedroom was Damien MacHale, the son of Ira MacHale and the patriarch that moved the family away from Greybanner. He was a steadfast man who showed great interest in his family’s history and Vincent MacHale’s life as a mercenary and hunter. The bedroom, though mostly empty, still reflects this. The small storage room contains some of Damien’s weapons and implements and the mounted stag head is large for the variety of deer found near Greybanner. At the foot of the bed is a locked chest (requiring a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick) holding Damien’s bow and a number of arrows (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Remaining notes. Several papers have been left on a small table by the western window. A character that looks them over finds that they are copies and drafts of documents pertaining to the MacHale family leaving the manor. They are signed by Damien MacHale and cover the dates and costs of moving furniture and other valuables to their new residence in the capital, complete with the new house’s address. Some feature additional notes and calculations, likely written by Damien. Most of these scrawlings are uninteresting except for a letter from Damien and a blueprint of the manor (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Storage closet. The small storage room connecting to the bedroom is lined with racks that would once have accommodated weapons and other equipment, but are now empty. A large, unlocked chest still contains several weapons (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Balcony. The southern wall of the room is made up of multiple tall windows and a door that exits onto a balcony. The door is locked (requiring a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick) but can be unlocked from the inside without the need for a key.

The balcony itself is hemmed by wooden railings and is 20 feet above the ground. It is otherwise bare, though a character that succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation) check of the area does notice additional details. Firstly, there are small scatterings of soil around sections of wood that are less discolored than the rest, suggesting that potted plants may have been kept there. There is also a loop of rope around the corner post of the railing. It is secured tightly with a knot but is cut off only inches away. A character that succeeded on the aforementioned Intelligence (Investigation) check identifies that the rope was cut with a blade of some kind.

Treasure. Opening the footlocker at the end of the bed reveals a beautifully crafted, engraved longbow, beside which is a quiver containing four thornspike ammunition (arrows).

The scattering of notes by the western window includes Damien MacHale’s letter and a floorplan of the MacHale Manor.

The chest in the storage closet contains a longsword, a shortsword, and a hunting trap.

Thornspike Ammunition

Weapon (any ammunition), common

The end of the ammunition flares into jagged, backward-facing barbs. Small runes are visible, inscribed into the undersides of these thorns.

A creature that takes damage from this ammunition takes an additional 1 piercing damage, as the ammunition breaks apart into a blast of barbs that dig into their target. Taking this damage reduces the creature’s walking speed by 10 feet until the creature regains at least 1 hit point.

Are arrows not useful to anyone in your party? In addition to the characters being able to sell the thornspike arrows, consider allowing them to have a skilled merchant or enchanter convert the arrows into crossbow bolts, darts, or other, similar ammunition, for a small price.

Damien MacHale’s Letter

A letter signed by Damien MacHale, found in a bedroom of the MacHale Manor amidst other documents pertaining to the family moving out of the house.

The letter appears to be a response to a previous communique about some of the house’s contents. It reads the following:

Sadly, I agree with your assessment. The most valuable items will help fund our burgeoning endeavors and there are several others I would like to keep for their importance to my mother. The rest of the trophy room will remain as it is until we can determine if their worth warrants their transport.
On the topic, I do wish to discuss an appraisal of some of the items when next we meet. My mother’s records leave spaces that I would rather be filled before we abandon them entirely. The Reaver armor, in particular, is one that I believe would be of significant value were we to locate its missing pieces. Perhaps we could even restore its magic. Others, I would appreciate a final confirmation of their enchantments, or lack thereof, for reasons I need not state.
I thank you again for your understanding of my personal distaste for many of the trophies and for allowing me my privacy in such matters. Your help has been invaluable and I look forward to working together again once my family has settled.
– Damien MacHale

Floorplan of the MacHale Manor

A sheet of paper marked with a diagram of the rooms and spaces of the MacHale Manor, found in one of the house’s bedrooms.

The drawing lacks detail or room labels but could still be useful in navigating the house’s interior.

The characters are able to use the map to move through the house more easily. A character that inspects the map while within area 18 can also make a DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check to deduce the existence of a hidden room (see the ‘Hidden doorway’ section of area 14, the ‘Main Study‘).

After ghost appearances…

As part of the house being sealed when the ghosts awaken, the door to the balcony can no longer be easily unlocked from the inside and must instead be picked or destroyed.

17. Upstairs Bathroom

A larger bathroom with a dividing screen hiding the opposite end of the room. In front of it are several cabinets and a vanity with a faded mirror mounted over it.

The upstairs bathroom still features much of its furniture, though any smaller items have been taken, leaving it largely characterless. That was until the group of bandits recently entered the house. When the ghosts ambushed them in area 15 and one of their group was attacked while making an escape, the remaining three barricaded themselves within the bathroom. The bandits have remained there, subsisting on their rations, praying for rescue, and otherwise staying as quiet as possible.

The bandits are doing everything they can to remain hidden. A character in the house hears the bandits’ slight, nervous movements if they succeed on a DC 18 Wisdom (Perception) check. The DC is reduced to 15 if the character is in a room adjacent to the upstairs bathroom when they make the check. A character that hears them can follow the sounds to the bathroom.

Barricaded door. The bandits in the upstairs bathroom have moved a cabinet to block the door. They nervously move it aside and allow the party through if they are convinced that the characters are real and not a trick of the ghosts. A character can also force the door open with a successful DC 14 Strength (Athletics) check, though the bandits are prepared to attack anything that they perceive as a threat (see the ‘Developments’ section).

Developments. The bandits may slowly become aware of the party’s presence and ability to help if they hear the characters moving through the house (Passive Perception 10). If the party is moving and speaking in areas 14, 16, or 18, the bandits can easily recognize it. Once they are sure that the characters are not a ghostly illusion, the bandits call for help. If the bandits are not aware of the party or do not trust them when a character opens the door, one of them attempts to attack the intruders by firing a crossbow bolt that hits the door. They then load another bolt but only attack if the situation is not defused.

Once the party and the bandits meet and any hostilities are settled, the two groups may speak. The three bandits, named Yorin (NE male human), Volm (CN male dwarf), and Elda (LE female human), are all shaken, anxious, and are each suffering three points of exhaustion from sleeplessness and a lack of food. They frantically beg the characters to get them out of the house and are able to answer any questions the party might have in exchange for their help. This includes recounting what brought them to the house (see the ‘Bandit Rendezvous’ and ‘A Mayor’s Ambition’ adventure hooks), as well as their attempts to stop their fourth member, named Aymer, from attempting to escape, hearing him being attacked outside, and then the sound of him being thrown back through the house’s front door (see the ‘Beaten, broken bandit’ section of area 2, the ‘Central Hall‘). Their physical and mental state means that the bandits’ answers are panicked and scattered.

If the bandits are told the fate of the rest of their group, who the party encountered on their way to Greybanner (see the ‘Blighted Bandits‘ encounter in the adventure’s introduction, ‘A Frightening Welcome‘), they respond with saddened resignation. The bandits admit that they could hardly call each other friends and that they have no wish for vengeance against the characters, particularly given their current focus. If the party also adds that the other bandits were suffering from the blight, the group mentions that they have heard stories of blighted creatures and ponders that their deaths could even have been a mercy.

If asked about the house’s ghosts, or when the party prepares to move to another room, the bandits also note that the house has been quiet since around the time that the characters entered the estate. Moments later, they realize that the ghosts were laying the same trap for the party that they did for them: allowing the group to wander as deep into the house as possible before appearing. This realization marks the trigger for the ghosts to appear throughout the house (see the ‘The Ghosts Appear‘ section).

After ghost appearances…

The ghosts begin appearing immediately following the party’s encounter with the bandits. This first manifests through the darkening of the house’s interior and a marked fading ghost that inhabits a suit of armor in a nearby room (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 14, the ‘Landing and Hallway‘). The bandits are too exhausted to participate in the fight beyond firing crossbow bolts if the animated armor attempts to enter their room.

Dealing with the bandits. After the combat with the fading ghost, the characters can return to conclude their conversation with the bandits. They are also free to choose what to do with the group, who continue asking for help and are too terrified and exhausted to oppose the party. The bandits’ exhaustion makes them ineffective at anything but basic self-defense and they are aware of the animated statues that patrol the estate. They tell the party this in hopes that the adventurers offer to help escort them out.

If the party chooses to aid the bandits, whether with the intention of letting them go free or to hand them over to Captain Ashbrand, it is up to the characters to keep them safe. The bandits are aware of their situation and limitations and happily follow the characters’ orders. They thank the party profusely for any help they provide. If the party instead chooses to leave the bandits to their own devices, they remain in the upstairs bathroom and wait for the party to create an opening for them to flee. Depending on the party’s actions, the bandits may come under attack by the fading ghost of Aymer, their deceased fourth member (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ of area 2, the ‘Central Hall‘).

Elda, one of the bandits, carries a key that unlocks the doors to the MacHale Manor’s basement. She gives it to the party whenever the two groups part ways or if the characters make any indication of wanting to enter the basement while they are all together.

Should the bandits survive escaping the estate grounds and be allowed to leave, they thank the party again and depart to recover whatever they can from their camp south of Greybanner.

Just like for the party, the adventure can end in many different ways for the bandits. These possibilities include never escaping, being rescued and let go, or being given to Greybanner’s town guard, and are covered in more detail in the adventure’s conclusion.

The Ghosts Appear

The shape is humanoid, formed of a spectral blue light that shimmers as if viewed from beyond a film of water. Its features are indistinct but the details you can make out on its body and clothing confirm one thing: it appears to be, or to have previously been, a person.

The party’s meeting with the bandits and the subsequent awakening of the house’s ghosts marks an important turning point in the adventure. The reveal of the ghost’s trap is the marker for when the ghosts begin to appear and the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of each area takes effect. This affects the rooms in different ways and brings a number of changes, rules, and characters to keep track of.

The ghosts within the MacHale Estate are the souls of certain members of the MacHale family who were buried in the estate grounds, as well as others who came to the house and fell victim to its undead. They are trapped by the ritual cast by Gabrien Hereca in the house’s basement (see area 12, the ‘Ritual Cave‘). These spirits have had much of their identities and memories stolen by Ira MacHale (see ‘Ira MacHale‘ under area 4, the ‘Library’), leaving them despondent and aimless. They continue wandering the house and acting on what little memories they still have and are hostile to intruders.

The first appearance of the ghosts comes by way of a fading ghost that inhabits a suit of armor and attacks from the hallway (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 14, the ‘Landing and Hallway‘). When the fading ghost is defeated, or if the encounter is going badly for the party, the ghost of Gabrien Hereca approaches them with an offer of mutual help. This marks the transition into the second stage of the adventure. Going forward, the characters’ investigation and survival within the house must be conducted amidst the dangers of the ghosts and the deception of Gabrien, culminating in one of the adventure’s many conclusions.

Changes in the Estate

In addition to the ghosts themselves, the ambush brings a number of other immediate changes to the estate. These are part of the ghosts’ and Gabrien’s methods for keeping intruders trapped within the house, making the environment more dangerous but also alerting the party to the impending attacks.

Locked doors. Any doors that lead out of the house are closed and locked (requiring a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick). Unlike prior to the ghosts’ appearance, the doors cannot be easily unlocked from the inside and must instead be picked or destroyed.

Windows and light. When the ghosts appear, shadows creep across the house’s windows like black frost. The darkened glass prevents outside light from passing in, filling the house’s interior with darkness and blocking sight through the windows. A character that succeeds on a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check is able to make out only rough shapes when looking through the glass. The windows also become magically warded, making them significantly more durable (AC 15; 15 hit points; immunity to poison and psychic damage and bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks).

A window’s warding can be dispelled by the dispel magic spell (requiring no check) or a similar effect. Doing so removes the additional effects and reduces the affected window to regular glass for ten minutes. The darkness begins reforming as soon as it has been dispelled, indicating that the effect is temporary.

Guard statues. The statues of previous MacHales in the courtyard awaken as animated statues (see the ‘Developments’ section of the ‘Courtyard‘). They are enchanted by Gabrien and serve the purpose of dissuading and preventing people from leaving the house itself, by attacking anyone that exits the building into the gardens. This pushes victims towards cooperation with Gabrien. The statues patrol the space between the house and the estate walls. If they notice someone attempting to escape, they do everything they can to stop the escapee and force them back to the house. Sealed within the chest of the statue of Ulrich MacHale is a crested wooden box containing the key piece (knight).

Rules for the Ghosts

The ghosts follow a basic set of rules governing how and when they are able to act. These rules are all the result of the ghosts’ imprisonment and age. They should also act as basic guidelines for when you are controlling the ghosts and help to explain some of their actions and situations. The characters can learn these rules through their own experiences with the ghosts or by speaking with Gabrien Hereca or a restored Ulrich MacHale, who each describe the rules from their own perspective.

Appearing when needed. The ghosts are not always active and visible within the house. They exist in a limbo state in the Ethereal Plane, where their perception of time and events is dulled. This changes whenever someone enters the estate grounds. The ghosts are then compelled to wake but only make their presence known once the intruders are deep in the house and the ghosts can more easily trap them and prevent their escape. This compulsion is strongest for those who have lost more of their memory. The only exception is Ulrich MacHale, who manifests and stands guard in the basement as soon as intruders enter (see ‘Ulrich MacHale‘ under the ‘Manor Basement’).

Dulled senses. The ghosts’ loss of autonomy and identity has left them unresponsive in many cases. They can only speak falteringly and in broken, despondent sentences. In their passive state, fading ghosts also have slowed reaction speed and do not notice most changes in their environment. They do not react to distant sounds unless otherwise stated, and continue in their regular behavior unless they see the party or if the characters attempt to interact with them. These limitations are lessened and do not slow them when the ghosts enter combat and become more focused and violent.

The limiting of the ghosts’ sense is, aside from a roleplay factor, to prevent the house from devolving into a series of rooms with creatures that all attack on sight. This is important due to the enclosed space of the house’s interior, where the noise of combat can easily travel and would attract the other ghosts. Instead, the regular fading ghosts only react to direct or very nearby stimulation.

To approach this mechanically, have any undisturbed fading ghosts that make Wisdom (Perception) checks to detect the characters do so with disadvantage. Should they successfully perceive someone, the ghost reacts slowly and does not move or take any actions on its first turn after rolling initiative, unless a member of the party does anything harmful to it, in which case it begins attacking. If this happens outside of combat, feel free to lengthen this delay based on the situation and the characters’ actions.

Interacting with the house. A ghost’s ability to physically interact with the house is proportionate to their familiarity and time spent in the estate during their life. Owners and residents of the property, such as the MacHales and Julia and Tobias Adler, are able to move objects freely. Conversely, the ghosts of thieves, intruders, and Gabrien Hereca are unable to affect the house. They simply phase through objects that they try to touch. If asked why, Gabrien comments that it is, “not his house,” though he is secretly able to circumvent this limitation by possessing living beings, as he did in area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘.

Reconstitution. Even if ‘killed’, the ghosts in the house are unable to move on. A ghost that is reduced to zero hit points dissipates but slowly reforms in the Ethereal Plane, in the same limbo state as when the ghosts are inactive. It takes a ghost thirty days to fully reform, appearing again the next time the house is intruded upon.

Looking for more ghost tokens? Have a look in our Token Editor, which is full of characters that you can turn into ghosts simply by applying the ‘Ghostly Tones’ pallette!

Important Ghosts

MacHale Manor is home to many undead in the form of fading ghosts. These fading ghosts are the souls of those who have died in the house since the casting of Gabrien’s ritual, who have fallen prey to Ira MacHale and lost most or all of their identities. They can be treated much like any other hostile creature while following the aforementioned rules. But among them are several more important faces for the party to meet. These particular ghosts are important to the adventure and the characters gaining an understanding of what is happening. This makes them important for you to keep track of and understand.

Ulrich MacHale. The grandson of Vincent MacHale and a patriarch of the house who discovered the family’s history but chose to keep it hidden. Ulrich was one of the ghosts originally bound and questioned by Gabrien and was the first to strike back at the cultist. Ulrich now stands guard in the house’s basement as a mistborn ghost in order to keep anyone from reaching the ritual and key piece in the connecting caves. He has had most of his memories taken by Ira MacHale but still remembers his duty. It is possible for the party to restore a portion of Ulrich’s memories and receive help from him.

For more information, refer to Ulrich MacHale’s character bio within the ‘Manor Basement‘.

Ira MacHale. Ira MacHale was the granddaughter of Ulrich and great-great-granddaughter of Vincent MacHale. She was a studious and adventurous leader who created the manor’s library and many of the books within it. Ira now remains in her library as a mindreaper ghost, luring and preying on any new victims by draining them of their memories, which she stores in her books. She also stalks living intruders, particularly those who steal from her, by using her ability to pursue intelligent creatures. As one of the original victims of Gabrien’s ritual, Ira aided her family by taking Gabrien’s memories of the hidden keys, as well as his knowledge of having his memory taken, and storing them in a book that is kept with his physical body. She has repeated this process every subsequent time that Gabrien has gained information about the keys or hidden study.

For more information, refer to Ira MacHale’s character bio under area 4, the ‘Library‘.

Julia Adler. Julia Adler was Gabrien’s mother and one of the MacHales’ most loyal and appreciated workers. After her untimely death in a house fire at the same time that Gabrien left Greybanner with Brandon Hereca, Julia was honored by the MacHales with a place in the estate’s cemetery. Unfortunately, this led to her being raised from the dead by her own son. Julia’s ghost now continues carrying out her duties as a housekeeper by tidying the manor’s rooms, should they be disturbed. Her presence repulses Gabrien, whose hatred prevents him from entering rooms that she might be in. The MacHale ghosts have taken advantage of this by storing Gabrien’s body and the book containing his memories in a storage closet connecting to the master bedroom, where Julia most often resides.

For more information on Julia’s activities during the adventure, refer to the ‘After ghost appearances’ sections of area 5, the ‘Dining Room‘, and area 15, the ‘Master Bedroom‘.

Tobias Adler. Tobias Adler was Gabrien’s father, who worked for the MacHale family alongside his wife. He shared the same fate and burial as her, and now also haunts the manor. Unlike Julia, Tobias became the victim of Gabrien’s experiments in regaining control of his magic and developing his new, ghostly abilities. Tobias has been robbed of any identity or humanity and is kept contained in the housekeeper’s bedroom, where his son can continue monitoring and performing tests on him. Gabrien has recently lost his memories of his father, leaving him unsure of what is in the bedroom despite still feeling his anxious hatred for whoever is inside.

For more information on Tobias’s current state, refer to the contents of area 22, the ‘Housekeeper’s Bedroom‘.

Child and thief. The unnamed ghosts of a halfling child and an expert thief reside in area 21. The thief was killed by the MacHales after he was possessed by Gabrien and used to rummage through area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘. He has since had his memories stolen and become attached to the child, acting as his protector. The boy’s past is unknown and he too has had his memories taken. He is curious about visitors to the house and peers out from the doorway shortly after the ghosts’ appearance and the party’s first encounter with them, before trying to lead the characters to the thief’s body downstairs.

For more information on the boy and the thief, refer to the ‘After ghost appearances’ of area 21, the ‘Child’s Bedroom‘.

Gabrien Hereca

Gabrien was once a Greybanner local who was indoctrinated by a cultist of the Eyes of Blood, Brandon Hereca. He later returned as the creator of the ritual that summoned and bound the manor’s ghosts. Gabrien’s desperate intention was to interrogate the deceased residents of the house and discover the MacHales’ secrets about Harazai’s imprisonment. To do so, he would raise their spirits and confine them within the estate’s borders. But Gabrien became trapped himself after the ghosts attacked him. He has lurked the house’s halls since, biding his time, evading the MacHales, and using intruders to further the same goals that he pursued in life.

For a detailed breakdown of Gabrien’s life and history, refer to his character bio at the beginning of the adventure, under the ‘MacHale Estate‘.

Alongside the party’s survival within the house and their search for Vincent MacHale’s hidden study, their interactions with Gabrien are the core of the adventure and will determine its ultimate outcome. Gabrien accompanies the party after the ghosts’ appearance, offering his aid in exchange for his freedom. His gambit relies on disguising his true intentions and identity from the characters long enough to achieve his goals and escape the house.

First appearance. From the moment the ghosts become active, Gabrien begins observing the party while remaining hidden. He commands one of his marked fading ghosts to inhabit a suit of armor and attack the characters as a test and to force them into requiring help. Gabrien appears to the party either once the ghost is destroyed or if it appears to be overwhelming them, offering his compliments or his assistance, respectively. He introduces himself under his birth name, ‘Gabrien Adler‘, and aids the party in reaching a moment of safety. Gabrien does not immediately beg for help or attempt to strike a deal, to avoid arousing suspicion. He instead speaks with the characters and asks their reasons for being in the house. He uses this conversation and his time with the group to build naturally into asking for their help and offering his own (see the ‘Gabrien’s deception’ section).

Though unlikely, it is possible for the characters to have gathered information that could expose Gabrien prior to ever meeting him. An example of this would be if they restore Ulrich MacHale’s memories early in the adventure (see the ‘Restoring Ulrich’s Memories’ section of Ulrich’s character bio, under the ‘Manor Basement‘). In this case, Gabrien first focuses on undermining whatever evidence the party has, such as posing Ulrich as a delusional liar, in order to deflect suspicion away from himself. He may need to keep his distance if the characters are still wary of him. If the party’s disbelief turns hostile, Gabrien flees and returns to watching from the shadows rather than engaging them.

Gabrien’s objective. Even in death, Gabrien uses his time to continue searching for Vincent’s hidden study to recover the information it holds. He does this in hopes of finding Harazai’s prison and understanding the magic used to hold him, to ultimately break it. Even if he accomplishes this, he must also find a way to escape the house. But Gabrien’s inability to physically affect the estate requires him to manipulate others into acting for him. This has meant approaching many of the different intruders to the house over the years and either possessing individuals or forming alliances with groups. He does the same after appearing to the party.

In interacting with the party, Gabrien’s priorities can be simplified to the following:

  1. Escape the house.
  2. If he has learned that he is missing memories, find and restore them.
  3. Obtain the secrets in Vincent’s hidden study.

Gabrien’s primary goal is to be free of the estate and the MacHale ghosts and to find any currently living members of the Eyes of Blood. Finding the hidden study before doing this is ideal, though it is not Gabrien’s first priority and can be accomplished afterward if he is able to escape. He knows that his freedom requires the destruction of the ritual that he cast in the basement, which is what he must ultimately convince the characters to do for him.

Gabrien has had varying amounts of success in his previous attempts, though any progress he makes is stolen by Ira MacHale and added to the book containing Gabrien’s memories, ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘ effectively resetting any of his accomplishments.

Gabrien’s deception. Gabrien’s success in manipulating the party and achieving his goals relies on him maintaining the lie of being an innocent victim of the MacHale ghosts. This requires him to be careful about what he says and reveals. He has, fortunately, had many years to perfect his disguise. Gabrien’s lies and the truths they obscure can be simplified to the following points:

Lie: His name is ‘Gabrien Adler‘.

Truth: He was born ‘Gabrien Adler’ but chose to take the last name ‘Hereca’ when he left Greybanner with Brandon and Deacon Hereca, at the same time that the Adler family home suspiciously burned down.

Lie: As the son of Julia and Tobias Adler, Gabrien had departed Greybanner to pursue a career as a scholar in the capital. His family life prior to leaving was loving, ordinary, and, “not much to speak of.” Gabrien came to the MacHale house years later after receiving news of his parents’ deaths. The estate was already haunted when he arrived and it was the ghost of his own mother that killed him, under the orders of the MacHales.

Truth: Gabrien was a spiteful child and resentful of his parents and their occupation. He left Greybanner with the Herecas to become a member of the Eyes of Blood and returned when he heard the MacHales had left the house. The haunting is the result of his actions and he was killed by the MacHale ghosts.

Lie: Gabrien’s study of magic has allowed him to evade the ghosts, particularly Ira MacHale, since his entrapment. He has attempted to help and save others who have entered the house but has always been unsuccessful.

Truth: Though Gabrien has allied himself with other intruders, it has always been with the intention of furthering his own motives. He holds no true regard for the lives of others. His magic and other abilities do allow him to evade the ghosts and he does initially believe that he has always successfully avoided Ira, as he is not aware of his missing memories.

Lie: Gabrien believes the MacHales, and specifically Ulrich, to be responsible for the estate’s enchantment. He admits to not having the full picture but does recount modified rumors about the family. He claims that the family’s isolation was due to Ulrich making a discovery that drove him mad and lead to the family’s isolation from Greybanner. Ulrich eventually cursed their home to trap anyone who might reveal the truth that he uncovered. He continues to do this now, hence the many enchantments to keep people and ghosts inside the house and Ulrich’s violent insistence that the ritual not be broken.

Truth: The house’s enchantment is of Gabrien’s making, which he is fully aware of. It is true that Ulrich discovered the family’s history and that it played a part in their separation from Greybanner but it did not drive him mad. Gabrien knows that Ulrich’s discovery pertains to Vincent’s part in the binding of Harazai but is not aware of any of the specific details; this is the information he is searching for. Ulrich does guard the ritual but does so to prevent Gabrien’s escape, not for the reasons Gabrien claims.

Lie: Gabrien only wishes for the ritual affecting the house to be ended so that he and all the other ghosts can be free. He is willing to first aid the characters in accomplishing their own goal within the house in exchange, and is aware of a ‘treasure’ that other thieves have attempted, but failed, to find. Despite his willingness and curiosity, Gabrien stresses the danger and urgency of the situation and emphasizes his, “torturous purgatory.”

Truth: Gabrien’s only goals are those stated in the ‘Gabrien’s objective’ section. He does not care about the fates of anyone else in the house and would rather see them be destroyed or remain trapped. He only aids the party as a means of gaining their trust and advancing towards finding the hidden study, which he knows is what any mention of a treasure must be referring to.

These points form the basis of Gabrien’s deception. He maintains these lies to come across as a friendly and helpful victim of the MacHales, who he describes as having, “gone mad, locked away in their manor.” Gabrien claims ignorance of any details of the house that could expose him, such as the details and exact location of the ritual or the existence of the Eyes of Blood. He likewise does not make use of any of the abilities that could show him to be anything more than a fading ghost unless absolutely necessary. If he is forced to, he explains them as remnants of the spells he knew in life.

For more information on Gabrien’s reactions to specific rooms, items, and encounters, refer to the respective ‘After ghost appearances’ section of each area.

There are a number of ways for the party to expose Gabrien’s lie. This could include finding his spellbook, discovering his name, or restoring Ulrich MacHale’s memories. The party making use of this information, to either confront or trick Gabrien, will most likely bring them to one of the adventure’s many possible conclusions.

The possible exposure of Gabrien’s true intentions should come down to the party finding evidence that conflicts with his story. This makes it important to run the characters’ Wisdom (Insight) and other social checks against Gabrien with more nuance than a yes-or-no lie-detector test. A successful check should reveal small tells in his body language or voice that betray the emotion he is trying to hide. This might include a tinge of anger towards Julia, the tiniest smile when seeing what Tobias has become, or frustration in the party moving slower than Gabrien would like. The goal is for these to create questions for the characters that then compound with other discoveries to erode their trust in Gabrien. This also gives Gabrien the chance to lie again if questioned, creating more social tension as the adventure builds towards its conclusion.

Marked ghosts. Gabrien has not been idle in his many years of imprisonment and has managed to hone the magic he wielded in life. He has developed the ability to mark a small number of the house’s most vulnerable fading ghosts, corrupting them with a portion of his own energy. When the characters encounter a fading ghost (marked), add the following to the ghost’s description:

Suspended in the center of the unearthly form is a mote of black that bleeds out like a drop of ink in clear water.

The black mote within a marked ghost dissipates with the ghost when it is reduced to zero hit points.

Marked ghosts are the same as any of the house’s other fading ghosts except for a few minor changes. Gabrien is able to telepathically command them (requiring no action) and they follow his commands to the best of their ability, even if the command is directly harmful to it. Gabrien is also aware of the locations and actions of his marked ghosts, as well as if they are attacked or damaged. They also possess a fraction of Gabrien’s power in the form of their proficiency in the Stealth skill and their Shadow Stealth ability that allows them to easily hide within, and attack from, the shadows.

Gabrien currently has four ghosts marked in the house. These ghosts are clearly indicated and expanded upon in their respective sections, in the following areas:

  • Area 3, the ‘Living Area‘; the ghost of a pianist, unable to touch the piano but still playing while another ghost dances nearby.
  • Area 5, the ‘Dining Room‘; a violent ghost frantically scratching at the windows in an attempt to escape.
  • Area 14, the ‘Landing and Hallway‘; a ghost that Gabrien commands to inhabit a suit of armor and attack the party when the ghosts first begin to appear.
  • Area 22, the ‘Housekeeper’s Bedroom‘; the ghost of Tobias Adler, whose mind has been broken from being the subject of Gabrien’s experimention and practicing of his abilities.

Restoring Gabrien’s Memories

Gabrien is able to regain his lost memories by spending one minute in contact with the book ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘, found with Gabrien’s body in the master bedroom (see the ‘Treasure’ and ‘After ghost appearances’ sections of area 15, the ‘Master Bedroom‘).

If Gabrien is given access to the book, he is distracted as he spends one minute absorbed in its contents. This restores all of his memories that have been contained within it. A character that is able to see Gabrien sees his expression drop before his eyes widen and his brow furrows, and he then smiles as the process completes. Gabrien is visibly pleased with having his memories returned and displays renewed conviction in his ability to help the party.

Gabrien’s recovered memories include the following information:

  • The existence of the key fragments and the location of the one he found. Gabrien is also aware that the keys are needed to find the house’s ‘treasure’, which he believes is in the main study. He lies and claims that he once witnessed a treasure-seeker reach the main study and then begin scouring the house as he evaded the ghosts. The intruder first went to the house’s basement, where Gabrien believes he successfully located one of the keys. Unfortunely, he fell victim to Ulrich MacHale. Gabrien explains that Ulrich must be guarding the key piece in the house’s basement. Gabrien does not make any mention of his own connection to the key or anything else in the basement, reinforcing that he has never been able to get past Ulrich. He stresses the danger that Ulrich poses and warns the characters that there is unlikely to be any way to recover the key without defeating Ulrich.
    After some thought, Gabrien is also able to recall small pieces of what the treasure-seeker was muttering to himself when he searched the house. He remembers mention of an ocean and something about, “Vincent’s heart,” as clues to other keys. These are both references to Vincent’s message, found in the main study’s secret compartment (see the ‘Hidden storage’ and ‘Treasure’ sections of area 18, the ‘Main Study‘). If the characters are unsure of what these clues refer to, Gabrien suggests retracing the treasure-seeker’s path by searching the main study for whatever provided the clues.
  • His previous encounters with the MacHales and the fact that his memories have been taken multiple times. Gabrien tells the party that Ira has targeted him any time he has learned anything about the keys, removing the memories to reset his progress. He uses this to explain why he has never succeeded in helping any of the visitors to the house.
  • The identity of Tobias Adler, as well as the experiments Gabrien performed on him. This includes Tobias’s location and Gabrien’s ability to command him, none of which he mentions to the party.

After being given it, Gabrien is reluctant towards the characters taking the book back, as the written memories do not fade from its pages. They still contain information that could potentially incriminate Gabrien. He does not press the subject, to avoid becoming suspicious, but does attempt to turn the party’s attention away from the book by telling them of the helpful information he has remembered and prompting them towards pursuing the keys.

18. Main Study

The opening door sends dust scattering into the air, gently suspended in the room’s grand emptiness. Clearly set as the house’s foremost study, it centers around a long writing desk, beside a fireplace and flanked forward and back by bookshelves. They and the other cupboards are expectedly bare of books and valuables, though much clutter does remain across the furniture.

The main study was the personal sanctum of Vincent and later his grandson, Ulrich MacHale. It was always intended to be used by the leader of the household but the tradition lapsed when Ulrich discovered the family’s history and moved his work into the downstairs study. After Ulrich’s death and the request left behind in his will (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘), the downstairs study was used far less, though the dwindling responsibilities of the MacHale family and the shifting goals of its leaders meant that the main study also did not see full use.

Similar to the downstairs study, the main study still holds much of its contents. The bookshelves are emptied but the furniture and smaller, inexpensive items remain, including loose papers, candles and scuffed iron candlesticks, and small clay sculptures and wooden carvings of people and farm animals, created by an inexperienced artist. The scattering of papers left on the desk is comprised of inventory lists and transport costs, most likely relating to the family’s departure from the manor. A map case is propped against the chest beside the fireplace (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Doors to the secret study. The doors to the main study also act as entrances to area 23, Vincent MacHale’s hidden study. The door must be closed when a character inserts the completed trifold MacHale key, made from combining the three scattered key pieces, into the lock (see the ‘Developments’ section).

A character that looks closely at the doorknob or that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check of the door itself, notices that the knob is decorated with a family crest: a lance-wielding knight atop a rearing stag, with a warhound beside them. A successful DC 15 Intelligence (History) check of the crest, or a comparison with another successfully identified example of the crest, such as Vincent’s MacHale Amulet, confirms it to be the MacHale family’s. The crest is the same as that of the completed key, indicating their possible connection. A character that compares it to any of the individual key pieces can also recognize the similarity.

Part of this enchantment includes lines of small runes that run along the interior edges of the doorframes, now hidden beneath a layer of gathered dust. A character that succeeds on a DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) check of one of the open doors notices the text carved into the frame. The runes are inert until activated by the key. A character can make a DC 16 Intelligence (Arcana) check to identify the runes’ spell as conjuration magic. If they roll a 20 or higher, they are able to relate the runes to similar spells that deal with the conjuration and access of demiplanes.

Hidden doorway. The study includes a secret storage compartment, hidden behind the eastern bookcase. There are several clues within the room that betray the existence of an attached space. These clues and the checks to find them include the following:

  • A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check of the eastern side of the room notices that the middle case is not supported on 2-inch legs, like those beside it.
  • A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check and that has been in areas 14 and 19 deduces that there is a space between the three rooms where a small closet or storage are could fit, behind where the bookshelves are set.
  • Similarly, a character in possession of the floorplan of the MacHale Manor can identify the missing space between the rooms either through their own reading of the map or by succeeding on a DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check of it (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 16, the ‘Secondary Bedroom‘).
  • A character that looks closely at the middle bookshelves and succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check spots separated squares of the wood paneling on the left end of the back wall of the bookcase. These sections of the wood can be slid to the side to reveal a keyhole behind each one. The locks can be picked (requiring a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick) or opened with the key in the desk drawer.
  • The bottom drawer of the desk contains a key that opens the locks holding the middle bookshelf in place. The key is tucked into a leather sleeve, secured to the underside of the drawer above.

Unlocking the hidden locks on the middle bookshelf releases pegs that hold it to the left bookshelf, allowing it to swing open on hinges attached to the right. Behind the bookshelf is a door that leads into the hidden storage area. Swinging the bookshelf closed causes its mechanisms to click back into place, locking it.

Hidden storage. A small room is attached to the study and hidden behind the eastern bookshelves. This space was used as a vault for the most valuable documents and possessions belonging to the head of the house, often relating to the secrets of the family history. The two chests in the room have been emptied, save for an old, faded oil painting of three figures.

The painting is held in a roughly 2-foot-by-1-foot wooden frame and depicts a human man in weathered armor and with soft brown hair and beard. At his sides stand a dwarven man in thick furs and metal plating, with a maul hoisted over his shoulder, and a half-elven woman clad in a shawl of green fabrics and animal skins. The frame’s top corner is broken and the backing of the same corner is missing a piece.

A character that is aware of Greybanner’s history can make a DC 13 Intelligence (History) check to identify the subjects of the painting as the town’s founders: Vincent MacHale, Gorim Steinsson, and Alessia.

A character that looks over the painting, particularly its broken corner, also notices the beginning of writing on the back of the painting itself. The painting can be easily removed from its frame, exposing a message written on its back (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Developments. Inserting and turning the combined trifold MacHale key in any of the keyholes beneath the doorknobs creates a mechanical click sound as if the door had been locked. While the key remains inserted, the interior of area 18 is replaced by area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study’ (see the ‘Enchanted entrances’ section of area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study’).

Treasure. The clutter left around the room is predominantly non-valuable, though a character can gather up to six candles, a piece of sealing wax, two ink pens, and a total of twelve sheets of paper. In the chest by the fireplace is a map case containing an old map of Greybanner.

The only contents of the hidden storage area are a painting that can be removed from its frame and taken as the secreted MacHale painting.

Old Map of Greybanner

A map depicting Greybanner and the land to the east of it. Locations in the forest and mountains are marked but unlabeled. The size of the town and other landmarks suggests that the map was charted some time ago, before much of Greybanner’s development.

The map’s age means that much of what it shows has changed since its creation. It could prove unreliable or useful, depending on the intention of its use.

Secreted MacHale Painting

An aged oil painting of three figures, left hidden away in a secret room of the MacHale manor’s main study. It depicts a human man in weathered armor and with soft brown hair and beard. At his sides stand a dwarven man in thick furs and metal plating, with a maul hoisted over his shoulder, and a half-elven woman clad in a shawl of green fabrics and animal skins. A message is handwritten across the painting’s back.

The message on the back of the painting reads the following:

In these, my twilight years, do I reflect on the life I have lived and the many others I have not. Were I able to start over, I would prefer to believe I would take a different path. But my actions cannot be undone and their weight has robbed me not only of the life I may have led but also the chance to rectify my mistakes.
And so, though I have no right to, I leave this burden to those who follow. If you should find this and the keys I have left scattered in my estate, use them to enter my study in its heart. Witness my actions and judge them yourself.

Let these words be a test, that pure intent find my key.
One in distant sand, before the bluest sea.
One within this land, buried underneath.
The last inside my chest, as for this place and people does my heart beat.

A character that is aware of Greybanner’s history can make a DC 13 Intelligence (History) check to identify the subjects of the painting as the town’s founders: Vincent MacHale, Gorim Steinsson, and Alessia.

A character that compares the writing on the painting with another example of Vincent MacHale’s handwriting, such as his letter to Alessia (see the ‘Treasure’ section of the ‘Druids’ Quarters’ Southern Room’ in Verdantguard Tower), can make a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check to identify them as the same handwriting.

Vincent’s poem is another of the clues to the locations of the key fragments within the house. The lines, though cryptic, describe the following locations within the house:
One in distant sand, before the bluest sea‘ describes the painting above the fireplace in area 3, the house’s living area.
One within this land, buried underneath‘ refers to the key piece that was buried in the house’s basement. This piece was found by Gabrien and is now in his satchel in the basement caves.
The last inside my chest, as for this place and people my heart does beat‘ is referring to the statue of Vincent MacHale in the courtyard. The key piece is sealed within its chest.

If the party is having trouble interpreting these clues, there are several ways that it can be made easier. The most direct is by them receiving additional clues, namely by restoring Ulrich or Gabrien’s memories and having them recall the information they had once known. Unfortunately, the characters may not even be aware of this possibility. The party should hopefully take the initiative and search the house for other clues, but you also cannot rely upon this as a certainty. Finally, they may think to attempt skill checks to recall if they have seen anything in the house that could relate to the clues, which could include the painting and statue. These checks can also dissuade them from following interpretations that run counter to the message’s text. For example, the first clue could be taken as directing them to a physical beach, but Vincent specifically refers to the keys, “left scattered in my estate.”

If the party has hit a roadblock in the puzzle and does not think of these options, do not be afraid to suggest ways that they could possibly proceed. As always, try to keep these hints subtle and reserve them for if the party is truly struggling, has exhausted their known options, or if the characters are becoming frustrated. Ideally, working them out and finding the keys should feel like the characters’ achievement, but it is much better for them to progress with some help than to be stuck without knowing what to do.

After ghost appearances…

Developments. The ghost of a farmer searches through the surrounding rooms, as he did before his death. This includes him visiting the main study as the final room in his search before he restarts from the attached hallway (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 19, the ‘Connecting Hallway‘).

19. Connecting Hallway

A small hallway runs between the rooms, with a window overlooking the courtyard at the far end. A line of tables and drawers follow one wall below a long landscape painting.

The hallway is a minimally decorated connecting room between the main hallway, main study, and trophy room. Its decorations are largely inexpensive and thus many were left behind (see the ‘Treasure’ section). A sculpture in the north-eastern corner depicts the profile of an unknown and unnamed man with short hair and a thick beard. The painting hanging on the northern wall shows a small city built between grassy plains and the ocean. A character can make a DC 13 Intelligence (History) check to identify the painting as an image of the capital from many generations ago when it was far smaller.

Door to the secret study. A character that looks closely at the doorknob of the door connecting to area 18, the ‘Main Study‘, or that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check of the door itself, notices that the knob is decorated with a family crest: a lance-wielding knight atop a rearing stag, with a warhound beside them. The crest is the same as that of the complete trifold MacHale key, indicating their possible connection. A character that compares it to any of the individual key pieces can also recognize the similarity. A successful DC 15 Intelligence (History) check of the crest, or a comparison with another successfully identified example of the crest, such as Vincent’s MacHale Amulet, confirms it to be the MacHale family’s.

Developments. The door that connects the hallway to area 18, the ‘Main Study‘, can be unlocked with the trifold MacHale key, causing the doorway to instead open into area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study’ (see the ‘Enchanted entrances’ section of area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study’).

Treasure. The hallway contains only small items of minimal value. A character that looks across the room and through the draws can gather up to four candles, two folded sets of common clothes, one robe, a dice set, and a playing card set. There are also enough pens and other supplies to make up 11 gp-worth of a set of cartographer’s tools. A character can purchase the missing pieces for 4 gp from any merchant or store that would normally sell cartographer’s tools.

After ghost appearances…

The fading ghost of a young man appears in the hallway, wearing farmer’s clothes with a jacket over the top; he is the ghost of the intruder who died beneath the eastern stairwell (see the ‘Beneath the stairs’ section of area 10, the ‘East Stairwell‘) and whose memories are contained within ‘Developing Divination‘ (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 4, the ‘Library‘). He mutters to himself as he searches over the cabinets and belongings, repeating phrases such as, “where is it?” and, “there must be something.”

Developments. The ghost spends several minutes in the hallway before moving to the adjacent trophy room, where he carries out a more extensive search and becomes tethered to a ghostly flying sword (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 20, the ‘Trophy Room‘). He then wanders to the east stairwell, where he stops, lost in thought for a few minutes. Lastly, he paces back to the main study and continues scavenging before returning to the connecting hallway and repeating this loop.

If the ghost comes into contact with the party, he becomes frantic and panicked and attacks them as if in self-defense. He remembers only that he was killed within the house and believes the characters to be his assailants. He retreats between attacks and tries to escape via the eastern stairwell. The ghost stops when he comes to the stairwell. When the ghost sees the hole in the stairs for the first time or starts its turn able to see the hole, he must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of the hole in the stairs until the start of his next turn. If he loses sight of the hole and then comes back to it, he must make the saving throw again as if seeing it for the first time.

If the ghost does pass the stairs and comes to the central hall, he becomes confused by the differences between his vague memories and the current situation. This breaks his behavioral loop and causes him to attack the characters more aggressively.

Restoring the ghost’s memories. Presenting the ghost with ‘Developing Divination‘ pacifies him and allows him to spend one minute restoring his memories by interacting with it. The returning memories overwhelm the ghost with sorrow for himself and his mother, who he knows has long passed by now. He laments that, without any way for him to be free of the house, he would rather exist without his memories than have to suffer their burden and be aware of everything that is happening. The ghost gives the characters a final warning to, “trust none of them. There are only liars and monsters here.” He then fades into the Ethereal plane and leaves.

If Gabrien is with the party when the ghost is given the book, he is sure to excuse himself while the ghost is regaining his memories. He says that he will keep watch while it happens so that no other ghosts can capitalize on the distraction. Gabrien does this to avoid the possibility of the ghost identifying him or anything the ghost may have seen him do in the past.

20. Trophy Room

A larger, open room with walls decorated with mounted heads of beasts, the largest appearing to be some sort of dragon’s. Tables and shelves beneath them hold display cases and other small trophies, while a suit of armor stands against the opposite wall to you, next to a fireplace. The creatures and cases you can immediately spot would inspire awe, were it not for the smudged glass, collected dust, and overall neglect.

The trophy room, as its name suggests, was a space originally dedicated to celebrating the MacHales’ history as fighters and mercenaries. Vincent, despite his retirement from the Gallows’ Sons, never lost his love for hunting; a value that was passed to the generations that followed. Even those who shied away from physical conflict still used the trophy room to display relics and other curious items they had procured. The most valuable of these were taken by the family, some to be kept and others to be sold, though some were left behind in the house. Those that remain were left behind due to either being nothing more than replicas to symbolize questionably truthful tales, or as part of the family’s concerted effort to distance themselves from their more violent heritage. They are arranged on tables along the eastern and southern walls and a set of shelves beneath the windows on the west wall. The mounted heads are all from local animals, save for the venom drake (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Storage rooms. A door by the fireplace leads into two smaller storage spaces. These serve the same purpose as other, similar rooms in the house, holding only a table and spare furniture and storage.

Treasure. The trophy room still holds some of its items in their original displays. Trophies of particular note are named with a small metal plaque. These plaques, for the trophies that remain and the vacated spaces, include the following:

  • A space on the left side of the eastern table. A display case remains, approximately 1 foot long and 6 inches wide, lined with red velvet in its interior. Whatever was inside is missing, though the case remains locked with a high-quality lock (requiring a successful DC 20 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick). There is no dust within the case, suggesting it has not been opened or tampered with. There are also holes in the wood of the table where its plaque looks to have been forcibly removed.
  • Founder’s Blade‘, on the right side of eastern table. The space it labels is empty.
  • Amber-sealed medallion‘, written on the plaque of a small, square display case on the left end of the southern table. The display case’s lock is open and the case is empty.
  • Venom drake head, felled by Vincent MacHale‘, mounted on the southern wall. The drakes left eye is missing and a deep cut runs across the socket. A character that succeeds on a DC 13 Intelligence (Nature) or Wisdom (Perception) check identifies the head as a well-crafted fake.
  • Spear of Dragon Slaying‘, beneath the drake head on the southern table. A 3-foot-long display case holds the broken pieces of a spear, the head of which is shaped to resemble a dragon’s head. The spear is nonmagical.
  • Crown of the Iron Apostles‘, marked by a plaque on the right end of the southern table. The space on the table is empty. Both the crown and its display case were stolen by a thief who then died trying to escape the house (see the ‘Beneath the stairs’ and ‘Treasure’ sections of area 10, the ‘East Stairwell‘).
  • The shelves along the western wall, beneath the windows, are almost entirely empty and unmarked. Cobwebs cover a quartz crystal (worth 8 gp) and a cube of jade, carved with a pattern of winding snakes (worth 15 gp). On the left windowsill are three rose-colored blocks of incense.
  • Reaver Half Plate, from the Titan’s Spine Stronghold‘, mounted on a stand in the north-western corner, beside the fireplace.
  • The Everblack Heartspike, recovered and purified by Ira MacHale‘, mounted above the fireplace.

A character can use the book ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘ to gain more information about many of the trophies, such as their origins and values (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 15, the ‘Master Bedroom‘).

Reaver Half Plate

Armor (half plate), common

A set of half plate armor formed of metal plates over layered leather and furs. The plating’s surface is rough-hewn, almost natural in appearance, and is trimmed and embellished in oxidized copper that curls across the breastplate in the shape of a ram’s horns. The armor is visibly damaged and is missing its helmet and one of its pauldrons.

The armor appears to still be perfectly functional, though it’s hard to look past the missing pieces or resist thinking of the armor in its completed glory.

The reaver half plate is a damaged, incomplete form of an enchanted set of armor, as hinted by its entry in The MacHale Trophy Room. A character that attempts to attune to the armor or that succeeds on a DC 13 Intelligence (Arcana) check while inspecting it discovers the existence of an enchantment that is currently inactive. If a character views the armor under the effects of the detect magic spell or a similar effect, they see the faint presence of magic in the metal plates, but the flow of magic breaks at the missing helmet and shoulder.

The possibility of repairing and restoring the armor is one of several plot hooks to draw the party towards the eastern mountains. If half plate armor is not useful to any of the characters, you can maintain the hook by providing the option of having a blacksmith reshape the completed armor. They could, for example, incorporate it into a set of full plate armor or reduce it to a breastplate. This would still require the party to find the missing pieces and then pay the smith for their service but ensures that the armor is still useable and worth pursuing.

Everblack Heartspike

Weapon (longsword), common

A single piece of darkened metal, forged into a gnarled, jagged blade that resembles the texture of chipped shale. Black leather is bound around one end to form a makeshift grip.

Whatever story or sorcery earned the weapon its name seems to have been stripped from its metal, leaving it a mundane, albeit visually striking, longsword.

The Heartspike once housed a curse but has been purified, leaving it a nonmagical longsword. Characters may still wish to take and use it simply for its appearance, or they could try to find a merchant who would pay for such a curiosity. Perhaps there is a traveling merchant currently in Greybanner who has heard tale of the blade? Or maybe the sword could lead them along another story, with the possibility of restoring its power? While its magic might be dispelled, whatever will once inhabited the sword may still lay dormant…

After ghost appearances…

The Everblack Heartspike takes on a slight glow of spectral blue; the same as the house’s ghosts. This glow is a result of the sword and whatever traces or memories of its curse that still remain in it feeding on ghosts that move nearby. The energy coalesces and animates a spectral facsimile of the sword as a ghostly flying sword (see the ‘Developments’ section).

Developments. After searching the connecting hallway, the ghost of a farmer boy moves into the trophy room and continues looking for valuables. He spends upwards of ten minutes hunting about the room before continuing on and eventually looping back (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 19, the ‘Connecting Hallway‘).

The ghost, and any other ghosts that move within 15 feet of the Everblack Heartspike, become connected to the sword as it feeds on him. A character that is able to see a ghost that is tethered to the sword and that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check spots thin trails of the ghost’s form drifting towards the sword. These trails, once connected, can extend to up to 60 feet before breaking. The ghostly flying sword that they lead to remains in the same place as the real sword, moving with it if the Heartspike is moved and appearing to simply be an aura of blue around the weapon. The sword remains dormant unless a ghost it is tethered to is attacked, at which point it becomes hostile to the ghost’s enemies and moves to attack them.

21. Child’s Bedroom

A smaller bedroom with what looks to be a child’s bed in the center, with a bedside table, as well as a wardrobe opposite it. A writing desk is set in the corner beside the bed.

The smallest of the bedrooms was most often occupied by the child or children of the family. It would be redecorated accordingly, though the room was usually a simple affair, as the children would spend most of their time in the house’s other rooms and gardens. It served mostly as a place for them to sleep, store their belongings, and to study without the distractions of the library.

In the time since the house’s enchantment, the room has become the home of the ghost of a small halfling boy whose identity is unknown. The boy is protected by the fading ghost of one of the many thieves who have died in the house, who was possessed by Gabrien and then killed in area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘. The thief watches over the boy and does what he can to keep him safe from Ira MacHale.

After ghost appearances…

Two fading ghosts appear in the child’s bedroom: an unnamed halfling boy and the ghost of the elven man whose body can be found in area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘. After the ghosts have appeared and the party has dealt with the animated armor and marked fading ghost (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 14, the ‘Landing and Hallway‘), and if there is at least one character within line of sight of the door to the child’s bedroom, the halfling boy cracks the door to see what is happening. The thief watches from behind him. If no characters are in area 14 when this happens, the boy waits until someone is.

A character that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check within area 14 hears the door creak and can see the spectral blue of the boy’s eye peering through the crack. If the character rolls a 16 or higher, they also spot the second figure of the thief, darkened and hooded, looming over the boy’s shoulder.

Developments. The ghost of the young boy is curious but skittish and does not approach the party. He follows them, always attempting to hide around a corner or behind cover, and avoids any possible danger. The thief’s ghost follows close behind and plays along by remaining hidden, though he steps in if the boy is threatened and places himself between the boy and anyone that approaches him. Any character that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check hears the ghosts’ movement each time the boy runs to a new hiding place.

If a character approaches and attempts to speak with the boy, they can attempt a DC 15 Charisma check with an appropriate skill to convince both the boy and his protector that they can be trusted. Neither of the two is lucid enough to speak but the boy still does back away, still hiding, and motions for the character to follow. His protector accepts the boy’s trust in the character but remains vigilant.

The halfling boy’s ghost tries to bring the characters to area 14, the ‘Downstairs Study‘. He does this either by leading a character who has succeeded on the aforementioned check or by loudly running into the study if the party has made their way downstairs. His intention is to show them to the body of the thief. The boy hopes that the characters are able to help his friend in some way, potentially allowing him to rest. The ghost of the thief recognizes his own body but cannot recall the details of his death. If Gabrien is with the party, the thief then stares at him for a few moments, as if struggling to remember, before Gabrien expresses discomfort and excuses himself from the room.

Once the boy has gotten his message across, the thief ushers him back to safety in the child’s bedroom upstairs, using their Etherealness and Incorporeal Movement.

22. Housekeeper’s Bedroom

Another bedroom, with a fireplace beside the door and a double bed near the opposite side. A dust-coated carpet is laid in the center beneath a comfortable-looking chair and a small, accompanying table, cozily arranged to look towards the fireplace. The corner directly opposite the doorway supports shelves of potted plants, all overgrown and withered to dull green and brown. What you first assume to be the smell of decaying foliage, you instead discern to be coming from a humanoid shape, slouched by the corner of the bed.

The bedroom at the back of the house was ordinarily reserved for the manor’s most prominent workers, such as a housekeeper, children’s tutor, or a carer for an elder family member. The space acted either as their permanent residence or as an option for when they were needed in the early morning or late night, rather than having to travel to or from Greybanner in the cold. This was, in large part, a sign of respect and appreciation from the MacHales. The room was theirs to rearrange, decorate, and manage, helping to foster a closer relationship between the family and their helpers. An example of this is the plants; a passion project kept by the room’s final inhabitant before the MacHales’ departure.

Most recently, the bedroom has been used to contain Gabrien’s biological father, Tobias Adler. Gabrien discovered the lingering ghost of his father within the house and, fuelled by his hatred for the man, began using Tobias as a test subject. He has done the same with the body of a previous intruder to the house. Gabrien has used them to practice and rediscover his magic, including his ability to mark and manipulate other ghosts (see the ‘Marked ghosts’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘), and to study the effects of Ira MacHale’s memory consumption. As part of this, Gabrien keeps the ghost of his father firmly held within the housekeeper’s bedroom by manipulating the many marks he has placed in Tobias. Tobias himself has been left a violent, agonized shade of himself thanks to Gabrien’s torture. More recently, Ira MacHale has managed to steal Gabrien’s memory of Tobias’s current state, leaving Gabrien unaware of what is happening in the room.

Distant whispers. Even before the house’s ghosts are awoken, Tobias Adler’s cries can be heard from within the room’s shadows. A character that succeeds on a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check while within the bedroom hears momentary echoes that sound like distant screams. The sounds are faint and fleeting enough that they could be mistaken for imaginary. Some of them sound like pained cries for help, while others are wrathful threats and roars. If the character rolls an 18 or higher, they identify the source of the sounds as shifting between the many areas of shadow in the room.

Burned book. A character that sifts through the ashes in the fireplace finds burned scraps of paper and leather. A character that is proficient in Investigation can surmise that they are the remains of a book that was tossed into the fire. Though the characters are not aware of it, this book was the one containing Tobias Adler’s stolen memories, destroyed by Gabrien to ensure his father cannot reclaim his memories or identity.

Connecting rooms. Attached to the bedroom are a private bathroom and a walk-in closet with storage space and a vanity desk. Little remains in these rooms aside from a pack and outfit in the closet (see the ‘Treasure’ section).

Necrotized corpse. Leaning against the northern wall of the room is the body of a Tiefling man, dressed in basic traveler’s clothes that have had the top half opened to expose his chest. The body shows extensive signs of Gabrien’s different tests on it. The natural red of the man’s skin is dry and desiccated, mottled with patches of grey and black that radiate out from a fist-sized hole in the body’s left breast. The wound and the surrounding flesh are blackened, hardened, and brittle. A character that succeeds on a DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) or Intelligence (Arcana) check is able to identify the damage as being from necrotic magic. If a character looking over the body has investigated the corpse in the downstairs study (see the ‘Desiccated corpse’ section of area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘), they are able to spot similarities between the two, likely linking their nature, though the effects present on this body are far more concentrated.

A character that succeeds on a DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) check notices several other details. The chest wound not only lacks an exit wound but also appears to itself be neither an entry nor exit wound; rather, the flesh appears as if it necrotized, dried, and collapsed inwards without any external trauma. The hardening of the flesh also extends to surrounding organs. Other areas of discoloration on the body appear to focus around two-to-five-inch spots of the same black that are most present on the corpse’s limbs and neck. Each spot also has marks of dried blood despite there being no visible piercing of the skin.

Treasure. The chest at the end of the bed contains a set of common clothes fit for an adult male of Medium size, three sheets of paper, and Julia Adler’s letter, folded and tucked under the paper. There is a layer of dust between the letter and paper, suggesting the former has been there for longer.

In the walk-in closet is a backpack and another set of common clothes; the tattered outfit and apron of a housekeeper.

Julia Adler’s Letter

A single piece of high-quality paper that was found within one of the rooms of the MacHale Manor. The letter is folded and was once closed with a wax seal that has since been opened. Held within the folded letter are a second note and a sketch of a human man with his half-elven wife and child, labeled on the back as the ‘Adler family’.

The letter is written as a solemn and regretful message, and reads the following:

To Damien MacHale,
Though your family has ever been kind to my husband and me, I am afraid that we must step away from our positions in the house. Our absences have had a greater effect on our son than either of us realized. We would like to believe that his changes were slow enough to escape our notice, but we fear that it was simply preoccupation and neglect on our part. I struggle to recognize my dear boy through his anger and hatred for us. I worry for him and the tendencies he has developed, and cannot help but agonize over the thought of losing him entirely. It is long past time that we do better for him as parents.
I must apologize for my oversharing. We would not burden you with the troubles of our family, but you have always welcomed us as if we were your own and we could not bear to leave without adequate explanation. Our decision pains us but it is one we must make.
Thank you for all the days that you have had us. If we are ever able to repay your kindness and return to your service, we would be honored to do so. Until then, we wish the very best for you and your family.
– Julia Adler

The second note is written in a more orderly and refined hand and reads the following:

For their service to the MacHale house, I would see Tobias and Julia Adler’s remains interred in the grounds of the Estate. The same courtesy should be extended to their son, should his remains be found amongst the ashes. To that effect, I leave the matter of clearing the remains of their home to the Council, though I personally ask that you do not hesitate to request any aid that we might be able to supply. I would see this situation receive the respect and care that the Adlers deserved.
– Ira MacHale

A character that looks at the picture inside the letter and that has seen their respective ghosts can identify Tobias and Julia Adler as the depicted parents.

After ghost appearances…

Alongside the rest of the ghosts, Tobias Adler appears after the party’s meeting with the bandits. Unlike Gabrien’s other marked ghosts, who each have one of Gabrien’s complete marks inside of them, Tobias has four more volatile marks. These have turned Tobias into a grimhunger ghost; an ethereal undead with the temperament of a ravenous beast.

Tobias’s confinement. Gabrien’s experiments on his father included the development of the marks that allow him to control certain ghosts. Doing so both required and allowed Gabrien to keep Tobias permanently contained within the housekeeper’s bedroom. Gabrien no longer remembers this but the marks’ effect persists, leaving Tobias unable to leave the housekeeper’s bedroom by any means, including his Incorporeal Movement or Shadow Stalk abilities. If Tobias attempts to exit through the doorway into area 14, the ‘Landing and Hallway‘, he is stopped by the marks in his torso. This prevents him from stepping out, though he can reach out with his Hungering Touch if a creature is within 5 feet of the door.

Gabrien’s fear. Though Gabrien’s marks keep Tobias contained within the bedroom and telepathically link the two, the former’s memories of what he has done to his father have been recently taken by Ira MacHale. Gabrien does not remember what is in the bedroom but feels unexplained anxiety if he approaches the door with the party. He urges the characters not to open it but is unable to elaborate.

Discussing or dwelling on this feeling makes Gabrien curious as to whether he is missing memories. He mentions this to the characters and requests they visit the library to investigate further, hoping that, if his memories have been taken, they might contain useful information.

Discovering Tobias. When Tobias awakens, he drags the Tiefling corpse into the closet to feed on it. This development changes the description of the room, depending on whether the party is returning to it or entering for the first time.

If the party is entering the room for the first time, replace the last sentence of the room’s description with the following:

With a glance across the room, you notice several darkened streaks across the floorboards, leading away from the corner of the bed.

If the party had visited the room prior to the ghosts appearing and then return to the bedroom after the ghosts awaken, read the following when they enter:

Looking back into the bedroom, a change swiftly catches your eye and chills your spine: the body is gone. Where it had rested, there are only several darkened streaks across the floorboards, leading away from the bed.

A character that looks closely at the streaks on the floor easily identifies them as smeared, partially dried blood, leading into the attached closet room. They are wet enough to appear recent. A character that succeeds on a DC 17 Wisdom (Perception) check while within the bedroom also hears the faint sounds of Tobias’s movements in the closet; labored groans and sporadic, hoarse inhales.

If a character enters or looks into the closet, read the following:

The door creaks open on its old hinges, a shadowy room of clothes and boxes behind it. But you hear other sounds coming from within; low groans and dry inhales. Cautiously turning your gaze to the distant corner, beyond the vanity table, you see the hanging body of a Tiefling man, pallid and lifeless. The corpse is held up by its neck and chest, around which is the arm of a spectral humanoid that clings to the darkened ceiling. Its head is buried against the Tiefling’s shoulder, gnawing at its flesh.

Developments. The grimhunger ghost of Tobias Adler becomes aware of the party if they directly encounter him (see the ‘Discovering Tobias’ section) or if he detects their presence in the housekeeper’s bedroom or nearby rooms. If Tobias notices the characters, he drops the body he is feeding on, creating a loud noise, and moves to investigate. Tobias is consumed by his hunger and is immediately hostile to all living creatures, though he remains unable to leave the bedroom (see the ‘Tobias’s confinement’ section).

If Gabrien is present or observing the party when they encounter Tobias, he immediately recognizes his father and the marks placed in him, and realizes that he himself must be missing memories. This prompts Gabrien to suggest visiting the library and seeking out his lost memories. If Gabrien is hostile to the characters, he instead begins searching for the book containing his memories himself.

The only way for Tobias to leave the housekeeper’s bedroom is for Gabrien to willingly release him. Gabrien must first be made aware of Tobias’s existence, either by the party directly encountering Tobias or through having his memories restored (see the ‘Restoring Gabrien’s Memories’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca’, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘). Gabrien then only releases Tobias as an emergency countermeasure against the party or another attacker. He does so if the characters are openly hostile to or in combat with him. Gabrien does the same if another ghost, such as Ira MacHale, is overpowering him, calling on Tobias to protect him.

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What’s Next

Having gathered what clues they can and hunted down the scattered key pieces, the party’s final step awaits them: entering the hidden study. The next and final entry will conclude the ‘In Walls That Talk’ adventure as the characters finally reach Vincent’s study, uncover its secrets, and potentially face Gabrien in all his necrotic might. Until then, you can look back the preceding adventure, ‘Into The Bramblejade‘, or see all of the other parts in the Tournament Under the Grey Banner‘ index page.

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The MacHale history might be a secret hidden inside a house full of ghosts, but our resources sure aren’t! Have a look through our other articles, map, asset, and token gallery, and other content…

About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink.

You can support my writing efforts on Patreon.

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