The PCs are traveling down a winter trail, hoping for lodgings on the shortest day of the year, already drawing to an end, when a desperate woman accosts them at a stile. Her cottage, just a mile inside the woods, is under attack. Will brave adventurers help defend it from a terrible foe?
The Referee needs to be familiar with the NPC family and their movements, the location and assembly of the Snowmaiden spear and the Witchhazel Wand, the role of the Zagorvor book and the random events that shape the night’s perils.
The cottage is home to Vadim and Vasilisa and their three children, teenage son Ivan, younger son Mikul and daughter Nikita. Last night a holy wreath was hammered to their door, a sign that the evil winter spirit Krampus has targeted their home for destruction. They expect Krampus to attack after sunset.
PCs can examine and make preparations in one room each before the sun sets. Vadim will gather his family in the Hearth (A) and won’t agree to moving to other rooms.
Outside the cottage a trail leads deeper into the woods, rising to a bald hill overlooking the farm. PCs will barely have time to explore the trail as far as the Holly Hedge (J) before gathering darkness and more snow forces them back to the Cottage.
A. Hearth: There is a stone fireplace with an iron pot warming a stew nearby, a solid oak table and five chairs, a workbench with chopping boards and 3 sharp knives. Rabbits and plucked birds hang from the rafters along with onions, radishes and beets. The family gather here. A big iron poker hangs over the fireplace, etched with runes (detected on a Search roll): it is the shaft of Vadim’s father’s spear Snowmaiden, which he dismantled when he settled down and gave up adventuring. On the wall hangs Vadim’s bow and a quiver of 20 arrows. Furniture can be boarded against the windows, forcing invaders to spend a round breaking through, during which time they can be attacked at +2.
B. Parlour: The fireplace warms this room too. There is a bench with cushions for the children and a spinning wheel beside a big bucket of yarn. The distaff used for weaving belonged to Vasilisa’s mother who was reputed to be a witch; anyone examining it will notice the arcane symbols on it but Vasilisa does not understand that this is the Witchhazel Wand. Her mother used to weave in here but died last spring. Windows can be boarded up as in A. A door leads to the Byre (F).
C. Bedroom: The parents sleep here, with warmth from the fireplace. There is a single big bed with cords knotted tight to support a down-filled mattress. There is a bag of 214 silver pieces under the bed: Vadim’s savings. Vasilisa has a box of jewellery (value 20gp) and some cosmetics and perfume (value 5gp). An embroidered sign on the wall (by Grandmother Babushka) states: “Blade baptized / In Winter’s Breath / Wand and Ring / Bring Winter’s Death.” Windows can be boarded up as in A. A ladder leads to the Nursery (D).
D. Nursery: The children sleep and play up here, although Ivan often sleeps in the Byre (F). There’s a box of dolls and carved wooden toys, including a snowglobe taken from the Kurgan (K) by Nikita who secretly plays with it when frightened at night. Mikul’s picture book shows grandfather Dadushka fighting the two Winterfiends, Korschei and Borschei, with his fiery spear and then sealing them away in a house under a hill.
E. Babushka’s Room: Since Babushka died, her room has been closed up, but Mikul sometimes sneaks in here because he misses his grandmother. There is a narrow cot and a book of ancient runes : the Zagorvor. It appears to contain nonsensical gibberish in a cramped handwriting.
F. The Byre: This lean-too houses Polkan the draft house, Camcha the cow and the ferocious rooster Gorky who attacks anyone except Ivan, pecking for 1 point of damage whenever their back is turned. Ivan can drive him into the coop with the chickens using a broom. Several tools hang from hooks, including a scythe and a sharp awl that is really the blade from Snowmaiden (see 1). Ivan likes to sleep here to get away from his siblings.
G. The Well: This is frozen over but there is a mallet to break the ice and a bucket to lower in. If the ice is broken, the steam from the warmer water below can baptise Snowmaiden.
H. Babushka’s Grave: Marked by a single stone, as she wished. Babushka’s body, which takes an hour to disinter, wears the Rowan Ring.
I. The Timberstore: A ragged vagrant sleeps here, unknown to Vadim and his wife. Nikita knows he is here and sometimes brings him out buttered bread to eat or milk to drink; in return, he takes her up to the Kurgan (K) to look for trinkets and they found the snowglobe in the doorway. He is Morozko, a peddler, turned away by Vasilisa.
J. Holly Hedge: a trail winds up the hill to the Kurgan, passing through a dense wall of holly. At night, the holly hedge blocks the path unless magic is used to part it.
K. The Kurgan: An old burial mound whose stone door has fallen away from the hinges. At night, an eerie light shines out and the Krampus is here along with sleeping prisoners. If the snowglobe is returned here, the curse is broken.
Encounters each hour
Roll 1d10 for an event every hour. There are 10 events in total and when all have occurred, the Krampus will arrive in person. Each event only occurs once except for 1 and 2, which can occur twice.
Reactions after each Encounter
After each event, the NPCs will react in various ways: roll 1d8. If a reaction affects a NPC who has been killed or captured, re-roll. PCs never see a NPC leave unless they are personally guarding them, in which case they will notice their departure immediately and, if they pursue them, are considered to be at their location when the next Encounter begins.
THE SNOWMAIDEN SPEAR
Snegurochka or ‘Snowmaiden’ is the magic spear that Vadim’s father Dadushka used to defeat the Winterfiends decades ago. It has been split into its iron shaft (the poker in A) and blade (the awl in F) which can be reassembled to make a +1 magic spear. If Snowmaiden is ‘baptised’ in winter breath (steam from the well or the blood of dead white wolves), the spear’s full powers activate: magical +2, immunity to cold/blizzards, able to cut through the holly hedge surrounding the Kurgan (K) and Krampus cannot regenerate its damage.
THE WITCHHAZEL WAND
The Wand was the possession of Vasilisa’s mother Babushka and protected the Cottage until her death. Vasilisa has been using it as a distaff. It can be used to create a circle of protection in a 2’ radius of the bearer that cannot be entered by Elfs, Winterfields or the Krampus; it guides unerringly through the blizzard. If used with the Rowan Ring, it can cancel the blizzard, open the holly hedge (J) and allows the bearer to turn the Krampus (D&D: as a 4th level Cleric; Forge: spend 12SPTS, 30% success).
THE BOOK OF ZAGOVOR
Babushka’s spellbook is incomprehensible gibberish to other readers, but it will fall open at an important page for Mikul or be found at that page after the event of ‘footsteps in the bedroom’. This page explains in detail how to baptise the Snowmaiden, wield the Witchazel Wand and Rowan Ring and how to pass through the holly hedge (J) into the Kurgen (K).
VASILISA: the Mother
D&D: 3 Hit Points, AC as unarmoured, attack with kitchen knives or scissors for 1d3, Lawful Good; Forge: 12HP, DV1 1, DV2 0, attack for 1d3, ST 11+. SPD 3
Vasilisa was raised by her witch mother to be intensely superstitious and goes in dread of the tall, bald hill in the forest known as the Kurgan. She misses her mother greatly and has preserved her room untouched, but she has one of her grandmother’s magical skill. She does not realise the distaff in B is a wand but recalls Babushka’s Rowan Ring which was buried with her outside. However, her love for her children is such that, if any are kidnapped, she will acquire the ability to use the Rowan Wand.
VADIM: the Father
D&D: 5 Hit Points, AC as leather, with cudgel for 1d6, Lawful Neutral; Forge: 15HP, DV1 2, DV2 2, 20AP, attack for 1d6, ST 10+. SPD 3
Vadim is the son of an adventurer, Dadushka, who gave up adventuring and dismantled his magical spear Snowmaiden. Vadim does not believe the old tales of his father wielding a magic spear but can identify the iron shaft in A as being from Snowmaiden. If Vadim’s children or wife are lost, his steely heritage will assert itself; he acquires +1 to hit and damage and will remember that the awl in F is the blade to Snowmaiden.
IVAN: the elder son
D&D: 3 Hit Points, AC as unarmoured, attack with broom for 1d3, Chaotic Good; Forge: 10HP, DV1 1, DV2 0, attack for 1d3, ST 12+. SPD 3
Ivan is a sullen teenager who is impatient with his siblings and angry with his parents. He has much of his grandfather Dadushka in him and likes to handle Snowmaiden’s blade (F): he senses it is magical but does not know it fits the poker in A. He knows that Nikita often sneaks away to the Timberstore (I) where she has an imaginary friend. He knows that Mikul is always sneaking into Babushka’s room (E). However, getting him to open up is not easy. He will idolise a strong stern warrior or an attractive, courageous woman among the PCs.
MIKUL: the younger son
D&D: 2 Hit Points, AC as unarmoured, no attacks, Neutral Good; Forge: 8HP, DV1 1, DV2 0, attack for 1d2, ST 14+. SPD 2
Mikul is 10 years old and was very close to his grandmother, who taught him much witch wisdom and gifted him the storybook in the Nursery (D). He has enough raw magical talent to use the Witchhazel Wand, knows that the distaff was Babushka’s wand and knows too that Babushka was buried with her magical ring. However, he will never speak of these things in front of his mother, because she scolds him out of superstitious dread. He knows that an odd man is living in the Timberstore (I) that Nikita calls ‘Mr Frost’.
NIKITA: the youngest daughter
D&D: 1 Hit Point, AC as unarmoured, half normal movement, no attacks, Neutral Good; Forge: 6HP, DV1 1, DV2 0, attack for 1, ST 15+. SPD 1
Nikita is 5 years old, with her grandmother’s fey and independent spirit and her grandfather’s boldness. She takes cakes and milk out to Morozko (‘Mr Frost’) but doesn’t speak of him around her parents. Morozko offered her a gift, which she refused, so he took her instead up to the Kurgan one morning and she fund the snowglobe there and brought it home. She keeps it secret and plays with it whenever she is distressed.
MOROZKO (Mr Frost): peddler
D&D: 4 hit points, AC as leather, attack with sling for 1d3, True Neutral; Forge: 16HP, DV1 2, DV2 1, 10AP, Sling for 1d3, ST 6+. SPD 4
A filthy tramp with verminous beard and hair, yellow teeth and rheumy eyes, Morozko wears a tattered red shirt and trews with an ermine trim that was once fine. He prattles nonsensically about the weather, his sisters the stars, the old warrior in the Byre, the cannibal twins and the wisdom of children; he has the ability to scold characters about their deep anxieties (Vadim that he is unworthy of his grandfather, Vasilisa that she does not protect her children from evil, Ivan that he will never amount to anything, the PCs on whatever weaknesses the Referee decides are appropriate).
Morozko carries a sack with magical properties: although it appears empty, he can draw from it a gift for anyone who has shown him kindness or respect. Use this brief table or roll on an expanded table such as https://basalt-dnd.tumblr.com/post/153238499847/random-trinket-table
30 Minute Dungeons
Essays on Forge
I'm a teacher and a writer and I love board games and RPGs. I got into D&D back in the '70s with Eric Holmes' 'Blue Book' set and I've started writing my own OSR-inspired games - as well as fantasy and supernatural fiction..