The Vampyr's Wedding is a 30-minute Dungeon Challenge, as set out by Tristan Tanner in his Bogeyman Blog. I hope it will inspire other people to create some of their own and send them to me - so I can hand out free copies of Forge Out Of Chaos as prizes in the January 2020 competition
I used Tristan's optional tables to create an extra discipline for this 10-room dungeon: empty rooms that point to a combat, reveal history and offer something useful to PCs; the special room provides a boon for a sacrifice; the NPC is a rival; the combat encounters are a horde of weaklings, a pair of toughs and a tough boss; the traps are inconveniencing and incapacitating.
The Margrave of Strigovia, a renowned necromancer, has sought the hand of Dajmira the Duchess of Marusz. Furious at being rejected, he has become a vampyr and vowed she will join him as his undead bridge.
The vampyr Margrave of Strigovia has kidnapped the Duchess from her carriage along with her ladies in waiting, slaughtering her royal escort. He holds the Duchess at his tower and at sunset will consummate their wedding by making her a vampyr too. Only you can prevent this blasphemous union by storming Karnstein Castle, his fortress guarded by his loyal Stygani retainers. It is noon and time is running out.
1. Gates to Castle Karnstein
Breaking the gates down is successful rolling 1 on a d6; two characters can attempt this per round and Strength bonuses apply (Forge: locked, 12 structural points). A crossbowman from 3 will fire at characters through the arrow slits. The corridor beyond has similar gates at the far end (Forge, 10 structural points) and more arrow slits, allowing both crossbowmen to fire.
2. Guard Room
Tables and chairs are set about for a group of Stygani tribesmen who serve the Margrave with fanatical loyalty. There are a number equal to the number of PCs (plus their henchmen) added to 1d6.
They are unarmed and relaxing, but will arm themselves when the PCs start to break down the doors from 1:
Two Stygani guards, Fennix and Leshi, watch from the turret in the corner. Armed with crossbows, they will fire on intruders. Even if the PCs surprise the guards in 2, these crossbowmen with emerge from here to fire on the PCs. Otherwise they will listen to the battle and only join in after 6 rounds if the guards have killed a PC. Otherwise, they will hide here and surrender to the PCs. They are too frightened of the Margrave to venture further into the castle.
Ilsa Gellhorn, the Duchess’ lady-in-waiting, is tied to a chair and gagged, but conscious and clearly terrified. She bears a vampyr’s bite and has been told that she will become undead once the sun sets. She will join the PCs because she is desperate to prevent this.
She has no combat skills but is brave and resourceful. Ilsa will conceive a romantic attraction to one PC (roll randomly or choose highest Charisma or one who speaks kindly to her) and demonstrate this by staying close, trying to hold their hand, asking if they are married and showing excessive concern they are not harmed. Her vampyric infection makes her immune to poison (e.g. the toadstools in 5).
5. Courtyard of Decay
The courtyard is open to the noonday sky and provides a view of the Margrave’s Tower to the south. It is madly overgrown with weeds and many lurid red toadstools. There are also unburied bodies: the Duchess’ guards and other doomed adventurers. Searching the corpses will find these useful treasures (roll 1d6, rolling a duplicate means finding nothing):
6. Pit of the Vampyrs
PCs who succumb to the toadstools in 5 or the trap in 7 wake up here hours later (see 9). The pit is surrounded by a walkway, 10’ overhead, and a staircase rises from the walkway and through the ceiling.
The PCs have stripped of weapons and drained to 1HP by hungry but decayed vampyrs in the pit: withered men and women, some only children, all mindless with hunger and only able to nibble a small amount of blood at a time. They can be shaken off and kept at bay with weapons for 2d6 minutes (or 1d6+6 using torches), but when they attack it will be in overwhelming numbers.
There are four ways for PCs to escape:
At least one of the PCs is now infected with vampyrism. Ask the PCs to volunteer themselves by writing infected or non-infected on a slip of paper and revealing simultaneously; if no one writes infected then all the PCs have been infected.
Vampyr PCs can bite in combat for 1d3 damage (or +2 damage if they already have bite attacks) and regain 1HP for each successful bite attack; they can regain 1d4 HP by feeding from characters that die in combat. They cannot benefit from healing magic or be affected by poison.
7. Gates to Karnstein Tower
These doors are stiff and rusty but not locked. Above the inner door is the Margrave’s family crest (a book and a chalice on either side of a two-headed eagle) and the family motto: ‘Learning the Arts of Darkness / To Defeat the Servants of Darkness.’
A pit trap in on the floor opens, dropping everyone in the corridor down a chute and into the Pit of Vampyrs (6), inflicting 1d6 falling damage (cushioned by landing on bones and corpses).
8. Tower - Ground Floor
A stairwell descends to the Pit (6) and a staircase rises to the balcony (9). Paintings on the wall depict the Margrave’s ancestors, including his great-great-grandfather Vaclav the Great who slew the Spectre of Strigovia. Historians will know that the Margraves originally took up necromancy to defeat the undead, not join them.
There are Stygani guards here in the same state of unreadiness as 2: they are equal in number to the PCs (plus henchmen like Ilsa, Fennix or Leshi).
9. Tower - Balcony
Locked windows give views of the evening sky. In the west the sun is setting with 10-15 minutes until dusk. The Margrave’s two lieutenants guard the staircase that rises to the top of the tower. They are tough undead upyrs (intelligent ghouls who can move around in the sunlight) named Radu and Mircea. Radu fights with his ghoul claws and bite but Mircea wields a two-handed war scythe.
10. Tower - Upper Floor
This room has a staircase that descends to the balcony (9). There are windows in the north, east and south walls that are open to the evening sky. The west windows are closed and covered by a heavy drape.
Beside the west window, the Margrave is marrying the Duchess, who is enchanted and not resisting. The minister is a robed demonic figure conjured from the Netherworld that will not intervene in any battle.
The Margrave will attack anyone who interrupts his wedding. He summons a swarm of bats to buffet and paralyse anyone trying to open the drapes. After 6 rounds of combat, the sun sets: the Margrave breaks from combat, leaps over to the Duchess and takes her in his arms; on the next round he drains her of blood as the curtain falls, revealing a ruddy glow of dusk on the western horizon. The Duchess becomes a vampyric upyr (same stats as Isla, below) and joins the fight after 1d4 rounds.
The PCs have several options:
If Ilsa is present, she becomes a vampyric upyr after 1d4 rounds of combat.
Ilsa the Upyr will attack the PCs unless the object of her affections either pleads for her humanity or is harmed by the Margrave, in which case she will attack the Margrave instead.
PCs who disengage from combat can appeal to the demonic minister to halt the wedding. He might do this if they offer him something more appealing (and horrible) than turning the Duchess into a vampyr. If the Referee approves, the demon agrees and the Duchess’ enchantment is broken. She pulls down the drape and leaps from a window, killing herself and transfixing the Margrave in sunlight.
I'm legitimately proud of this one since it took 30 minutes to write - of course I then went through adding in the stat blocks and conversions and created the map.
It's a two-step scenario. The first act is a fight-and-explore dungeon with some nice magic items and possible allies to discover. Then the PCs end up trapped, must escape and it becomes a race against time. If the PCs choose to become vampyrs then they can feed from the Stygani guards in 8.
The Margrave is a tough opponent and if the sun sets he will overwhelm the PCs easily. The trick is to open the drapes. Potentially, PCs could unlock the casement windows in 9, climb up the outside of the tower and tear down the drapes from the outside, giving them 6 whole rounds of sunlight to attack the helpless, burning Margrave.
That's optimal. If the PCs rush up the stairs, they have a difficult fight and anyone approaching the drapes gets driven back by bats. PC options are listed in room 10 but the players might come up with others, such as setting fire to the drapes or sacrificing themselves by leaping out of the window, taking the Margrave with them. Even once transfixed by sunlight, the Margrave doesn't automatically die and if the sun sets while he's still alive, he becomes a fully empowered vampyr with all his powers (in D&D this includes regeneration; in Forge, a selection of Necromancy spells).
The scenario is designed to offer the players ideas and allies in the first act that they can use in the second. It might be important to recruit (and not stake!) Ilsa and to realise the Margrave comes from a noble lineage of undead-hunters. Hopefully, the sunset showdown can be an occasion for dramatic roleplaying as well as dice-rolling.
Sharp-eyed followers of this blog (if any there be) will notice that the setting of this scenario is not what was originally proposed. Back when I set out my 6 30-Minute Dungeon Challenges, I named the vampire and his bride after Persian cultural forms; in this version, they're German/Slavonic. I love the idea of a Persian vampire story, but the brevity of this scenario means that the archetypal Bohemian setting makes for easier hooks. Plus, the vampyr's title is a 'Margrave' which is too good a pun to miss.
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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..