Set generations after the fantasy-adventures of our 5e campaigns, Briarthorn concerns the tale of six friends as they move to Briarthorn Parish to create a new life for themselves. But will their desire for a fresh start outlast the intrigue, danger, and terrifying monsters waiting for them? Briarthorn uses the Monster of the Week system, with some edits to make it set in the 1920s era technology of the setting.
|Ep #||Episode Title||Characters Attending||Keeper||Session Date|
|1||Identity: Part 1||Frazeon, Gryphon, Ironhome, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||September 8, 2018|
Five friends meet at a tavern on the docks of Fort Jess in central Kernaugh, each looking to book passage to the mysterious city of Briarthorn Parish.
First is Frazeon, an average looking human who is secretly part of an organization of monster hunters known as Kernaugh’s Hand. With him is Mac, a man haunted by his ability to see the spirits of the Astral Plane. They are joined by Father Ironhome, a venerable old monk who has seen a terrible prophecy involving his companion, a young priest named Brother Gryphon. A young woman with the ability to see the patterns of order and chaos in the world, Moira, is already waiting for them at the table when they each arrive. As they begin eating their meal, each tells of how they ended up at the tavern.
Frazeon receives a message from his organization in the form of a mugger in a warehouse at Fort Jess. Disarming the man, he finds a secret message hidden on his club that tells him “Ensure the Inquisition delivers their package to Briarthorn Parish” along with a ship berthing and date. For this reason he has arrived in the city only to find several companions he had fought alongside with, or previously hunted, arriving at the same tavern.
Father Ironhome is escorting Brother Gryphon to Briarthorn Parish to ensure he can meet a prophecy, one that bodes ill for the entire world should it not be fulfilled. Along the way, he ends up setting right a disputes by the common folk and learns the secret spices of many chicken restaurants.
Brother Gryphon is dead. Murdered by his brother, Harold and buried somewhere in the swamps. Harold has made a deal with the Archdemon Masque to steal his brother’s face and identity, allowing him to escape his criminal past. But this enchantment comes with a deadline, and a price will be collected in the near future. His infiltration into his brother’s life goes well, however, with Father Ironhome, church clergy, and even an old bakery woman not recognizing him.
One person who does recognise him is his niece, Moira. Her ability to sense patterns in the world around her causes her pain and frustration as much as insight and power. She sensed the nature of Gryphon’s true identity and, given her past as one of his accomplices on a major heist, she chooses to say nothing for now. She is too preoccupied with finding a man she met in the marketplace, one Mr. Doe, whose very being warped probabilities and made her skin crawl. She tracked him to this very dock, where she awaited for her companions to arrive- knowing full well that they would in time.
Last to arrive was Mac, a poor Clontish farmer cursed by his ability to see the spirits of the astral plane. After the a daring heist wiped out the fortunes of Lord Metairie, his landlord, the impoverished lord burned his own villages and put his people to the sword seeking the criminals responsible. Seeing his home and family killed, Mac returned the favor by summoning his spiritual powers to drive Lord Metairie’s wife insane and drove her to attempt to kill her husband. With the town in shambles and his livelihood gone, Mac fled from his village seeking a new life. Along the way he saved the life of a longshoreman named Lazlo, who gifted him with a ticket on a luxury steamboat, which awaited just outside the tavern.
As they compared notes on their pasts, the upper floor of the tavern was thrown open to reveal Special Inquisitor Fulton, one of the highest-ranking guardsmen in Kernaugh. With him were two of his guards dragging along a man whose head was masked by a sack-cloth. Gryphon and Mac were able to identify the man as wearing a bronze masked shaped like a skull over his head as he was drug outside and onto the awaiting steamship: The River Prince.
The party soon followed, boarding the ship and setting sail up-river towards the distant Briarthorn Parish, hidden deep in the swamplands.
|2||Identity: Part 2||Frazeon, Gryphon, Ironhome, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||September 26, 2018|
Boarding the River Prince steamship, the party encounters their first terrifying challenge: a face-stealing doppelganger.
Boarding the ship, the party met a number of strange characters taking the steamship to Briarthorn Parish, including:
As the ship steamed deeper into the interior of the swamp, Mr. Doe fell from the ship, seemingly drowning in the murky waters. Mac leapt after him, facing off against a terrifying Swamp Dragon and pulled the man to the ship, only to find him constantly trying to return to the water to drown himself. During the battle, Mac’s wounds from the jaws of the swamp dragon bled openly in the water, and Ms. Collier warned him about the deadly algae that was common in the river system. After healing by Frazeon and Ironhome, he felt he had nothing to worry about.
After the party locked him in the brig along with the mysterious prisoner, they began to inquire about how he fell overboard only to be interrupted by Lady Martha Tate falling off the ship. Before she can be rescued, she is crushed to death by the ship’s paddlewheel.
Sensing a murderer on board, the party and passengers are confined to quarters as Crewman Lazlo brings them their meals. As he does, the crewman attempts to grab Frazeon’s face, beginning the process of swapping their identities and revealing himself to be a doppelganger. A fight in the corridor outside their rooms begins, with Ironhome locked in his chamber by the fuss. During the fight, the doppelganger attempts to swap identities with Gryphon, only to slowly transform into Harold before finally being driven off the ship by a burst of holy energy by Ironhome as he emerges from his chambers.
With their identities in tact, the party discovers that the doppelganger arrived on the ship as Mr. Doe, then swapped forms with Lady Martha Tate. With her transformed, he placed a geas to force her to kill herself, then took her place on the ship until he swapped forms with Lazlo, causing Lazlo (now appearing as Lady Tate) to also attempt to kill himself, this time successfully.
With the doppelganger defeated, they find the transformed Mr. Doe to slowly revert back to her true identity of Lady Martha Tate, a process which is accelerated by Ironhome. As they heal her, Mac uses his powers to discover startling secrets about the masked prisoner, including that his aim is to cause harm to some sort of holy being in Briarthorn Parish and that he fears three individuals hidden under the island of the old city. His spiritual connection with the strange, masked man was interrupted as the party pulled him away. From their perspective he was having a terrible seizure and began bleeding at the eyes and nose.
Special Inquisitor Fulton develops a grudging respect for Frazeon, despite each of the inquisitor’s orders being disobeyed by the professional. As the ship arrives in Briarthorn Parish, Lady Martha Tate refuses to leave Mac’s side, seeing him as her savior after he pulled her from the water.
Monster Lore: Doppelgangers
While the party has much to learn about doppelgangers, they now know they can swap identities with a target by touching the face of their victims and can then compel those they switch faces with to do a single command for up to an hour.
|3||Housewarming||Alexander, Frazeon, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||October 6, 2018|
Looking for a place to spend their first night in Briarthorn, the party stays at Alexander’s newest investment property that is definitely not haunted.
Arriving in Briarthorn Parish, Brother Gryphon and Father Ironhome are met at the docks by a luxurious car owned by the church and a young novice named Sister Patience. Swept away on church business, they promised to catch up with the rest of the party when they could.
Special Inquisitor Fulton escorted the Mysterious Prisoner onto a ship bound for Briarthorn’s Old City. As the prisoner was escorted away, Mac heard a psychic message from the being “This is only the beginning.”
As soon as Fulton had left, one of the party’s old friends appeared. Alexander, a blessed vampire and real estate mogul in the Lamp District and Harbor district, had run afoul of Special Inquisitor Fulton in the past, back when the church had attempted to kill him. Having bought them off during the market crash several years before, he was now mostly safe, but Fulton was always a difficult man and Alexander didn’t take chances.
As Lady Tate left, she thanked Mac once again and gave him the address of her family’s building in Newharbor. Alexander, knowing the city better than the others, revealed her to be the scion of a major telecommunications and power company, and that Tate Industries powers and keeps the city moving. She left a note for Mac to visit her in one week’s time.
The reporter, Nathanda Hart, interviewed each of them (despite their attempts to stop her) and got photos of each of them, including Frazeon (a fact which would put his ability to operate as a member of Kernaugh’s Hand in jeopardy). Through Mac’s quick thinking and hexing abilities, they caused the film to be lost from her possession, having it fall out during her ride on a city trolly to be lost and destroyed in the damp city streets.
As he caught up with his own friends, Moira was approached by Norman Ross, who handed back her Chaos Theory textbook and thanked her for letting him borrow it, something she never did. She could not calculate when or how the man had taken her book, but with a smile and a wave he walked away, leaving her very worried. As the party discussed their plans, Moira noticed that Ross was watching them through the rain from down the street. Mac opened his senses and saw that the spirits around Norman glowed with a faint pink light, something he had never seen before. Seeing that they noticed him, Norman waved and left. In order to protect herself, Moira used her sensory powers to create a personal alarm to alert her if the patterns indicated Norman Ross was within 100 feet of her location at any time.
Alexander guided the party to a place they could stay for the night, an abandoned manor house he bought for next to nothing in the hills over the Lamp District. Arriving there, they found that the lock his servant placed on the house several nights before had rusted shut. After walking through the shrubs around the perimeter, Alexander used his vampiric strength to leap over the wall and help the party into the house.
Inside they found a number of signs the house was cheap for a specific reason: ghosts. They identified a female servant ghost who kept the fires burning, plates filled, and wine poured and a male ghost of a former owner who took several swipes at the party, and seriously injured Alexander during one such jump scare. Despite the violent setbacks, Alexander was quite pleased with his purchase as a house with infinite food and wine, with self-tending fires, would sell for a fortune.
Moira entered a study to discover it had been enchanted, along with the 100% identical room upstairs, to become some kind of recursive loop. Whenever someone walked up the stairs, they re-entered the same chamber over and over again. With her powers, she discovered the purpose of the enchantment was to protect a simple wooden box, but she was unable to open it without harming Mac by the release of spiritual power. Each time she opened the box in the loop, it remained empty.
Mac saw the spirits of a woman in a servant’s outfit and the former owner stuck in a loop of violence with each other. Both appeared to have crimson lines covering them like cracks in decaying stonework, cracks that glowed with the same faint pink light he had seen earlier in the night. The party discovered a telescope on the roof, pointed towards the distant town of Mudwick. Moira calculated the precise house it would be pointed at. Alexander discovered a very fancy and valuable suit of armor which would be worth a fortune, which he congratulated himself on purchasing along with the house. He then discovered evidence of ground subsidence in the bathroom, which set him into a foul mood.
While at the house, a cake was delivered to the font door by an anonymous source. Frazeon discovered it contained a message for him from his order to seek out a glove shop in the old city.
Moira discovered a journal, which along with a series of nightmares by the party revealed the maid specter to be Kate Arkenwary, a beautiful young woman and eldest of three siblings from the poor town of Mudwick. She became the maid of the abusive and violent master of the household, who eventually began to hit her and lock her in a hole that collapsed under the bathroom. Over time, she stole money and hid it in a chest in the study, planning for her escape to return home with enough to set up her sisters and parents for life, but before she could she was confronted by the master with his shotgun in the hole under the bathroom and, during their fight over the gun, both were killed when the shotgun went off.
The spirit of Kate Arkenwary spoke directly to Frazeon, revealing that she once met another in his order who was kind to her. She asks him to bring her treasure to her family as her last, unfinished business. He agreed to do this task for her, and when he awoke he was being shielded from flames by a crimson glowing symbol of his order.
As they discovered this, they awoke to to the house being on fire and riddled with crimson lines of power. The ghost of the master appeared, ready to kill Frazeon, but Alexander drew upon his blood magic and, using his own life force as fuel, shouted “Fuck Off, Ghost!” and sealed the master away. Each time the spirit attempted to reform after, the echo of Alexander’s seal reappeared, causing the evil spirit to be banished once more.
The party followed the crimson lines of power and avoided the flames through the house, Moira, Mac and Frazeon figuring out how to unseal Kate Arkenwary’s Treasure in the process. As they fled, they discovered the hole beneath the bathroom and found the corpses of both the master and Kate. Their bodies had been impaled by some kind of crimson crystal which grew out of the ground and seemed to be drawn by their blood. Mac noticed the spirits in the area were drawn to it like a magnet, and while spiritual energy was near it, the crystal remained powerful and glowing. The party pulled the corpses of both Kate and the Master form the stones, causing a sigh of relief to be heard and causing both the crystal, and the lines of power flowing through the house, to collapse into dust. As they escaped, Alexander grabbed the suit of armor, vowing not to lose everything from the house.
Moments later, with large cracks along the walls and foundation turned to dust, the house collapsed. The party fled as the authorities arrived. As they did so, an older man with grey hair passing by on the far side of the street paused and watched them, his eyes lingering on Moira. He lit a cigarette, watched the authorities investigate the collapsed building for a moment, and then set off after the party at a leisurely walk.
Monster Lore: Ghosts
The party was taught about ghosts by both Mac and Frazeon, each having some training. While one might destroy a ghost’s appration with weapons or magic, it will always return again in time unless either their mortal remains are destroyed (giving the spirit no corporeal capabilities and trapping it on the plane unseen and unable to interact for eternity. The only way to truly free a ghost is by seeing through its’ grudge or strong emotional purpose. Only then will the spirit move on and free a place of its influence.