Welcome back to Let’s Read Hell’s Rebels! On our last installment, the PCs explored the underground base under the ruins of the Lucky Bones casino and cleared out a nest of diabolic cultists, but all of that only covered half of the first level of the dungeon. Here we’ll go through the other half.
Lucky Bones: Haunted Opium Den
The Haunted Opium Den occupies the northern half of the level 1 map. It shares the same basic traits: 8-foot tall walls, pervading moisture, swollen and stuck doors. The main difference is all the doors here are closed, there’s no illumination, the temperature is just above freezing, and the mournful moans of lost souls echo through the hallways. In other words, it’s obviously haunted.
The party can access this sub-level through the door on C7, which as mentioned before is protected by a complex lock and an arcane ward. PCs with the right spells and skills just might be able to get through it on their own. Otherwise Octavio can hook them up with an NPC spellcaster to break the seal once the cultists are cleared. “Lucky” PCs might also find a secret passage in the hideout that leads to the bottom of a pit in this region, right into a faceful of yellow mold.
Our opposition here consists entirely of undead haunting the places where they died or guardian creatures bound by sorcery. Since no one leaves their assigned rooms, there’s much less pressure to finish this area in one go than there is for the hideout. Two of the encounters (Lorelu and the wretchghosts) can even be avoided if all the party wants is to make a beeline to level 2, but all the undead in this area must be dealt with eventually before the complex becomes usable as a base.
Here’s the room key:
C10. Private Rooms: Accessible from C7. Fancy furniture rotted by time and moisture. Each contains a valuable hookah still in good condition.
C11. High-Stakes Hall: Accessible from C7. Large card table with several seats. The corpse and ghost of Guildmaster Lorelu are here. The ghost will invite the PCs for a few “friendly” games of Odds and Evens. See below for details on this.
C12. Opium Den: Accessible from C7. Squat columns, claustrophobic curtained alcoves. Three wretchghosts (see below) haunt this room and attack the living on sight. Their corpses lie here and are loaded with fancy jewelry.
C13. Infested Pit: Accessible from C7. An obvious, 20-foot deep pit. Rotten rope-and-pulley device across it will crumble if anyone tries to use it to cross. Narrow ledge on south side allows passage with an easy Acrobatics check (DX in GURPS). Northern ledge looks similar but hinges down like the ones in C4 to drop people into the pit. The bottom of the pit contains the skeleton of a giant snake and a whole lot of yellow mold. It also has a secret passage leading to C4. PCs coming in from the other side of this passage for the first time will also be exposed to the mold.
C14. The Watcher In The Walls: Accessible from C13. Floor tiled in odd patterns of red, green, blue and yellow tiles. A bound advanced xorn waits in the walls and will attack anyone who tries to cross the room without stepping on tiles of only one color (Lorelu can reveal this information). Yellow tiles contain secret compartments (single Perception/Observation test to notice them all) full of stolen money and jewelry. The corpses of two opium den clients killed by the xorn contain yet more jewelry.
C15: Master’s Office: Accessible from C14. Large conference table, filing cabinets lining the walls, moldy portraits of all three guildmasters. A bunch of coins and a dagger of venom are on the table. The files contain a lot of obsolete ledgers, a bunch of deeds for property in Vyre that will be useful in the next adventure, and a poem with a circled passage that will be useful in C16.
C16. Smuggler’s Well: Accessible from C14. Heavy battle damage on walls, old skeletons belonging to Grey Spiders and Torrent Knights. Six ghasts lie amid the inert skeletons. There’s a big well in the center, capped by a heavy stone slab decorated with a xenopterid statue with gemstone eyes (looks like a man in a trenchcoat from a distance). Pressing the eyes in the sequence circled in the poem found on C15 causes the stone to slide and open the way to level 2. The wrong sequence or any attempt to destroy the capstone summon a fiendish xenopterid that attacks the party. Only one such beast can be summoned at at time, but this keeps happening until the party gets the sequence right or manages to fully destroy the stone. Treasure includes scattered coins, jewelry worn by the ghasts, a +1 mithral short sword and a vest of escape amid the bones.
If the PCs win a round against the halfling ghost, she answers a question from them. If she wins, the gets to drain a bit of the opponent’s life. The rules for Odds and Evens are at the start of the adventure book, initially presented as a harmless game you can play back at the Tooth and Nail. I think I glossed over it when describing that tavern, but it’s a nifty bit of foreshadowing when you know what it’s for.
Lorelu remembers little of her life but has fairly good knowledge of the dungeon’s layout, traps, and current events - even stuff from the second level. Her answers are true but somewhat cryptic, and if she doesn’t know the answer to a question “I have no idea” is valid as far as the game is concerned. The life drain she employs on a loser causes damage to a random ability score.
The list of things that will make the halfling flip out and attack the party is quite long: disturbing her remains, displaying symbols of the Order of the Torrent, winning more than eight games, getting caught cheating, and of course picking a fight.
Lorelu is a classic D&D ghost, meaning she’s insubstantial, has a monstrously damaging spectral touch, can drain life as described above, and layers all of that on top of the abilities she had in life as a level 6 rogue. Yes, the spectral touch can be used for sneak attacks. Fortunately for the party, she will not pursue them beyond the door and “resets” to a friendly attitude when they go back in. The one way to destroy her for good is to expose her bones to sunlight. If the PCs think to ask her about that, she will let them take her remains to the surface and will no longer attack.
Wretchghosts are a new monster described in this book. As you might expect, they’re the ghosts of people who died from withdrawal. They’re associated with a specific drug (opium in this case), and their touch can get people addicted to it. They have bonuses against people addicted to the same drug as themselves, but these people can also bypass their insubstantiality and resistances.
On the one hand, these former customers of the opium den were nobles and rich merchants, so their corpses have plenty of jewelry. On the other, a few of the PCs are likely addicted to opium after the fight ends.
No mention whatsoever is made of special ways to get rid of this condition, so I guess it has to be cured the old-fashioned way. The ghosts can also use some spell-like abilities conceptually associated with opium, and go berserk when in the presence of the drug. You can have wretchghosts associated with other substances too, by switching their spell-like abilities.
The “you’re now addicted” bit could really suck in GURPS, since Addiction there is a significant disadvantage and getting rid of it involves spending quite a few earned character points. Kinder GMs might wish to make it follow standard Affliction rules and have it only last for a few minutes of cold-turkey agony, or make it “permanent” but curable by Remove Curse.
Ghouls have official stats on Pyramid #3/108. Increase their attributes a bit if you want to be strict about them being ghasts. They’re the last of the trapped customers to die here, having reached the battle site and resorted to cannibalizing the corpses before they finally starved.
Xenopterids are Pathfinder’s version of the Moth Man legend. Man-sized bugs who look like people in trenchcoats from a distance, with sharp claws and a natural talent for grappling. They claw, they bite, they have venom, they drain blood, they have tough shells.
Pathfinder doesn’t always manage to straddle the line between atmospheric and tasteless, but I think it managed it here.
The Lorelu encounter is practically combat-free for a perceptive party. That’s a lot more than I expected from the game that uses “attacks on sight and fights to the death” unironically. As for the other monsters, I particularly liked the wretchghosts. It’s fun to come up with new varieties of them for all the weird fantasy drugs in your world.
Hitting the Haunted Opium Den early might not be a good idea even for parties who can get through the door on their own - they’ll need to conserve their resources for the boss fight at the Cultist Hideout.