Copyright 2011 Wizards of the Coast.

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This is an entirely original setting-specific entry. Now this is what I’m here for!

The Lore

The Gray Downs is a region of dreary fog-shrouded hills in the center-north of the Nentir Vale. It contains a great number of burial mounds built by ancient humans who lived here centuries before the arrival of the Nerathi. These hill clans are extinct, but their ruins remain as witnesses of their existence. The greatest of these mounds is the Sword Barrow, which sits prominently at the center of the Downs.

The Sword Barrow is exactly the sort of place that would be considered a prime delving spot: it reaches deep underground, its layout is complex, and it’s filled with traps and treasure belonging to the forgotten king or warlord that rests at its bottom. It’s also already “taken”. If you get too close to it, the Barrowhaunts will shank you for trying to move into their territory.

The Barrowhaunts are a group of undead revenants who used to be an adventuring party in life. They are themselves quite ancient, and no one knows why they became undead. The leading rumor is that they delved the Sword Barrow and attracted the ire of the warlord buried inside, whose spirit called out to the hill clans and told them to come take their revenge. They answered the call, and the Barrowhaunts preferred to slaughter them all rather than relinquish their loot. So yeah, according to this story they’re responsible for the final extinction of the hill clans. One of the hillfolk elders laid a dying curse upon the adventurers, binding them to the land for all eternity.

This didn’t have any obvious immediate effect, but the adventuring party did become more and more obsessed with the region as time went by. They kept coming back for more treasure, and attempted many delves into the Sword Barrow. Eventually their greed surpassed their skill. After the ensuing TPK, they got back up, now fully under the effects of the curse.

As undead, the Barrowhaunts effectively became eternal guardians of the Grey Downs barrows, but they frame this duty in terms of their original greedy mentality. They spend their existence delving the barrows and moving loot around to protect it from “rivals” and “claim-jumpers”, which means anyone wandering through their claimed territory. They savagely attack any intruders and add their loot to the pile. Somewhere in the Downs is a big stash of all the treasure they’ve gathered over the ages, but no one has been able to find it and live to tell the tale yet. It might be inside the Sword Barrow, it might be somewhere else.

The Barrowhaunts are aided in their duty by the spirits of the creatures and people they’ve killed over the ages. Many of these are hillfolk, but there are also newer ghosts. None of them want to see the Barrowhaunts’ curse end, so they fight hard to keep them from being destroyed.

The Numbers

The Barrowhaunts are all specific individuals! They share in common a set of generic undead traits: immune to fear and disease, resist 10 necrotic, vulnerable 5 radiant, Darkvision. All of their other traits come from training or from their respective racial powers.

The lingering spirits that accompany them are Shadow Humanoids and Beasts with undead traits. They’re all minions but they have high damage resistance, making them a lot more stubborn than most minions. Let’s look at them first.

Lingering Warrior Spirit

A humanoid spirit and a Level 7 Minion Soldier. It has immunity to disease and fear, and Resist 15 to all damage except radiant. Their Phantom Strikes deal a bit of damage and immobilize for a turn.

That damage resistance at level 7 means that fighting these things pretty much requires someone who can deal radiant damage on demand, like a cleric, paladin or even a star warlock with the right powers. A PC striker might be able to brute-force them, but not consistently.

Lingering Monster Spirit

The ghost of a non-humanoid monster. It’s a Large Level 9 Minion Brute, with a ground speed of 8 and a climb speed of 6. It attacks with Reach 2 Savage Strikes that do good damage for a minion. The thing that makes it special is Resist 20 to all non-radiant damage, which means they’re almost impossible to brute-force. Bring a cleric!

Uthelyn the Mad

This was the Barrowhaunts’ half-elf rogue. She’s a Level 8 Skirmisher with 86 HP. Her Maniacal Laughter acts like an aura (1) that inflicts a -2 attack penalty on enemies inside. She wields a short sword and can do Mad Slashes with it, which let her shift 2 squares before and after the attack as an effect, and deal bonus necrotic damage against targets that grant combat advantage to Uthelyn.

Once per encounter she can react to an effect that would immobilize, slow, or restrain her with a Ghostly Escape, which lets her end the effect and gain insubstantial and phasing for a turn.

Adrian “Iceheart” Reginold

This was their human wizard, specializing in cold spells. He’s a Level 8 Controller with 86 HP, and is also resistant to cold and vulnerable to fire in addition to all the standard traits mentioned above.

Adrian uses a Frost Staff that does cold damage in melee, and shoots tricky Ice Bolts that do “cold and necrotic” damage and slow for a turn. As a reminder dual-typed damage uses the target’s smaller resistance value, so if a PC is only resistant to cold they’re going to take full damage from the bolts. The wizard can also cast Deep Freeze (close blast 3 vs. Fortitude, recharge 5+) to deal cold damage and restrain for a turn, and Vortex of Ice (area burst 1 within 10, encounter) to deal heavy cold damage, slide 3 squares, and knock prone. A miss here deals half damage and slides 1 square.

Joplin the Sly

The party’s second rogue, this one a halfling. She’s a level 8 Lurker with 68 HP. Joplin gets the halfling’s Nimble Reaction trait, gaining +2 AC vs. opportunity attacks.

Her basic attack is a Vanishing Strike with a short sword, which makes her invisible to the target for a turn on a hit, and deals increased damage when she has combat advantage. Once per encounter, when someone hits or misses her with a melee attack, she can use Swift Rebuke as an interrupt, making a free Vanishing Strike against the enemy with combat advantage. Since this is an interrupt, it can turn a hit into a miss with the full concealment bonus for being invisible!

Boldos Grimehammer

The party’s dwarf fighter is a Level 9 Brute with 122 HP. He gets the same resistance to forced movement and knockdowns given to PC dwarves, and fights with a battleaxe and shield. The axe can be used for basic strikes or for Mighty Swings that deal a little less damage and either push the target 1 square or knock it prone.

If Boldos is hit by an attack that would push, pull, or slide him, he can respond with the Soldier of Fortune interrupt, which gives him a free basic attack with a +5 damage bonus against the triggering enemy. He always hits you back before you push him, and since he’s a dwarf he might end up staying put anyway.

Cassian d’Cherevan

The party leader, this human warlord was probably some sort of noble in life. He’s a Level 9 Elite Soldier with the Leader keyword and 192 HP. He’s armored in plate and uses a greatsword to fight.

As an elite, he can make Double Attacks with the sword, and once per encounter he can make a Call to War, which lets him attack once and allow every ally within 5 squares to shift up to 2 squares and make a basic attack.

As a minor action he can use his Bolstering Presence (recharge 5+) to give every ally within 3 squares a +5 damage bonus for a turn. And if an adjacent enemy makes an attack that doesn’t target him, Cassian can use Relentless Assault to automatically deal 12 damage to that enemy.

Final Impression

I love the Barrowhaunts, because they’re a very specific group tied to a specific spot on the map. They have a history, and a concrete reason for doing what they do. This is the sort of entry you can write when you don’t have to be as generic as possible. I also really like that they’re a party of murderhobos, a kind of dark mirror held up to the PCs, saying “take care or you’ll end up like them”.

Mechanically they’re all set up to work like a typical adventuring party. Each member models a specific PC class or role, and their teamwork will take up a very smilar form. Any fight against the PCs is going to happen in the Gray Downs, an area full of obscuring mist and hilly, boulder-strewn terrain. The Barrowhaunts have been there for centuries, are intimately familiar with it, and will definitely set up traps and ambushes when attacking intruders.