The Mad Manor of Astabar – A Solo D&D Session

Well, it is that time of the year…

I am going to demonstrate what I wrote in this article by playing through a free adventure called The Mad Manor of Astabar which can be downloaded here.

Somewhat appropriate for the season, this adventure is set in a mansion that is believed to be haunted.

This demo contains a lot of spoilers for the adventure (all of them, in fact), so if you want to play this adventure yourself or if your dungeon master intends to run this adventure for you at some point in the future, you should stop reading now.

If you want to play this with a single character, you can use some of the rules in Solo Heroes which I wrote about earlier this year. This book is not designed to be compatible with 5e, but there are some optional rules that can be stolen and used.

Before we do anything else, it would be a good time to establish some Default Behaviours.

The character I am using for this adventure is Anders Brightwood, who happens to have a huge list of Default Behaviours already.

For your convenience, I have copied and pasted the list here:

General Default Behaviours

  1. Will not look for traps (Anders is not a rogue, so doing this is not instinctive for him).
  2. Will not actively search for secret doors.
  3. Will only explore as much of a dungeon as necessary to complete his main goal or quest.
  4. Will use melee weapons rather than ranged weapons whenever possible.
  5. Will conserve spells and expendable resources unless he has no other option.
  6. Will only acquire and search for treasure or items that are vital to the plot of an adventure.

Alignment-based Behaviours

  1. Lawful – will not take any treasure unless he is absolutely and totally positive that it doesn’t already belong to someone else – or if it is given to him as a reward.
  2. Lawful – will not loot bodies.
  3. Lawful – will not sneak around or actively try to take enemies by surprise.
  4. Lawful & Good – will accept payment and rewards from those he helps, but only if it looks like they can truly afford it. Will not take items that have special significance to the person giving the reward.
  5. Good – the goal of any quest taken must further the cause of good, otherwise it is refused. Anders will avoid adventuring for the sake of adventuring or gathering treasure.
  6. Good – will always help others without expecting or requesting payment, though may accept rewards if offered (see number 4 above).

Personality-based Behaviours

  1. Anders will generally hold back from attacking whenever he encounters another creature. If the creature attacks, he’ll retaliate (with a view to knocking it unconscious if it is not certain the creature is evil). If the creature is willing to talk, he’ll parley.
  2. Due to not having much experience with the world beyond the walls of his temple, Anders will not be skeptical of what other people say (will not use Wisdom (Insight) checks in any conversation).
  3. If an NPC professes to be a worshipper of his faith (or claims they are working towards being on good terms with his god), Anders will trust them blindly. The exceptions are if the NPC is known to be irreversibly evil.
  4. Hates undead: destroys them on sight unless conditions are unfavourable or the undead creature attempts to parley. In the latter case, he will not completely trust them (uses Wisdom (Insight) checks all the time during conversations with undead). The exception to this are ghosts, unless they are hostile.
  5. Cautious – will use the dodge action in the first round of combat to gauge the strength of creatures he has never seen before. The exceptions are creatures that appear overwhelmingly powerful to him, in which case, he’ll look to avoid combat altogether until he has more information on the creature.
  6. Alert – will always use Wisdom (Perception) checks instead of his passive Perception score.

Preparing to Play

Cleric of Lathander2

The protagonist of this adventure. Feel free to cheer him…

Okay, the first thing we should do is read the introduction to the adventure and, in the case of the Mad Manor of Astabar, this includes the text on the front cover as well as the text in the ‘Background & Set-up’ section on page 1.

So go ahead and read those pages…

Okay, we’re given the big reveal in the ‘Background & Set-up’ section – the bard that approached us, Rivana, is a ghost.

It’s not just any old reveal either, but a key twist in the adventure.

Nevertheless, we carry on.

We also see that she was killed by an imp familiar belonging to Astabar and she wants to find adventurers willing to finish off what she started.

We also know what sort of creatures are inside the manor.

 

Beginning the Adventure

Now that the intro is out of the way, we shall be introduced to Rivana the bard.

It is probably okay to read the entire section titled ‘The Bard Rivana Greywyre’, but if you want to roleplay this, it’s a good idea to scroll down slowly. In this adventure’s case, it’s okay to read the whole of page 2.

The scenario starts off with Rivana singing in the inn, but everyone appears to be ignoring her until she finally approaches the adventurers.

Somebody must have put Otyugh spit in their wine” The woman laughs as she approaches your table, “Not that I’m surprised. The story of Astabar is not a popular tale in these parts. My name is Rivana Grewyre and the tale of Astabar is true. his manor is but an hour walk north of the village and has been abandoned for many years. Fortune and magic awaits those bold enough to risk it. I plan on heading there in the morning. Perhaps you would be interested in joining me?

Okay, let’s refer back to Anders’ list of Default Behaviours. Behaviour number 5 in the Alignment-based Behaviours list suggests that Anders will turn this one down since it is all about personal gain.

So I turn her down and, long story short, I say no and she uses a more emotional tactic, saying that there is a terrible secret that she must uncover. Behaviour number 6 in the same list suggests that Anders will help anyone who asks, so he does:

I agree to help Rivana discover the terrible secret in the manor.

As you scroll down, there are a number of answers to questions that the player could ask. In my case, I did not really bother to ask around town for rumours regarding the manor.

We’ll put that down to Anders’ lack of experience dealing with people outside his temple 🙂 .

Travelling to the Manor

It takes only an hour to get to the manor. When we get there, this is what we see:

Through the picket line of trees to the north you see a three story stone manor house set behind a stone wall seven feet in height. The building looks as if it has been abandoned for some time. The grounds are overgrown and a leafy blanket of vines covers much of the stone work. Other than a murder of crows nesting on the roof you see no signs of life.
The rusted iron gate stands partially open. Amazingly, the grass and weeds beyond the gate have grown almost to the height of the wall itself turning the interior courtyard into a labyrinth of vegetation.

We also read that the vegetation behind the wall and in front of the manor is unnatural, but since Anders isn’t an elf or a druid, he doesn’t know this.

Scrolling down slowly, we can see there are two entrances, but the north door is completely overgrown with vegetation. Behaviour number 2 from my list of General Default Behaviours means that Anders will probably miss the north entrance, so let’s take the south door.

Scroll down a little further and we see this description:

The ornate double doors are free of the vines that cover the rest of the building. There are dozens of runes burned into the wood of the doors. You nervously ponder the thought that this could indicate the entrance is magically trapped or protected.
You have just begun to examine the symbols when a loud foreboding snort draws your attention back towards the courtyard entrance.
Through the path you made in the tall grass you see a massive black rhinoceros. The beast paws at the ground with its powerful hoof as it tosses its head from side to side displaying a lethal three foot long horn.

Once you’ve read this, it’s time to think about what you want to do here.

So go ahead and do that.

The notable elements in this scene would be the doors and the runes burned into the doors. The area description suggests that the doors could be trapped and that the runes are some kind of trap that activates should you open the door.

Take whatever precautions you think are necessary – or you could just screw it all and open the door. Your choice.

In my case, my first thought here is to make an Intelligence (Arcana) check to see if Anders knows something about the runes or if he is able to read them. I should find out the answer to this when I continue reading.

And then there is the rhino behind me.

Probably not a creature you can reason with.

Is it hostile?

Is it a creature I can take on with my current level of ability?

Will it go away if I play dead or scratch it under its chin?

I’m not sure if Anders would be able to outrun a Rhinoceros so it’s probably best to stand my ground. I could open the door and get inside quick, but I don’t know if the runes are dangerous.

So I stand and fight…

…And I immediately regret my decision when I see the stat block for the Rhinoceros (I’m using the 5e stats rather than the D&D Next Playtest bestiary).

But I’ve made my decision, I’ll have to stick with it and see how it goes.

Incidentally, when I read ahead, I see that the adventure does not mention anything about the significance of the runes, which means they are probably harmless.

Note: Remember that any decision you make should be binding, even if the consequences could be potentially catastrophic for you. There would be no point in playing D&D otherwise.

One Epic Struggle Later…

Okay, so I’ve been brought down to 6 Hit Points and I’ve used up both my spells for the day… but I managed to prevail.

Or did I?

Scrolling down a little more, I see that the Rhinoceros will reappear, regardless of how many times I kill it.

Having used up all my spells, I decide to head back to town and take a breather, but not before I look at the runes to see if I can make heads or tails of them.

Seems like they are harmless…

Entering the Mansion

After a good night’s rest, I return to the mansion the next day. I see that the Rhinoceros has come back to life, so this time I don’t bother with it and head straight for the door.

Now that we’re inside, remember what we read in the ‘Background & Set-up’ section on page 2?

I am now trapped inside by the strange magic surrounding the manor.

Anders will not know this straight away, but it will become all too clear the next time he attempts to venture back out.

Maybe that’s what the runes are for…

In any case, let’s start exploring the manor…

Note: the areas will not necessarily be explored in numerical order. The rest of the write-up below shows the order in which the manor was explored.

You should also look at the map on page 14 to see where you’re going, but focus only on the area you are currently exploring.

To be honest, it’s no biggie if you see the whole map due to the lack of detail and simplicity of the map. Even so, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of hiding the rest of the map and focusing only on the bits you are exploring.

Remember that you can do this by zooming right in using your PDF reader and shrinking the window.

1. Entry Foyer

I’m now at the entry foyer and the first thing we do is to read the area description which is bottom left of page 4.

As you step into the foyer, the main hallway on the first floor is directly in front of you. There is a closed door to your left and a stairwell to your right leading to the second floor.

I decide that I am going to check the hallway and see if there is anyone or anything lurking about, then I intend to open the door on the left.

But before I do that, there is more to read:

Your attention is immediately drawn to the doorway beneath the stairs. From the second you stepped foot into the house something began knocking on the other side of this door. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The steady banging shows no sign of stopping.

Curiosity leads me to investigate what is on the other side of that door, but I will be on my guard.

I will open the door slowly with my shield in front of me, readying a dodge action.

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The door is yanked shut the moment I try to open the door. I decide to persevere and this prompts a contest.

I roll a 17 and the result of the opposing roll is 11, so I win.

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And I see a skull on the floor with a waxing crescent moon symbol carved onto its forehead. There is even a little image on page 4 that shows the same.

Remaining cautious, I scan the room for danger and even wait to see if the skull is alive.

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I am prompted to make an Arcana/Religion check to know more about the symbol.

I roll a natural 20. Not that it really matters since Rivana can reveal the same information.

2. Sitting Room

candles

Next, I turn my attention to the sitting room – the room I was actually going to enter before all that noise distracted me.

This 15’ x 15’ room contains a comfortable sofa and chairs. The quality material and engraved wood mark these items of furniture to be of high quality. On a coffee table in the middle of the room is a glass decanter of glowing violet liquid.

While Anders is not going to go rummaging around the room for treasure, he is at least a little curious about the decanter.

He’ll pick it up, shake it a little and smell it. He may even take a little sip.

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Seems like drinking it will affect the imbiber with the faerie fire spell. Since Anders has only taken a sip, the faerie fire spell only lasts a few moments.

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Seems like it could be useful for a later battle. However, having established the Default Behaviour of not picking up and taking items without reason (i.e. looting), I will honour that, even if the liquid might make life easier down the road.

Therefore, Anders puts the decanter down.

3. Dining Hall

A long finely crafted dining table dominates the centre of the room. Sitting in each of the eight chairs around the table are skeletal remains dressed in fine attire. Shockingly the head of each dinner guest is missing.
Set out in front of each skeleton is a large plate with a dome cover. The table is also adorned with fine cutlery and two silver candelabras. On the south wall is a large painting of the full moon.

Interesting.

Skeletons missing their heads.

I immediately think of the skull I saw on the floor of the first room I entered.

So off I go to fetch the skull.

I also decide to lift the dome cover off the plates and see what lies within.

And then there is the painting of the full moon, so immediately, I suspect this is a puzzle related to the lunar cycle.

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Well, I’m mostly right, other than the fact the painting is merely a hint and not actually part of the puzzle itself.

I found a skull under one of the dome covers and I assume that this skull is supposed to be attached to the skeleton next to it.

So I go and attach it.

Two skulls down. Six more to go.

At this point, it’s time to add a new Default Behaviour.

While Anders is not in the habit of searching for treasure, he will need to keep an eye out for more skulls.

So I’ll update the General Default Behaviours list with the following:

Will search the rooms thoroughly for skulls.

4. Servants Dining Area

This 20’ x 20’ area has two long tables with benches that run the length of the room. At one point the tables were laid out with platters of meat, vegetables, cheese, fruit and bread but it has long since spoiled. Now a blanket of mold and dust covers the former feast.
Someone appears to have gone through the trouble of setting up a dozen larger than life stone statures of rats throughout the room. Three are set up amidst the moldy food on the tabletops, one is on the bench perched on his hind legs and the final two are set up on the floor under the tables.

I look around for signs of danger, then I enter the room and I examine the rats and prod them with my mace, readying the dodge action if need be.

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So the rat statues are the result of a flesh to stone spell cast by a wand, which is now aimed at me. Readying the dodge action won’t be helpful here.

The wand activates when I step into the room and at the same time, the rat statues turn back to normal, meaning a scuffle is on the cards – if I survive the spell.

The DC needed to successfully save is a 15.

I roll a natural 1.

Game over.

Well, not quite.

Scrolling down further, I see that Rivana will not sit idle and will continue to recruit adventurers.

The problem is that I need to roll 1d10 to determine how much time passes before I am back to normal.

I roll a 10.

And then a 4.

So 4 years have passed since I’ve been turned to stone.

Once Rivana is able to get help and reactivate the wand, I have some rats to deal with.

Roll initiative.

I fight the rats.

I win.

Unfortunately, the adventurer that Rivana recruited is now a stone statue.

I question Rivana about this and she tells me that I was part of the room’s decor for four years. It’s now this poor guy’s turn to decorate the room.

5. Parlor A

The 20’ x 20’ parlor room contains comfortable chairs and other fine furnishings. In the corner of the room is a large ornate vase. Up against the south wall is a matching pair of wooden chairs and a solid block table with a marble surface marked into black and white squares.
Pieces have been laid out on the squares for the Game Kings & Pawns (chess), a popular game played amongst nobility. It appears as if someone left a game unfinished.

Anders has an intelligence of 9 which means he isn’t the most intellectually gifted person there is and is unlikely to appreciate Kings & Pawns, so he will probably overlook it and do something else.

As a player, I suspect that the chess pieces are important, but I’ll stay true to character and pass them by for now.

Anders is looking for more skulls, so…

I will search the vase and the furniture for a skull.

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Lo and behold, I was right. Moving the right piece in the game would have opened a secret compartment with the skull in it.

But I made my decision, so I’ll stick with it.

6. Parlor B

This 25’ x 20’ room is filled with two ornate divans, several chairs and tables. The walls of the room are entirely covered with mounted butterflies of all shapes, sizes and colors.
Sitting on one of the tables is a jar which contains what appear to be three live butterflies. At the bottom of a jar is a golden yellow gemstone.

Okay, provided there is no danger here, the first thing I’m drawn to is the butterflies.

I examine the butterflies on the wall closely to see if they’re alive, then I examine the jar.

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So it looks like I missed my first magic item – a wand of magic missiles – because I did not think to check the divans and the furniture. But then, Anders is not distracted by riches.

Other than that, I avoided a fight by not opening the jar.

Okay, at this point I forget that I am hunting for skulls, partly because I am resuming play after a break of a week or two.

So I allow myself to do that since it is a Default Behaviour and I find the wand.

Not that it really matters, since Anders won’t take anything he feels does not belong to him.

7. Kitchen

Warm and inviting - until you realise you're on the menu... Artwork © by Karol Łukaszczyk

Warm and inviting – until you realise you’re on the menu…
Artwork © by Karol Łukaszczyk

This 15’ x 35’ room once served as the manor’s kitchen. The room has several work tables and a large fireplace dominates the northern wall. There is a large collection of cooking utensils and pans. A row of clay jars rests on a shelf along the south wall.
Sitting on the largest of the tables is a wooden bowl containing three oddly colored apples. There is a bright blue one, a bright red one and one that is yellow.
There is a narrow stairwell that leads up to the second floor and a door to the left of the fireplace that appears to lead outside.

I will look inside the jars, search the fireplace and examine the apples simply because they look so odd.

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I am now bright red because I touched one of the apples (I rolled 1d3 to determine which apple I look at first).

Other than that, no skull here.

8. Pantry

Before I carry on, I see that there is an optional encounter against a doppelganger.

Bear in mind that this adventure was written for the D&D Next playtest and the 5e version of the creature will likely wipe you out if you are level 1.

It’s an optional encounter, so you can easily leave it out or you can use the D&D Next bestiary stats if you still have them.

I would also suggest using the AC and HP values shown on page 7, if you decide you want to use the 5e stats, but keep everything else the same.

If you can’t decide whether or not to use the encounter, just treat it as a random encounter – rolling 17 or above on 1d20 means you encounter the creature.

I roll 19…

You open the door in the east wall of the kitchen and discover an impenetrable darkness beyond.

Right, that just screams “torch” to me, or a light cantrip – neither of which I have.

The only source of light I have are a set of puny little candles.

So I light a candle.

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Well, nothing short of a daylight spell would have done much against the darkness, in fairness, so I will just have to feel my way around and take care not to trip over anything.

Surprise round: A fist flies out at me from the darkness and strikes my shield before I fall back into the kitchen.

The doppelganger wins initiative, presses his attack and I die in the first round of combat.

Adventure Ends…

Okay, so I’m as dead as a doornail which means the adventure is over…

…But I want to carry on, but not because I am a cheat – for all intents and purposes, my character is dead, but I am not playing the adventure purely for my own entertainment. The main purpose of this article is to demonstrate how to read through and play a published adventure on your own.

I’ve hidden the rest of my journal in the spoiler box below so if you wish to continue reading, simply click on it and read on.

If you’ve had enough, simply skip it.

Continuing the adventure as a ghost...

With the first floor fully explored, I go up to the second floor via the stairs in the kitchen. The nearest room is room 17, so I decided to start there and work my way backwards.

17. Bathroom

When you open the door to this 10’ x 20’ room you are surprised to find rain pouring from the ceiling. Mold and other vegetation has grown across the floor and walls. At the far end of the chamber is a metal tub which is overflowing with algae filled water.

I decide I’m going to search the bathtub.

Since I don’t have a pole or staff, I’m just going to have to use my hands…

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Okay, so I am ambushed by a giant frog, of all things. I’m allowed a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to spot the danger first.

I roll 15.

Add my Wisdom modifier and I get 18 which is more than enough to prevent a surprise attack from my amphibious friend here.

So it goes down and I win with some ease.

I don’t kill it though – animal cruelty and all that.

I find another skull.

16. Changing Room

This appears to be the private changing room of Astabar. This 15’ x 20’ room contains an ornate desk with a mirror and a chair. Along the east wall are pegs from which hang a variety of wizardly robes.

Okay, I’m going to rummage through the ornate desk and the robes, making sure I search the drawers and pockets thoroughly.

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Seems like looking into the mirror isn’t a good idea.

At this point, I think to myself that I didn’t specifically look into the mirror, so I could consider myself exempt from the saving throw. That said, there’s a chance I might glance at it in the passing as I search the desk.

So I make the saving throw.

Not that I know what kind of saving throw I need to make, since it doesn’t say if it’s a Wisdom saving throw or something else.

It’s moot anyway – I roll a 16.

Nothing else of note here.

15. Master Bedroom

This well-lit 20’ x 25’ chamber is the master bedroom of the wizard Astabar. The light is coming from a glass sphere sitting on a dresser. Inside the sphere appears to be a fiery inferno.
There is a large bed adorned with furs and a high backed chair with a battle scene between elves and goblins carved into the wood.

Interesting, a fiery looking sphere sitting on a dresser.

I wonder what would happen if I smash it – would the flames of hell consume me or would a fire elemental spring out and attack?

I’m curious, though, so with my shield held in front of me, I approach the sphere with the resistance cantrip active in case I need to make a saving throw.

By this point, I decide that since I can cast the resistance cantrip at-will and all sorts of magical weirdness is going on around this place, I thought it would be wise to be cautious and use the resistance cantrip continually.

This is added to my list of ‘Default Behaviours’ as follows:

Cast resistance continually.

Anyway, I probably won’t touch the sphere, but…

I’ll get close enough to see if anything happens and if I can identify it.

Aside from that, searching the bed for more skulls could be a good idea, as well as the dresser that the sphere is sitting on.

I search the bed and the dresser for more skulls.

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Sure enough, breaking the glass sphere is not a good idea, so it’s a good thing I didn’t sate my curiosity and smash the sphere in with my mace.

It’s also hot, so I don’t touch it.

I also find a key, which I decide to keep in handy in case there’s a locked door somewhere.

Finally, there is a trapdoor that leads to the loft and while I didn’t specifically search the ceiling for it, the fact that Anders is staying alert and scanning the area thoroughly for dangers means it’s likely he will have noticed it by default.

14. Closet B

You open the door to this 10’ x 10’ closet and see a pile of dozens of gemstones sitting on the floor.

Gems.

And loads of ’em.

But all that matters to me is finding more skulls.

I see if I can find another skull within the pile of gems.

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Nope – no skull here.

12. Library

Shelves containing hundreds of books line the walls of this 20’ x 30’ library. A large oak desk dominates the middle of the room. The legs of the desk are carved to resemble coiled dragons. Behind it is a chair of similar design.
In one corner of this library stands an assembled suit of plate mail armor clutching a sword.
On the desk is a leather bound volume and what looks to be an iron candelabra fashioned to resemble a hydra with nine heads.

Search the desk drawers, check out the armour with caution, search inside it and examine/read the leather bound volume.

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The tome is useless to me since I am not a wizard, but at least the armour is not alive.

I find another skull in one of the locked drawers which requires the key I obtained from the Master Bedroom.

Unfortunately, there is also an imp armed with a suggestion spell and his first suggestion is to get me to break the glass sphere in the Master Bedroom, with the justification that it will contain something important.

The DC to pass the saving throw is 10 and I roll a 9 in total, which means I could have been screwed if I did not cast resistance before entering the room, as per my Default Behaviour.

So Anders is saved by his caution – for now.

The imp will likely follow me around and according to the D&D Next statblock, the ability recharges on a roll of 6 – so I will assume that the imp will cast the spell on me each time I enter a room.

13. Closet A

You open the door to a closet and see a completely empty 10’ x 10’ room inside. You are momentarily startled and something unseen brushes across your feet.

DC 10 Wisdom saving throw vs. suggestion: 13 – success.

I look down to see what brushed my feet.

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I don’t see anything.

No one else can see me either – at least for an hour – thanks to the invisibility spell that is now affecting me.

I guess that includes the imp, then.

11. Guest Bedroom B

This 15’ x 20’ room is adorned with a large four post bed with a canopy curtain. The bed is set with crimson blankets and gold colored pillows. There is also a large wooden dresser which appears to be made of cherry wood. Sitting on the dresser is a fine set of silver grooming items.

Search under the bed, the mattress, inside the pillows and the drawers of the wooden dresser.

I scroll down.

And immediately, I am prompted to make a DC 15 Perception check with a +4 bonus, due to me approaching the bed so I can search it.

I roll a natural 1 and notice nothing strange about the bed.

Nothing else of note here.

10. Guest Bedroom A

This 15’ x 20’ room contains a bed, dresser and chair, all of unremarkable quality. The item of furniture that captures your attention is the ornate chest resting in the northwest corner.
It appears to be made of wood of a reddish hue and is bound in copper. The motif of a horse is carved into the lid.

I search the bed, dresser and ornate chest in the northwest corner.

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And suddenly I am around 6 inches tall…

As the dizziness passes you look in amazement at your surroundings. The chest, which was two feet in height, now stands at over twenty feet tall. In fact, the entire room has grown. The twenty feet from one wall to the other now spans over two hundred.
Movement beneath the bed catches your attention as a giant centipede skitters into view. It stares at you through stygian eyes as its antennae twitch in excitement at the prospect of an easy meal.

Good job I’m invisible, then.

I probably won’t be able to open the chest or dresser drawers as I am now.

So I’ll see if I can return to normal size by exiting the room.

If not, I’ll look around and see if there is something that can help me get back to normal.

Failing that, I’ll just have to wait until the spell wears off – if it does at all.

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So crossing the threshold of the door works and I’m back to normal.

Then I shrink again once I re-enter the room.

So how do I get that chest?

The first thing that comes to mind is to use a rope and grappling hook – neither of which I have. Perhaps I can find something similar inside the manor.

Failing that, I’ll just have to go back to town and find a store.

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Okay, I see that a quicker solution would be to tie a rope around the chest while shrunken and then leave the room holding the other end of the rope. You can then pull the chest across the room when you’re back to normal.

But hey, my intelligence is 9 – I’m not even supposed to be able to think of ideas like this in the first place 🙂 .

It’s moot anyway – I don’t have a rope.

9. Second Floor Hallway

Incidentally, this area was labelled as Area 8, which is wrong. Area 8 in the map for this adventure is actually the pantry that is part of the kitchen.

At the top of the stairs a hallway runs the entire length of the west side of the manor. There must be an open window nearby as there is a slight breeze in the air.

Sounds like there isn’t much to do but look around for a window.

However, with the strange things that are going on, I suspect that the breeze could be the result of some latent magical effect in this area.

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And I am right.

There is a huge gust of wind as soon as I pass the halfway point of the hallway.

I roll 21 on my saving throw against the spell DC of 13.

Having explored the whole floor, all that is left for me to is to explore the third floor which is accessible via the trapdoor on the ceiling of 15. The Master Bedroom.

18. Attic Room

The trap door opens into a windowless 15’ x 20’ room. The only item of furniture is a square table with a candle on it. Lying on the floor next to the table is a body of a woman. She appears to be similarly dressed to Rivana Greywyre and is clutching a skull in her dead hands.

Aside from the skull, which I will take, I will examine the body of the woman.

And of course, I will speak to Rivana Greywyre…

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I read her story.

Knowing what I do about ghosts (Intelligence (Religion) check), I suppose the best way to send Rivana to her final rest would be to complete this quest.

Being the selfless sort, I do as she asks.

I will also need to be on the lookout for this “devilish creature with a scorpion’s tail”.

19. Main Attic

This large cluttered room runs almost the entire length of the building. It is filled with all manner of strange objects of both occult and mundane nature.
In the immediate vicinity you spot a birdcage, a stuffed two headed cat, a pile of fortune telling bones, a hunk of black ore inlaid with veins of red, antique holy symbols from several long dead religions and a what looks like a mummified hand.
On the far side of the room you see a wooden door inlaid with a metallic silver moon with a keyhole in the center.

Okay, I guess I’ll rummage through everything and see if I can turn up another skull, examine the birdcage, the cat, the bones and the ore.

I’ll also look at the symbols and try and identify some of the religions the holy symbols belong to.

I’ll even examine the mummified hand in case it come to life and tries to strangle me.

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The text mentions one random wondrous item can be found here. If you have the Dungeon Master’s Guide, you can generate this randomly.

It also mentions that the poltergeists and the imp will attack here, but neither will know that Anders is invisible at the moment.

And a door bars the way to Area 20. Unfortunately, I don’t have the key.

Returning to Town

It seems like a good time to go and buy that grappling hook.

The journey to and from town will take 2 hours in total – more than enough time for my invisibility spell to wear off…

Note: At this point, I’ve completely forgotten that the magic surrounding the manor will trap me inside and there is no way of leaving, save disabling the strange magic surrounding the manor. Since I don’t realise this until I’ve literally completed the adventure, I guess I’ll let it pass, rather than try to re-edit this…

Two Hours Later…

So I return to 10. Guest Bedroom A with rope and a grappling hook. Getting the chest will now be easy.

I find a metal box with 100gp (which I don’t take) and a skull.

So off I go to attach that skull onto the skeleton that it belongs to.

Problem.

I’ve explored the whole house and one skull is still missing.

The most common sense answer would be to search the house again – a bit more thoroughly, this time.

Unfortunately, this will inevitably draw the attention of the imp again.

I also know that another skull is hidden in 5. Parlor A. I feel justified in trying to solve the puzzle and obtain the skull, since I did suspect it was important the first time round.

So let’s go back to 5. Parlor A, but not before the imp casts suggestion on me.

I make the save and become aware that something is following me around, even if I don’t see it.

The imp is quick to flee and hide again.

5. Parlor A

To avoid looking at the text that reveals the answer to this puzzle, it might be a good idea to copy the chess board image and paste it in Paint or some other image editing program.

Failing that, zoom right in and shrink the PDF window, so that you are only looking at the image of the chess board.

After studying the chess board for a while, I can see that moving the black knight to C3 will effectively end the game.

But what does the imp have to say about this?

Since the imp intends for me to suffer, he casts suggestion again and suggests I move the pieces randomly until something happens.

I roll a 3 which, when combined with my Wisdom modifier and proficiency bonus, gives me 8 – two points shy of the result needed to beat the imp’s DC of 10.

Resistance cantrip to the rescue again, I roll 1d4 and roll a 4, giving me a total of 12.

Imp flees when I hear its voice.

Back to the chess game and I move the knight… I win!

A secret compartment opens and I take the last skull, place it on the skeleton it belongs to and take the key to Area 20.

Before I can go into the room, I will need to contend with the imp – who has now become desperate.

It will cast suggestion once more (which fails again – natural 20 on my save), before rushing in and attempting to take my life by force.

After a rather difficult battle, I finally manage to defeat the imp.

But I’m almost dead and the poltergeists have started chucking items at me. One of them manages to knock me out.

I make all my death saving throws without dropping any.

Cheers, Lathander.

Upon waking up, I retreat to a safe place and rest up.

20. Wizard’s Study

Upon entering 19. Main Attic again, the poltergeists begin throwing their objects at me. I use the dodge action as I make my way to the door to the Wizard’s Study. I open the door and enter the room, slamming the door shut behind me.

You open the door and find yourself in Astabar’s study. There are several tables covered in vials and bottles of various components and materials. A large bookshelf holds several dozen volumes of magic lore.
On the table in the middle of the room there is a multicolored wand shaped to resemble a unicorn’s horn. It is sitting in what looks like a magic circle drawn on the tabletop.
You also notice a black oak chest to the right of the door.

I will examine the materials and components, look at some of the books and open the chest.

Finally, I go and examine the wand.

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I can’t open the chest yet as I don’t have the key.

And when I examine the wand, I find myself in a different plane of existance. I also find myself face to face with the corpse of Astabar – who is rather hungry…

He has a magic dagger, so I’ll let him use it.

After a bit of a scare (not helped by the two natural 1’s in a row that I rolled for my attack rolls), I manage to survive the battle and ultimately deal with the creature quite easily, thanks to it’s low AC.

Trouble is, I’m trapped in the ethereal plane, since I am using only one character in this game.

But as I suggested, you can use some of the rules in Solo Heroes, notably the ‘One Pair of Hands’ optional rule on page 4 of the eBook.

It’s also not unreasonable to assume that Rivana will come to my aid (see 4. Servants Dining Area), though a roll will need to be made to see how long it takes for Rivana to find someone else.

If it takes more than several days, you can be sure your character(s) will die from starvation.

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Conclusion

One thing I didn’t really take into account is the presence of poltergeists.

If I were to play again, I would probably treat them as random encounters that I would encounter on a roll of 17 on a d20.

Hopefully, you can see that  you can see from the journal above that a good game of D&D is possible, even if the dungeon master information is laid out in front of you.

As well, hopefully you can see that, by being a step ahead with the Default Behaviours, I have been able to prevent myself from simply reading ahead and taking the most favourable options.






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