The Beast of Zarechka – Part 1

Darkness looms over the quiet village of Zarechka and rumors of a fearsome beast spread through the countryside. For weeks now, the villagers have lived in terror as a malevolent creature strikes without warning, leaving behind only death and destruction in its wake.

The mayor has put out a call for brave adventurers to come forth and hunt down the beast. But as the party begins their investigation, they soon discover that there may be more to this mystery than meets the eye. Will they uncover the truth behind the terror, or fall prey to the same fate as those who came before them?

This week I’m back with another plot-hook to get your creative juice flowing. As always, I’ll try to keep this as system agnostic as possible. Rather than provide a complete adventure, I’ll set the stage and let you fill in the blanks in the manner that would best suit your table. This week’s will be a three-parter. I’ll set the stage today and then follow up with the rest.


Zarechka is a small village nestled at the foot of a range of forested hills, in a remote corner of Borea. The village is situated near a small river, which provides water for the villagers’ crops and animals.

Houses in the village are made of wood and stone, with thatched roofs and small gardens. The villagers are mostly farmers and craftsmen, and they lead simple lives, working hard to make a living in the rugged wilderness that surrounds them.

Despite its peaceful and welcoming appearance, Zarechka has been terrorized by a series of brutal assaults over the past month. The attacks have been gruesome and concentrated on those outside of the village, including farmers, travelers, and livestock. The villagers have heard haunting howls and strange noises emanating from the nearby forest at night and are certain that a savage beast is responsible.

The village’s mayor, Jacob Russoff, has grown desperate for a solution and has turned to the party for help. Upon arriving in Zarechka, they will feel the palpable tension and fear that grips the village. Folk look at them with a mixture of hope and desperation, praying that they are the ones who will put an end to the reign of terror that has befallen their town.

I’ve included a basic map for the village of Zarechka. Feel free to use it or simply swap in a village from your existing campaign. In terms of the availability of good and services, keep in mind that Zarechka is located in a remote area, so characters will not have access to everything that they might expect to find in a large city.

The Attacks

The attacks started nearly a month ago with the brutal killing of a farmer named Dimitri Kozlov, who lived in a remote cabin near the edge of the forest. Since then, there have been similar attacks with livestock being taken and people being killed. Villagers have also heard haunting howls and strange noises emanating from the forest at night. Despite their efforts to defend themselves, the attacks have become more frequent in recent weeks, and the villagers are now living in constant fear.

Mayor Russoff may be able to provide valuable information. © J Lonnee, 2011. Licensed by Nevermet Press, LLC. Used by permission.

The party will surely want to ask the mayor for any information that he can provide regarding the attacks. It is also likely that they will spend some time gathering information from the villagers. Anyone within the village or outlying area will be able to also tell the party will be able to tell the party about the other two victims.

The second victim was a shepherd named Lawrence Talbot, who was found dead in the early morning hours by his fellow shepherds. A young woman named Anya Ivanova was the third. She was a local seamstress who was found dead in the woods, after venturing out to forage for herbs and mushrooms.

Below are a number additional rumors that the party is likely to uncover. (A “T” will indicate that there is at least some truth to the rumor while an “F” will indicate that it is entirely false.)

  • (T) The mayor’s daughter claims to have seen the creature in the forest while she was out picking berries. Valentyna Russoff actually did catch a glimpse of the creature in broad daylight and should be able to provide a basic description. She would also be able to direct the party to the location of the berry patch.
  • (F) Old man Igor believes the attacks are the result of a curse brought upon the village by a witch who was banished many years ago.
  • (T) A group of outsiders passing through town claim to have killed the beast and are looking for a reward for their services. This group arrived in the village last week, with the carcass of a large wolf. They demanded a reward for slaying “the beast”. However, the mayor did not believe that their claim was true and refused to pay. The group left the village, clearly upset and vowing their revenge for having been wronged.
  • (T) A farmer named Alexei saw the beast dragging off one of his cows in the middle of the night. Alexi’s farm is not far from where Valentyna Russoff saw the beast. Unfortunately, he saw it at night and from the back, so while he can describe it, his description would be similar to that of a great bear.
  • (F) A visiting scholar from the city believes the attacks are the result of a rogue experiment conducted by a mad scientist who lives in the area.
  • (T) A blacksmith named Mikhail claims to have found large, clawed footprints near the scene of one of the attacks. Mikhail made a bronze cast of the tracks, and they seem to resemble those of an incredibly large wolf.
  • (F) A young woman named Katerina believes the attacks are the result of a vengeful spirit seeking revenge for an old injustice.
  • (F) A hunter named Sergei claims to have seen the beast with his own eyes while he was out tracking a bear. If asked, he will provide the description of an owlbear.
  • (F) A traveling merchant believes the attacks are the result of a group of bandits who are using the cover of the beast to mask their activities.
  • (T) A farmer named Vlad claims to have heard the beast howling in the woods at night, and the howls were unlike anything he had ever heard before. Vlad is well-acquainted with the sound of wolves, and he can assure the party that this was no wolf.

These rumors are a little homage to B2 The Keep on the Borderlands and something that I come back to in many of my adventures. Use them at your discretion and according to what need from the adventure. If you’re tight on time and just using this as a one-shot, you might eliminate the false rumors altogether. On the other hand, if you’re needing to kill time while you work on other parts of your campaign, some red herrings might keep your party tied up for a while.

I’m going to be fleshing out some of the areas that the party is likely to want to explore. I will not be adding information for any of the false leads that they may receive from the villagers. That bit I’ll leave up to you. For instance, there was a witch who was banished years ago, and a mad scientist does reside in the area. However, since neither of them has anything to do with the beast of Zarechka, I will not be discussing them here.

The Investigation

After having had a chance to speak with mayor Russoff and other villagers, there are 4 main locations that the party is likely to want to investigate. I’ve marked these as #1- #4 on the local area map and will describe them.

Location #1 Dimitri Kozlov’s Farm

Dimitri’s farm lies just over a mile north of Zarechka. Arriving on the scene, the party will find that the fields have not been tended to in quite some time and the animals have already been removed by other villagers.

The farmer was taken from inside his cabin, which sits at the edge of the forest. The door has been shattered and the splintered wood around the latch suggests that whatever broke in was large and powerful. The door is slightly ajar, creaking back and forth in the breeze.

The cabin is in a state of disarray, with furniture overturned and personal belongings strewn about. Blood stains the walls and floor, and scattered furniture indicates that something grisly occurred here. There is no body or any form of substantial remains, aside from the splatters of blood. Villagers will be able to confirm that the scene remains exactly as it was originally found.

A keen eye will notice reddish mud or clay tracks on the floor. Rangers or characters with appropriate nature skills will recognize these as resembling those of a great wolf, but only for the hind feet. They will also note that they have not seen this reddish mud anywhere else in the area. As they inspect the scene further, they will also spot large human handprints alongside the wolf tracks. Something terrible has happened here.

As this was the first attack and occurred nearly a month ago, tracking the beast outside of the cabin will be fruitless. The key clues here will be the types of tracks, as well as the reddish mud. Once they are back in Zarechka, the villagers may be able to provide some insight into the mud. I will cover that in part 2.

Location # 2 Lawrence Talbot’s Shepherd Post

This field, situated at the foot of a gentle slope, can be found about two miles north of the village. The grass here is lush and green, and the occasional wildflower can be seen swaying in the breeze. The air is filled with the gentle sound of bleating sheep and the rustling of leaves in the wind.

It is in this idyllic setting that Lawrence Talbot tended his flock before his grisly demise. Though his remains have long since been removed, the rocks at the foot of the hills still bear stains of his blood. A sense of unease lingers in the air, as if some dark force still haunts this peaceful field.

Other shepherds in the area will be able to point the party to where Lawrence’s remains were found. Aside from the blood on the rocks, nothing else is immediately evident. However, a thorough search of the area will turn up a broken leather thong on which rests a pendant engraved with a strange rune. Villagers back in Zarechka may be able to shed some light on the nature of the rune but I will cover that in part 2 next week.

To be continued!

I truly appreciate you taking the time to stop by. If you are enjoying yourself, I encourage you to please say hello in the comments below. Part 2 has already been posted and you may find it here. Part 3 has also now been posted and you may find it here.

I’ve dropped a few Easter eggs into this one and I took inspiration for this adventure from the story of the Beast of Gévaudan. If you’d rather listen to something than read, I’d suggest checking out the Stuff You Missed In History Class episode.

Finally, if you’d just like to see more of my maps with plot hooks, you may find them here. That’s all for now. Have a great week and good gaming!

The Trident of Mareen

This week I am picking up where I left off with The Chapel of St. Sigmund & the Grotto of Mareen. The followers of the Cult of Mareen have grown increasingly concerned about the encroachment of the Graun Empire on their way of life. With the rise of the church of Aunul, the traditional worship of traditional deities like Mareen has been deemed unacceptable by the empire and its religious advisors.

Having encountered followers of Mareen in their travels, my party was tasked with recovering an ancient relic. A few years ago, the church of Aunul raided a seaside shrine to Mareen and stole a sacred golden trident that was said to have been blessed by the queen of the seas herself.

The Trident of Mareen has since been kept in the nearby town of Marion, at the Archive of St. Sigmund. Established by the church of Aunul, the archive is a museum and library that houses relics and documents related to the faith of Aunul. The archive serves as a museum and library devoted to the faith of Aunul. While the party’s contact was unsure of the trident’s exact location, they seemed fairly certain that it was being held on the 2nd floor of the building.

The party is offered a handsome sum of gold if they are able to retrieve the trident from the archive and return it to the cult of Mareen.

The Archive of St. Sigmund

The Archive of St. Sigmund is a two-story wooden building located on the outskirts of the seaside city of Marion. The structure is adorned with intricately carved wooden panels and boasts a large set of double doors at the public entrance on the south side of the building. The building is also equipped with a set of double doors on the north side, which appears to be used primarily for bringing in large items and collections.

The Archive’s façade is punctuated by numerous windows of varying sizes and shapes that allow natural light to flood the interior during the day. The windows are fitted with shutters and sturdy iron bars to prevent unauthorized entry from the outside. A large, weathered sign hangs over the main entrance, with the words “Archive of St. Sigmund” inscribed in ornate script.

The Golden Trident of Mareen

In order to recover the trident, the party will first need to locate it. While it’s not an armed camp by any means, it would not be wise for the party to storm the Archive of St. Sigmund by force. I would paint a picture to the party that the best chance of success would involve coming up with a plan to steal back the trident with as little commotion as possible. A wise party will not want to make an enemy of the church of Aunul if it can be avoided.

A subtle approach will be necessary to locate and retrieve the golden trident. Perhaps a stealthy infiltration under the cover of night, or even a cunning ruse to distract or deceive the guards would be a more suitable plan. The party will need to proceed with caution and avoid unnecessary violence if they wish to avoid attention and successfully complete their mission.

Upon close inspection of the building, the party will notice that the northernmost window on the east side of the building (leading into location #4) seems to have a rotted frame. With some effort, it may be possible to remove the bars and gain access to the building. However, caution must be taken, as any loud noises or damage to the window could alert the guards.


The entrance to the Archive of St. Sigmund is guarded by two Inquisitors of Aunul around the clock. The pair is swapped out following 4-hour shifts. They spend the majority of their shift posted at the front entrance, though every so often one will circle the building.

Inquisitor of Aunul. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

Guests are permitted to visit the archive without appointment during daylight hours. The party would be able to learn this fact from other townspeople without raising any alarm. When entering during regular business hours, visitors would be greeted by an acolyte in the cozy entranceway. This cleric would ask visitors what business they have at the archive and ask them to sign-in for their visit. Visitors would then be ushered up the stairs directly opposite the entrance, in order to view the library and exhibit rooms.

During a daytime visit like this, there will be other visitors and staff members milling about. The party will need to be cautious about attracting attention. People will be keeping an eye on the exhibits and the staff will be watching to make sure that nothing is damaged or stolen.


The office is neatly organized, with a sturdy wooden desk in the center of the room and a simple chair behind it. An inkwell and quill adorn the desk.  Shelves on the walls display scrolls, tomes, and various knick-knacks. The room is tidy, and the air is filled with the faint scent of aged paper and ink.

If the party spends any time reading through the documents here, they will find that it consists mostly of boring information regarding items comings and goings of objects from the archive.

The Laboratory

The laboratory is a cluttered room with various scientific equipment and specimens, including alchemical items. There are shelves filled with jars of preserved creatures and a large dissecting table.

The Storage Room

This is clearly a storage area. Items not on display in the exhibit space, as well as those being shipped off to other parts of the empire are stored here. The space is filled with bookshelves, crates, and boxes of various sizes.

The party should have been advised by their contact with the Cult of Mareen that the trident is believed to be hidden on the 2nd floor of the building. If they do not heed this advice, they could easily waste a great deal of time rummaging through items in this area.

While there would not be any magical items stored in this room, there certainly are a number of interesting objects. Feel free to allow the party to find some useful items as you see fit.

Research Room

This appears to be a research room. Oil lamps hang from the ceiling of this spacious room. The walls are lined with bookshelves and two large tables are pushed together in the center of this room. Tomes on the shelves are largely contain information on religious history and folklore. The wooden tables in the center of the room are cluttered with parchment scrolls, inkwells, and quills. The chairs are sturdy and comfortable.

If any amount of time is spent digging through the parchment on the tables, a handwritten note will be discovered mentioning that followers of St. Sigmund’s believe uneven numbers to be unlucky. It seems to hint at a hidden significance of odd numbers in the religious practices of the order.

The Library

The library is filled with shelves of old books that stretch up to the ceiling. The shelves are made of dark, polished wood, and the books themselves are covered in leather bindings, many of which are worn and faded with age. There are several wooden chairs placed throughout the library, each one sturdy and well-worn from years of use.

Do what works for your game but whenever my players happen to have access to a library like this I like to make it worth their while. Obviously it would be impossible for me to rattle off the name of every title present in the library, let along what they contain. However, if I have a player asks about something specific I’ll often consider it and at least come up with a percentile chance that they will find what they are looking for.

For instance, if they party happened to be planning future travel to the country of Kosantia, a player might inquire whether there are any books about Kosantia present. I might decide that the party finds one such book and if they take it along, I’d be willing to allow for some reasonable bonuses to skill or knowledge-based checks pertaining to the area.

The Exhibit Room

The exhibit room is a spacious chamber filled with various artifacts from the church’s history. The room has several display cases arranged around the room and along the walls, containing items such as ancient manuscripts, ceremonial armor, and textiles.

In the southwestern corner of the room is a stone statue of St. Sigmund himself, standing at a height of 7 feet. Holding a great mace in its hands, the statue is finely crafted and appears to radiate a sense of power and authority.

On the eastern wall, hangs a large painting of St. Sigmund, surrounded by a golden frame adorned with 5 golden roses. The space for the sixth rose is noticeably empty. Players who searched the Research Room (area #4) may recall that followers of St. Sigmund believe odd numbers to be unlucky or they may simply decide to look for the missing rose on their own. At any rate, if the party spends any time actually looking for the missing rose, they should be able to easily find it within d4 rounds.

Placing the rose into the empty slot on the picture frame will cause the eastern wall to shift, revealing the secret room beyond.

Secret Room

The small secret room is cramped, with a low ceiling and dusty walls. The air inside is musty and stale. The room is empty except for a small table and a cot containing a mummified body. The Trident of Mareen rests on top of the body. The body appears to be ancient and is wrapped in tattered, brown linen bandages. It is impossible to tell the gender or race of the person from the remains. What, or rather who, the body is will be a secret that I’ll leave up to the GM. The identity and reason for the remains to be here could be completely inconsequential or it could be another plot hook altogether.

One round after the party enters the secret room, they will hear a loud, grinding sound coming from the exhibit room. The statue of St. Sigmund in the Exhibit room is actually a living statue and will move to attack once the secret room has been breached!


Since I’m merely trying to spark ideas, I’ll leave the rest up to you.

  • Will the fight with the statue draw the inquisitor’s attention?
  • Could even more reinforcements arrive?
  • What’s up with the mummified body in the secret room?
  • Does the Trident of Mareen have any magical properties?
  • Did the Cult of Mareen have any ulterior motives in hiring the party to retrieve it?

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Thank you for stopping by. Please take a minute to say hello and if you’d like to read some more, here are some convenient links

All of my posts detailing the locations in Cross Tree are located here.

For a list of all of my adventure hooks with maps, click here.

My random tables are collected here.

Finally, I’ve stuck everything else here.

Good Gaming!