The Shadowhaven Crypt

Real life responsibilities pulled me reluctantly away from tabletop role-playing games at some point in the late 1990s. It wasn’t until 2014 that I dusted myself off and started to participate in the hobby again. I wasn’t completely without an escape during this time. I started playing World of Warcraft about four months after launch and I played regularly until the end of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

While my WoW days are well behind me, something about working on my map for this week’s post kept bringing me back to the venerable video game that will be turning 20 next year. If you have fond memories of the Warcraft universe, enjoy this silly escape. If not, please allow me this indulgence and I’ll be back to regular posts soon enough.  

The Shadowhaven Crypt

In Duskwood, hidden away just south of the Tranquil Gardens Cemetery lies the entrance to the Shadowhaven Crypt. Barnabas Shadowhaven was a wealthy Stormwind merchant who had retired to this region back in the days when it was still known as Brightwood. Whispers had circulated about Shadowhaven being involved in questionable practices. Some claimed that he dabbled in forbidden magics, while others believed he had dealings with unsavory entities from the shadowy realms. The exact nature of these rumors remained nebulous, but they were enough to create an air of suspicion and mistrust around him.

Tranquil Garden Cemetery.

Such it was that there wasn’t a great deal of fanfare surrounding his passing. His estate in Grand Hamlet had been boarded up and razed some years later as the town expanded. By the time of Medivh’s passing and the change of the town’s name to Darkshire, Barnabas Shadowhaven was long since forgotten.

With the recall of the Stormwind army to other parts of the realm, the situation in Duskwood is turning grim. Their resources already stretched thin, the Night Watch has asked the party to investigate strange occurrences near the Shadowhaven Crypt and put to rest whatever dwells there.

Entrance – 1

The entrance to the crypt is marked by a massive, banded iron door embossed with the name Shadowhaven. Its aged surface bears signs of wear, hinting at the passage of time and the mysteries that lie beyond. While the door appears quite old and the surrounding area is overgrown, it pulls open easily.

Upon opening the door, the party will immediately be attacked by 3 Skeletal Warriors, and 2 Skeletal Ghouls. If defeated, these mobs will yield the following: 20 silver pieces, 10 wool cloth, 2 delicious cave mold, a brocade cloak, & 3 moonberry juice.

Oddly, a lit torch a placed in a sconce on either side of the entrance. Opposite the door, the hall leads south to a staircase going down.

Rickety Swing Bridge – 2

A rickety swing bridge spans a 10-foot chasm here. It stretches precariously between 4 wooden stakes. As the party steps onto the bridge, they can hear the distant rush of water echoing from about 30 feet below. The bridge sways with each step, testing their balance and nerve as they carefully make their way across the gap. While this looks dangerous, the party has nothing to fear here unless they do anything crazy.

Dining Room – 3

While certainly an odd thing to be found within a crypt, this large room appears to be a dining room. 2 Restless Spirits are busily setting the table when the party arrives. Upon entering the room, both will crossly scold the party and inform them that “supper is not ready yet!”


If the party closes the door and does not enter the room, the spirits will go back to their work. Otherwise, they will attack. If defeated, the spirits will drop the following: 12 silver pieces, 6 copper pieces, 4 Silk Cloth, 1 Healing Potion, & a bludgeoning cudgel.

The Larder – 4

This room is empty save for an assortment of crates and barrels. The contents of most of these has long since rotted away. However, a thorough search turns up some old herbs and spices, along with oil & vinegar in earthenware containers.

Bone Chamber – 5

Skeletal Raider

This small room is littered with bones and a cage toward the eastern edge of the room. If the part simply crosses through the room and exits via the door on the other side, nothing will happen. However, if the party disturbs any of the piles of bones or tampers with the cage, a chill wind will blow through the room and 3 Skeletal Raiders will form from the bones and attack.

If defeated, the following loot may be recovered from the room: 28 silver pieces, 8 pieces of Silk Cloth, & a broken mirror.

Natural Cavern – 6

This cave’s irregular walls bear the marks of untamed nature. Within this chamber, a natural spring emerges from a hole in the western wall, creating a small tranquil pool in the center of the room. The soothing sound of water echoes as it spills over a small waterfall and flows out through the eastern wall, lending an atmosphere of serenity amidst the crypt’s mysterious ambience.

While this cavern may seem calm, a nest of 4 Black Widow Hatchlings has made a nest in the opposite corner. Once any characters venture to the center of the room, they will scurry from their nest and attack! A thorough search of the nest will yield the following items: 1 Widow Venom Sac, 2 pieces of Spider’s Silk, and a pair of inscribed leather spaulders.

Burial Chamber – 7

This small, dimly lit cavern holds a stone sarcophagus at its heart. The stone surface is etched with intricate carvings and the room exudes an aura of reverence.

In death, Barnabas Shadowhaven has become a Rotted One. He will rise from his final rest to attack the party as soon as they enter the chamber. Joining in the attack will be d12 Plague Rats who scurry from the walls.

Following the fight, surviving party members will discover a small chest within the sarcophagus. Contained withing are papers indicating that Shadowhaven had dabbled in necromancy prior to his death. Apparently he fancied the idea of becoming a lich but must have met his end prior to mastering the art. Also located within the chest are 32 silver pieces, a moss agate, a jade, and a cobalt ring.

Final Thoughts

I’ve kicked around the idea of a Warcraft themed campaign from time to time. My players tend to be folks with very little gaming experience (tabletop or otherwise), so it would allow me with a lore-rich setting to run a West Marches style campaign. Love it or hate it, I know I could do a session zero with a group of friends and play them the original World of Warcraft cinematic trailer to generate a great deal of excitement.

Thanks for stopping by. What experience if any have you had with World of Warcraft? Have you ever dabbled with the setting along with your ttrpgs? Have you played Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game or World of Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game. I’d be curious to hear about either, as they each were released while I was away from the hobby.

Over the years I’ve stumbled across some folks who have put quite a bit of work into some Warcraft resources for 5e. I’m thinking of going in another direction but if this sort of thing interests you, check out:

The WC5e Project

Champions of Azeroth

That’s all for this week. Thanks again & have a great week. If you’d like to see some other maps with plot hooks, here you go.

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The Beast of Zarechka – Part 3

This week I’m going to get to the bottom of things and expose the beast who has been terrorizing the village of Zarechka. With all of that aside I will wrap up by providing a number of suggestions and unanswered questions to hopefully spur ideas that you can use in your own games. For those of you who are just finding me, here are links to Part 1 & Part 2 respectively.

Up to this point the party’s investigations will point them toward the ruins of Kelthura. The remains of this ancient city are nestled at the foot of the mountains to the northeast. Little is known of the peoples who once lived there, though local legends claim that they were practitioners of dark magic. The ruins themselves are largely shunned by the locals and have gradually been swallowed up by the marsh over the years.

For the GM

It’s for good reason that all signs point toward the ruins of Kelthura. Unknown to the rest of the villagers, the young seamstress Anya Ivanova would sometimes visit the marshy area to gather mushrooms and enjoy the solitude. Six weeks ago, on a day when the foraging was particularly fruitful, she ventured deep enough into the marsh to actually come face to face with some of the Kelthurian structures that still stand.

Something compelled the young woman to continue exploring until she came to a crumbling wall covered with crude paintings. The scene on the wall seemed to portray a wizard dealing with what seemed to be a creature that was part man but yet part beast. She was inexplicably fascinated with the paintings and followed them until the came to a pedestal upon which rested a large ruby. Mesmerized by the beauty of the jewel, Anya snatched up the gemstone and took it back to her modest home.

There was no way for the young seamstress to know what calamity this simple act would unleash. You see, ages ago, the city of Kelthura was home to practitioners of dark magic. One such magic user had summoned into the world a terrible creature, bent on carnage. The wizard had bound the beast to his will and used it to put an end to his enemies. However, when the creature became too much too control, the thaumaturge performed a ritual that placed the beast in stasis, as long as the ruby was undisturbed. Removing the ruby had ended that and deep within the marsh, an unspeakable evil awoke.

While Anya arrived safely home to her cottage that day, the beast had been awakened. From that day forward its unsatiable hunger drove it to venture out from the ruins in order to feed.

Through the first couple of attacks, she remained completely unaware that the creature preying on villagers had anything to do with the ruins. However, on the terrible day that she finally came face to face with beast, she immediately recalled the crude paintings on the walls in Kelthura. With her dying act she attempted to scrawl out a message to warn whoever might find her body.

The Beast of Zarechka

I wanted the creature terrorizing Zarechka to be something different altogether. When I first sat down to write this I was picturing a werewolf as being the culprit. From there I went to a barghest and even something as simple as a giant wolf. Instead, I settled on a custom creature that combines wolf and humanoid features. As I often do in my home games, I wanted to maintain an air of mystery that would make the adventure more engaging and memorable.  

Since my posts are designed to simply provide little plot hooks and ideas for my readers, I’ll leave to true nature of the beast up to you. I suggest that you try to keep your players on their toes. Our players are frequently well-versed all of the different monsters in the published game books. The meta knowledge can really detract from what should be a chilling encounter.

The Beast of Zarechka. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.

The Beast of Zarechka is a terrifying creature that appears to be a hybrid of a wolf and a human. Standing 9 feet tall on its hind legs, the creature weighs nearly 400 pounds. Having olive colored skin, a well-muscled physique is visible from a frontal view.  However, its back is covered from head to toe in jet black fur.

The monster has pointed ears and a mouth full of sharp, bestial teeth. Glowing red eyes seem to pierce through anyone who looks into them. Its hands are large and possess long, sharp claws, capable of tearing through flesh with ease. The creature’s legs are powerful and built like those of a great wolf. It moves with a grace and agility that belies its size and can seamlessly switch between sprinting on all fours and standing on two legs to fight or intimidate its prey.

Having spent an age in the ruins of Kelthura, the beast is still bound to the location. Whether this is due to some magical means or simply from a sense of familiarity, I will leave up to you. It ventures out to feed, ranging far enough to locate suitable prey but always returns to the ruins once sated. As such, it is likely that it will be in the marsh surrounding the ruins that the party will ultimately encounter the beast.

The Marsh

The villagers in Zarechka will gladly provide detailed directions to the marsh. As the party makes their way through the dense undergrowth, anyone with tracking or survival skills will pick up a trail. If the party investigated Dimitri Kozlov’s Farm, they would recognize these as being the same tracks. With the hind feet of a great wolf and occasional impressions of large, clawed human hands, they are indeed unique.

The ground beneath the party’s feet will gradually soften and the tracks will be easier to follow as they approach the marsh and the ruins of Kelthura. A broken stone bridge leads out into the stagnant water. Only a foot deep at the bank, the tracks clearly show that the beast passed through this way recently.

On the opposite bank, roughly 70’ away, the party will be able to make out some man-made structures. While crumbling and overgrown, these are the first signs of the ruins of Kelthura. If any of the party members set foot into the water, a piercing howl will ring out from across the way. Venturing forward, the party will find that the water is only 2’ deep, even at its deepest. Unfortunately, the water depth is not the problem. The same telltale mud that helped to direct the party here in the first place is also quite a hindrance. Consider this to be difficult terrain and movement speed will be halved.

After spending 1 full round in the water, characters will start to sink in the mud. At this point, to move through the mud, each party member must make a Strength check or Athletics check (whichever is higher). The DC will start at 12 for the lighter areas on the map and increase to 15 for the darker, more treacherous areas. If a party member fails this check, they become mired in the mud. They are restrained and unable to move until they are freed. A mired party member can be assisted by another party member who is not mired. The assisting character must use their action to make a successful Strength check or Athletics check against the same DC. If successful, they can pull their ally free from the mud.

As the party struggles through the treacherous mud, a chilling silence settles over the marsh. It’s at that point that the beast will attack. With a bestial howl, the beast rises from beneath the remnants of the bridge, on the small patch of dry land ahead.

As a lair action, I allow the beast to move through the water and mud while ignoring the penalties faced by the characters. In this manner I maintain some of the terror of the situation. Let’s face it, in real life (or even a movie) an encounter like this would be scary business. However, often in TTRPGs, the party can feel like a group of superheroes and a single foe is hardly intimidating. I opted for this as a way to ratchet up the tension. It allows this primal creature to move gracefully and attack where it will have the greatest impact. As with deciding upon the nature of the beast itself, choose its abilities based on what will best fit your game.

The Outcome

Assuming the party defeats the beast, they will surely want to return to Zarechka to claim their reward from mayor Russoff. However, there are quite a few other twists and turns that you could build on from here.

  • The ruins of Kelthura themselves could certainly be expanded upon. What mysteries and treasures lie deeper within the ruins? Certainly, the grateful people of Zarechka would be more that happy to allow the party to use the village as their base of operations for further exploration.
  • Will the party ever fi the ruby that Anya Ivanova discovered? If so, will they be able to puzzle out that the beast had been held in stasis for years? Are there other being held in a similar state?
  • While it didn’t come into play for this adventure, one of the rumors mentioned that old man Igor believed the attacks were the result of a curse brought upon the village by a witch who had been banished years ago. Is she still out there and will all of the recent commotion bring her around?

Closing Thoughts

This one got away from me a bit. My intention has always been to focus on “bite-sized” source material and I don’t think a 3-parter fits well within that framework.

Depending on the system that you are running, this will require some work on your part (particularly in terms of the nature of the beast and the mechanics of the marsh battle). That said, please understand that I’m merely trying to provide snippets of ideas for you to build on. Remember, everything can be tailored to fit your party’s power level and preferences. Feel free to adapt and modify everything to suit your game and create an exciting and memorable encounter. Take what you want and leave the rest.

I appreciate you taking the time to stop by. If you’ve found any of this useful, please drop a note in the comments and if you’d like to see some of my other creations, I’ve listed them here. Thanks and have a great week!

The Beast of Zarechka – Part 2

The week I’m going to continue the adventure. I had hoped to be able to knock this out in two posts but it looks like it’s going to be 3. If you missed part 1, you may find it here.

I will pick up were we left off last week with covering the remaining areas that the party may want to visit. As a result of their investigations, it is likely the adventurers will zero in on the ruins of Kelthura as a likely location to search for the beast.

Kelthura was an ancient city nestled at the foot of the mountains to the northeast. Little is known of the peoples who once lived there, though local legends claim that they were practitioners of dark magic. The ruins themselves are largely shunned by the locals and have gradually been swallowed up by the marsh over the years.

Location #3 Anya Ivanova’s Foraging Spot

If the party should inquire about Anya Ivanova, the villagers will be able to direct them to where her body was found.  The most recent victim, her remains were recovered 3 days ago. She was found in the woods, a little over two miles from the village and across a small stream. Luckily she was known to often forage for mushrooms and herbs in the area or it may have taken much longer to find her.

Arriving on the scene, the party will note signs of a recent disturbance at the location (marked with a #3 on the map). The earth is upturned and a few broken twigs and crushed leaves are scattered around. The area is surrounded by tall trees, their branches creating a canopy overhead, filtering the sunlight, and casting the forest floor in a dappled light.

Off to the side of the clearing, the party spots a large, flat rock. As they approach, they see that it’s been defaced with a chilling message. Scrawled in a deep red color, clearly blood, are the letters “Kel…” before the message trails off. It is possible that villagers may provide the party with this clue without them venturing out to the location themselves. However, without any of the other clues, none of the villagers will be able to speculate as to what it means.

Location #4 The Berry Patch

The berry patch is where Valentyna Russoff caught a glimpse of the beast. Alongside Alexi’s farm, this area is well-maintained. Rows of trees and bushes are neatly arranged in the fertile soil. The air is thick with the sweet scent of ripe berries, and the sounds of buzzing bees and chirping birds can be heard all around.

As the party arrives on the scene they will notice a group of rough-looking men milling about in the patch. This is the group of outsiders who arrived in town last week. They brought with them the carcass of a giant wolf and attempted to claim the reward for killing the beast. When the mayor refused to pay, the group became disgruntled and unruly.

There is some room here to play this out at you like. It is certainly possible that this group of 5 ruffians won’t take kindly to the fact that the party has been “snooping” around town and possibly honing in on their quarry. If you need to kill some time, the outsiders could become belligerent and end up fighting the party right in the berry patch.

In the event that a fight does break out, the group will surrender as soon as the party starts to get the upper hand. This is just a group of random thugs and they will not be prepared to go toe to toe with an equipped adventuring party.

Whether there is an altercation or not, this encounter is here to give you the ability to pass extra information on to the party as needed. If you are short on time and need to keep things clipping along, these fellows could pass along the clues found at any of the other sites. This could be done as an apology for getting involved in a skirmish or in hope of getting a few coins from the thankful adventurers.

Back to the Village?

To keep this as simple as possible there are 3 main clues the party might uncover while they investigate sites related to the attacks. Any other these on their own aren’t going to be enough to tip the party off in any particular direction. However, should the party inquire about the clues with the villagers, a clear picture will start to form that it would be wise to head to the ruins of Kelthura.

Villagers will recognize the rune on the pendant as being similar to those found in the ruins of Kelthura. Artwork © 2015 Dean Spencer, used with permission. All rights reserved.
  • The reddish mud found at location #1: Villagers with outdoorsy type occupations will be able to point out that mud resembling this is common in the marshy areas at the foot of the mountains to the northeast.
  • The pendant with the strange rune found at location #2: Old-timers will recognize the rune as coming from an ancient people who resided in a city named “Kelthura”. The ruins of Kelthura are actually located roughly 5 miles to the northeast. What they won’t realize is the fact that the pendant had been around the beast’s neck. Lawrence managed to rip it off during the struggle.
  • “Kel…”: The letters that Anya scrawled won’t mean much to anyone on their own. However, combined with either of the other two clues, the connection may be made that perhaps she was trying to write “Kelthura”. As someone who would often lose herself in her forest wanderings, Anya was known to sometimes venture to the ruins. Why she would choose to communicate the name of these ancient ruins would still be a bit of a mystery.

Armed with these bits of information it is likely that the party will want to know more about the ruins of Kelthura. If they conclude their investigations and are still not drawn to the ruins, I suggest having the beast make another attack on one of the outlying villagers. This will allow the adventurers to get to the scene while it is still fresh and find fresh tracks that will lead them to Kelthura.

To be continued!

That’s going to do it for me for this week. In my next post I’ll uncover the beast itself, describe the ruins of Kelthura, and provide a number of unanswered questions to hopefully spark ideas for your campaign.

In the meantime if you’d like to check out any other maps with plot hooks I’ve collected them here.

Hello future people! I’ve completed part 3 and you may find it here!

Thank you for reading and have a great week!