The Black Goat Witch

The Black Goat Witch is easy to incorporate into an ongoing campaign. The action takes place at an inn the characters happen to stop at for the night. I originally ran it for my group after we played The Ghost of Cotter’s Field. The structure of the adventure is pretty free form. There are a number of encounters with the various NPCs in the inn and a basic timeline of events. The players actions will determine the flow of the adventure. You’ll need to have The Strange Bestiary to play, since it has statistics for the Grotesque, Transitional Vampire, Witch and Zombies. It was designed for a party of Tier 1 to 2 characters. Text to be read to the players is in italics.

Synopsis

The party is traveling along the High Road when they are set upon by footpads. After a quick skirmish, they continue on their way eventually coming to the Black Goat Inn. Weary for the road and their combat, they decide to stay the night (the only other option being a night in the Briarwood). Little do they realize that they will be getting no rest this night. Helen, the serving maid, has been possessed by a long-dead witch. Now in control of a young body, she is eager to renew her trade; the current owner and his family stand in her way however. In order to rectify this problem, she has cursed the owners’ daughter with vampirism. Once the girl has dealt with her own parents, she will drive a stake through her undead heart. She believes this will keep any suspicion from falling upon herself and enable her to take possession of the inn. Unfortunately for her, she did not anticipate the characters would decide to spend the night just as she put her plan into action. Thinking fast, she determines to raise the corpses of the footpads the characters slew as zombies and then sacrifice some of the guests to summon a demon to deal with the party. Messy, but as she plans to be the only survivor, who will question the tale she will make up?

There is no linear structure to this adventure. It moves according to character interactions until the very end when things start to happen fast. Adventures like this can get side-tracked or boring if the GM doesn’t make sure some things happen, so never rely on a die roll to move the plot forward. Retroactively fudge difficulty levels or have an NPC drop a hint on how to proceed if the characters get stuck. When all else fails, start the zombie attack! In order to get the most out of this adventure the GM should try to make sure the following things happen.

  • Elizabeth’s (the innkeeper’s daughter) sickness is discovered and it doesn’t seem natural.
  • The NPCs are questioned and Lydia (the innkeeper’s wife) and Darren Milton (a guest) are possible suspects.
  • Helen has a hard time of it at the inn.
  • The bodies of the bandits are brought to the inn.
  • Once Helen is exposed as the witch, the characters have a chance to recognize her possession and save her life. Make it a chance this time – killing her will be a tragedy. They should realize it after the fact and still need to deal with the pendant.

Background

The Black Goat is a coaching house, that lies along the High Road. In addition to the inn and stable, there is a small trading post at this location. All of the buildings are joined by a stout wooden fence and the whole compound can serve as a makeshift fort in case of Indian attack. The buildings have been standing for nearly 50 years. They were originally owned by Mildred Swift, known as “Milly” to her former patrons. Unknown to any, Milly was actually a powerful witch. She used her position as innkeeper to capture travelers – usually ones that wouldn’t be missed – for sacrifice to Satan. She eventually fell foul of the law, when she killed a gentleman traveling incognito and the investigation led back to her inn. She died at the end of a rope, hung for robbery rather than witchcraft, and few paid any heed to her final curse that she would return someday to take her vengeance on those who slew her.

Many years passed and possession of the inn eventually passed to Aaron Trammel. Business had always been good as the inn lies about  day’s ride from Newport. Trammel hired a serving maid to help with the work; a raven-haired beauty named Helen McDonald.  Poor Helen has not had an easy time of it in this place. Her employer is a randy, old man and frequently attempts to take “liberties” with the girl. His wife is a mean, old shrew with a tongue like a saw. Even his daughter, a girl about Helen’s age, is jealous of her good looks and practices little cruelties on the girl. Helen bore her lot stoically, though she dreamed of being able to get even with her tormentors.

 One day, while cleaning the basement, Helen stumbled upon a secret room. The walls were painted red. It was full of magical paraphernalia. It became her secret retreat. She spent as much of her free time as possible there. She knew her soul was in jeopardy, but she could not control herself. The things in the room fascinated, or rather called to her, especially a small, golden pendant. Late one night, she placed the pendant around her throat and was immediately possessed by old Milly.

 Tom Doogan’s Footpads

The characters are traveling along the High Road towards the Black Goat Inn. This stretch of the highway winds through the Briarwood, and the overhanging branches do their best to prevent any light from penetrating to the ground. Have them make a Demanding (9) Intellect roll to spot Tom Doogan and his lads lying in ambush. If the characters fail to see the footpads, they will surround the party, otherwise they will not be encircled. The leader levels his weapon at an obvious fighter and says:

“What do we have here boys? Looks like a bunch ol’ King Georgie’s lapdogs out for a stroll. It’s time for you nobs to pay a little tax to me and the lads. Hand over your purses and there’ll be no trouble.”

If the characters protest that they are good American colonists he’ll say.

“Well, God save the King then! I’m the royal tax collector, so hand over your bloody money.”

A fight will most certainly break out. All of the bandits are Level 2 and armed with hunting muskets. Tom Doogan himself is level 4 and also carries a musket. The encounter starts at short range.

There are a couple of reasons for this “speed bump” encounter: First, Tom Doogan and Aaron Trammel are boyhood friends and for years Aaron has turned a blind eye to his friend’s banditry. His killing will color the innkeeper’s attitude to the party. Second, if the characters don’t bury the bodies, John Woodward (the charcoal burner introduced in The Ghost of Cotter’s Field) will come across them and bring them to the Black Goat before fetching the minister. Helen will take the opportunity to raise these poor wretches as zombies.

The Black Goat Inn

The Black Goat is a collection of three, linked buildings forming a U-shaped compound. The inn lies along the western side, a small trading post to the north, and the stable to the east. A tall, wooden fence spans the gap and the whole complex can serve as a makeshift fort if the need arises. Passing through the gate, they see Charlie, the stable boy, leading a horse about the yard. The creature is favoring one of its legs. Charlie is mute, and if asked any questions, he’ll just gesture for them to enter the inn. Once inside, the characters will find Aaron at the bar and Helen serving ale to a handful of patrons. Lydia, is in the kitchen, but will come into the taproom shortly after the characters arrive. The inn is a pleasant looking place, well-lit and clean. The smell from the kitchen is enticing and a pint of ale sounds heavenly after a hard day’s travel. The inn is two stories high and has a large basement. The tap room, kitchen and larder/pantry take up the ground floor. The second story is given over to guest rooms and the living quarters of the Tramels.

Characters at the Inn

The following character sketches will help the GM role play the NPCs at the inn:

Aaron Tramel: Inkeeper, level 2. The proprietor of the inn is a man of dubious character. He is a lecherous old goat and has been pressuring Helen McDonald to sleep with him since he hired her some months ago. He’s an associate of a know footpad (Tom Doogan), though in Aaron’s defense he actually doesn’t believe that Tom is guilty of robbery. He’s defiantly not the brains of the operation and would have gone broke years ago had it not been for the keen business sense (read: penny-pinching) wife. For all his faults, Aaron is a genuinely decent host and normally the characters would enjoy a stay within these walls.

Lydia Tramel: Innkeeper’s wife, level 2. A sharp-tongued shrew, Lydia’s primary job appears to be criticizing her husband’s many faults. She is a terrible miser and portions are small when she labels out the stew. She knows Tom Doogan is a bandit and yet allows her husband to trade with him because of the extra income it brings to the inn; never mind that the money is tainted with blood. Lydia constantly tells people that she is a good, God-fearing woman and the Tramels are a Christian family. She is well aware that her husband is attempting to seduce Helen, but believes him incapable of succeeding. Lydia is Aaron’s second wife and Elizabeth is not her daughter. The characters may consider her a suspect when they find out this fact.

Elizabeth Tramel: Innkeeper’s daughter, level 3 Transitional Vampire. Elizabeth has inherited her mother’s temper and her father’s intelligence. Overweight and covered in pimples, she is deeply jealous of Helen’s striking looks. It plays out in not so subtle cruelties that she has perpetrated on Helen ever since she was hired. Well, payback is a bitch. When Helen was possessed by the spirit of Milly Swift, she cursed the girl with vampirism. She’s slowly turning into a Transitional Vampire (see The Strange Bestiary). Elizabeth will be unconscious for most of the adventure, only waking up when she is ready to feed this evening.

Helen McDonald: Barmaid, level 5 Witch. A raven-haired beauty, Helen has worked at the Black Goat for several miserable months. One day, while cleaning the basement, Helen stumbled upon a secret room. The walls of the chamber were painted red and it was filled with magical paraphernalia. While she knew delving into the black arts could imperil her soul, she could not resist the lure of the texts. Here was power, and for a girl who had little control over her life it was irresistible. Helen eventually went too far and became possessed by the spirit of the former owner of the inn, a witch named Mildred Swift. Now Milly is in control of the girl and she desires to have her inn back so she can pick up where she left off some 30-odd years ago. Note: casual use of Second Sight (from the Conjures focus) or other “detect magic” powers will not reveal Helen’s possession. If a character suspects her of being something more than a barmaid and specifically targets her with is power he can detect she wears a magical amulet by making a Challenging (15) Intellect roll.

Charlie: Stable boy, level 1. A lad of 13 or 14 years of age. Nobody knows his last name or where he is from. He showed up at the inn about 5 years ago and when nobody claimed him, the Trammels put him to work in the stable. He’s mute and about as smart as a box of hammers. He sleeps in the stable loft most nights. He’ll probably go zombie pretty quickly, so  the only surprise is how much background I gave him.

Darren Milton: Guest, level 2. Milton is a professor of history at Braithwaite college in Newport. The good professor has been staying at the inn for the past couple of days. He was traveling from Rackham, where he has family, back to Newport when his horse went lame. He’s giving the creature a bit of rest before continuing his journey. Milton is a good source of information about the recursion, if the characters can stomach his staunch Tory attitude. His arrival at the inn coincides with the onset of Elizabeth’s symptoms, so he is a perfect red herring while the players investigate.

William Briggs: Guest, level 2. A Newport cloth merchant heading to Dunsmoor with several bolts to trade. William has brought his son Edward (15 years old). Briggs has stayed at the inn many times and knows the Tramel family well. His son is besotted with Helen and always begs his father to bring him along on his journey to Dunsmoor. Unfortunately for him, his father indulges the lad. He’s Most likely going zombie before the end of this adventure.

John Woodward: Charcoal burner, level 3. Woodward will make a cameo appearance during the adventure if the characters fail to bury the bodies of Tom Doogan and his lads. John will stumble across them while bringing a load of charcoal down the road, load them on his cart and bring them to the Black Goat while he fetches the reverend Emmet Thompson to properly bury them.

Conversations & Encounters

The adventure requires the players to do a bit of role playing (shudder). The following sketches are events that the GM can run at the inn. The players will determine the order in which they are played. The important thing is to have the party find out that Elizabeth is ill and that it does not seem natural. The GM can cast Lydia and Professor Milton as likely sources of the problem so when Helen is revealed to be the witch it is all the more surprising.

The Bandits
This conversation can start if the characters mention they were waylaid by robbers, or when John Woodward brings their bodies to the inn before fetching the minister. When Aaron finds out the attack was perpetrated by Doogan and his lads he’ll be visibly shaken.

“Oh my. This is awful. I can’t believe Tom would be involved in such a thing.”

His wife Lydia will break in. “Of course he was involved you old fool! It’s well known that he and his lads are footpads and just because the two of you were playmates as boys doesn’t change the fact that he was an unrepentant sinner. Papist too, I’d wager.”

“Lydia! You mustn’t speak ill of the dead.” Assuming the characters have told him of the encounter and the bodies are still in the forest he’ll continue. “I’ll send Charlie to fetch their remains back for burial. God have mercy on their souls.”

“God and Charlie both have more important things to do than attend to a bunch of Irish scalawags!”

Poor Helen
The following encounters will showcase that Helen is not treated well by the Tramels. It may clue the characters in on the fact that she is something more than she seems though.

  • When the party arrives and requests a room, Lydia will turn to the girl and say. “Helen, quit your gawping, get upstairs and ready these good people’s rooms. And no dilly-dallying! I swear, I don’t know what we pay you for you slothful creature.”
  • Later in the evening, one of the characters notices Aaron copping a feel on Helen. She turns and stares at him with murder in her eyes. If a Challenging (15) Intellect roll is made, the character will notice her make a strange gesture with her left hand. If the character has the Occult skill he will realize it was a curse. If confronted, Helen will deny it had any significance. “My granny used to do it when she got mad. I guess I picked it up from her.”

The Sick Girl
Any character with medical knowledge (or claiming such) will be asked to look in on Elizabeth. The girl is unconscious, but restless. She is cool and dry, suggesting a melancholic humor. Perhaps a purgative is in order? A character with Undead Lore who makes a Difficult (12) Intellect roll thinks she exhibits the early stages of vampirism. She has no bite though… If anyone uses Second Sight and makes a Challenging (15) Intellect roll, they will understand that she is suffering from a magical curse of some kind.

The Professor
Professor Milton is most easily engaged by a learned character. He considers the others in the inn to be his intellectual inferiors and hardly worth talking to. History is the professor’s love and he considers it to be a noble occupation. He enjoys expounding on the history of Mother England and constantly points out how ungrateful the colonists are for all their King has done for them. He’s been spending most of his time transcribing a partially burned manuscript. If asked about the Trammel’s daughter he will say. “Yes, tragic that. Clumsy girl, she knocked the notes for my paper on Doctor John Dee into the fireplace. I’m forced to reconstruct much of it from memory!” He has very little to say about the other people In the establishment.

The Merchant
William Briggs is an affable man and will be happy to talk to anybody. He’s quite a gossip. If asked about Elizabeth he’ll appear genuinely sad. “Poor thing. I do hope she pulls through. Her mother died of fever when she was a little girl. It’d be terrible if she were to go the same way. What? You didn’t know that Lydia is Aaron’s second wife?” If asked about Helen he’ll comment that she has been working at the inn for at least a year now. “Always such a nice girl. She does seem a bit choleric today. I certainly hope she is not coming down with the same thing Elizabeth has contracted.”

The Charcoal Burner
If the characters left the Doogan gang lying in the road, John Woodward, stumbles across the bodies and brings them to the inn. He places them in the stable and goes inside to talk to Aaron. “Aaron, I hate to tell you this, but old Tom Doogan has finally gotten what’s comin’ to him. I didn’t think it right to leave the bodies lyin’ in the forest, so collected ’em and put ’em in your stable for safe keepin’. I’ll be off to fetch Reverend Thompson now. We can bury them proper tomorrow.” If the characters haven’t revealed the fact that they killed the gang yet, you may repurpose some of the conversation under The Bandits section.

Action!

Helen had not anticipated an inn full of patrons when she planned her murders. With the characters snooping around and Elizabeth rapidly turning into a Transitional Vampire, she panics and starts escalating events. The following section outlines the action part of the adventure.

  • Helen is told to go outside and fetch more water by an irate Lydia. Helen uses the opportunity to raise the bodies as zombies.
  • The son of William Briggs will ask his father if he can go outside and “check on the horses”. It’s obvious the boy is using it as an excuse to chat with Helen alone. When he can’t find her in the yard, he enters the stable and sees her in the middle of an incantation. He foolishly asks her what is going on and she kills him and adds him to her band of undead. She commands the creatures to wait for a 10 minutes (giving her time to go back into the house and avoid suspicion) and then attack the inn.
  • Charlie, who has fallen asleep in one of the empty stalls, wakes during the murder. Frightened, he cowers down under the hay and prays he won’t be seen. His action foils Helen’s plan. With fresh brains so close by, the zombies cannot control their hunger and try to claw their way into his stall, upsetting the horses.
  • Almost simultaneously, the characters her crashing furniture and a loud scream come from Elizabeth’s room and the horses in the stable begin to whinny and cry in fear as the zombies attack Charlie.

The character’s have a three options. They may split up at this stage of the game too.

To the Little Girl’s Room
Racing to Elizabeth’s room, the characters see her writhing on the bed as if in a fit. Suddenly she goes stiff and arches her back so strongly, it looks as if she is about to levitate off the bed! She collapses and instant later and then sits up. Her eyes are feral and her canines have elongated. She’s a transitional vampire now and she attacks! There are some tables and chairs in the room so the party can improvise wooden stakes on a Standard (6) Might roll.

To the Stables
William Briggs will accompany the characters to the stables. The horses are screaming and the characters can hear wood rending as they approach. If they do not beat the Zombies initiative, they will break into the stall and kill poor Charlie on the first round of combat. Every cloud has a silver lining; this will give the players a “free shot” since the undead will be busy tearing apart the boy. Briggs will be overcome with grief when he sees his son amongst the walking dead. He’ll do nothing during the fight, unless one of the characters can cajole him into action by making a Demanding (9) Intellect roll. Success indicates he fights alongside that character, giving him an asset to his rolls. This has the potential to be a rough fight, especially if the party has split up. Hopefully, the characters will be clever enough to retreat if things look dicey and bolt the stable door from the outside, thus containing the zombies.

Sit Tight
If the characters decide to finish their ale, that’s great. This works out best for the witch. Aaron is unsure what to do, and for once Lydia is at a loss for words too. Both look frightened. Lydia will quickly recover and venture upstairs telling her husband to keep an eye on things. Briggs will rush to the stable to see what the ruckus is. Milton will look annoyed at the commotion and then try to resume his work. After a few moments, Helen returns to the inn. She says to Aaron, “Come, there is something happening to the horses.” And leads him out through the kitchen. Once alone, she promptly slits his throat to summon a Grotesque. A few moments later the demon, zombies, a vampire-girl and a witch descend on the party. Everything is sure to turn out swell. How about translating to Sugaria when they write up new characters?

The Final Confrontation

The adventure assumes that the player’s investigated and dealt with Elizabeth and the zombies and then return to the inn. Once inside, they will see Aaron, Milton and Lydia lie dead on the floor. Helen stands covered in blood, reciting an incantation to either raise them as zombies or summon a Grotesque, depending on how bad of shape the characters are in. Her dress has been torn in the struggle and they can see the gold pendant around her neck. If Second Sight is used on Helen now, the player will realize that evil power is emanating from the neckless. If the characters can remove it or destroy it (perhaps using a Shatter revision?) the possession will end and Helen will collapse from exhaustion.

Aftermath

It’s quite possible that everyone in the inn will be dead at the end of this adventure. If the characters managed to save any lives from this gore-fest they’re true heros. John Woodward and Reverend Thompson will return the next day and the dead can be buried. The characters should also find out a way to destroy the pendant holding Milly’s spirit, or things could get ugly in the future. Award the characters 4 XP for this adventure.


Numenera, The Strange, the Cypher System, and their respective logos are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2016 Monte Cook Games, LLC.

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2 comments

  1. Master of Broken English

    (sorry for my english)

    Dear Mr. Stew

    I find your gm work with The Strange really interesting and inspiring.
    (The Liberty and Death adventures are great)

    Do you have any recording of your sessions?
    It would be very helpfull for The Strange community have a weekly podcast with a host with your kind of competencies.

    Thank you

    Kind regards

    Like

  2. filbanto

    Hi Master of Broken English!
    Thanks for the first comment! I am really happy you enjoyed the adventures! My friends and I often joke about recording our sessions, but I am not sure how many people would like listening to me cursing my poor die rolls or asking someone to get me another beer:-) We’ve been playing D&D lately, but I hope to get back to The Strange in the future. I have a couple more adventures in the works. By the way, your English is great – thanks for putting up with mine!
    All the best – Mike

    Like

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