Expert Dungeon Master Competition 29: Design a Haunt!

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XDMC 29: Design a Haunt!
Welcome to the twenty-ninth Expert Dungeon Master Competition! The primary purpose of the Expert Dungeon Master Competitions is threefold:

  • To create a resource for new Dungeon Masters drawing on the vast talent pool of the experienced Dungeon Masters of this forum.

  • To create a fun and vibrant competition that is sportsmanlike and friendly.

  • To showcase the creativity and talent of Dungeon Masters like you.


The best way to keep informed about the competition is to join the Expert Dungeon Master Competition group. There you can review the rules, archives, and future contest ideas, and get broadcasts telling you when new competitions begin and when results are released!

The topic for this competition is Haunt. Fear and terror are staples of the fantasy genre, but it is not easy to create a locale that can terrify the larger-than-life heroes your players control. Creating a truly terrifying location requires the work of an Expert DM! This competition asks you to create an encounter location designed to strike fear into the hearts of heroes.

Required Elements


In order to enter this competition, your entry must fulfill the following required elements:

  • Name: Name your haunt.

  • Lore: Describe what is commonly known about the haunt. The haunt's reputation must be such that even heroes may believe themselves to be in mortal danger within.

  • Lure: Describe one or more ways an adventuring party may be lured to the haunt.

  • Lair: Describe what the heroes will find in the haunt. You may, but need not, include stat blocks for any NPCs, items, terrain, or other objects or effects in the haunt.


If you do not include a required element, you will receive a score of zero in Themes. Please note that a significant portion of your score in Creativity and Themes will be based on how scary you make the haunt's reputation and/or location.

Optional Elements


Your story must include at least three of the following optional elements:

  1. Can Nothing Stop It?: The haunt threatens the world outside its walls (i.e., it begins expanding uncontrollably) unless the heroes accomplish a task described in the entry.

  2. The Curse is Broken!: The haunt can become a haven to the heroes, or a resident of the haunt can become a companion to the party, if a task described in the entry is completed.

  3. Guys? Where Are You?: One feature of the haunt is designed to split the party.

  4. It's Alive!: The haunt's interior physically changes at least twice while the heroes are within it.

  5. It's Not Human!: The haunt has one or more residents, but none are of the humanoid type.

  6. It All Started When...: Surpassing one or more obstacles becomes easier if the heroes learn the haunt's history, as described in the entry.

  7. Looks Fine to Me: To the outside world, the haunt appears completely mundane.

  8. What Have You Done?!: The haunt rewards characters who interfere with or harm one another.

  9. We're Trapped!: Once inside the haunt, the characters cannot leave until accomplishing a difficult task described in the entry, and which does not require combat.

  10. What's That Doing Here?: The haunt has one or more residents, but none are of the aberrant or shadow origin, or of the undead or shapechanger subtype.

  11. You Startled Me!: The players are asked to roll initiative checks against something that intends their characters no harm.

  12. You Were Dead... I Saw the Body!: The heroes must defeat some aspect or resident of the haunt twice or more.

List the optional elements you intend to include. If you do not, the judges will credit you only for the optional elements they happen to notice.

General Rules


Following are some general rules of the Expert DM Competition. The complete list of rules is in the Expert Dungeon Master Competition Group Wiki.

  • Code of Conduct. All entries must comply with the forum's Code of Conduct.

  • Contest Duration. Contests usually run for two weeks, beginning with the post announcing the competition. The Coordinator may extend the duration of the contest at his discretion after consulting the other judges for that competition. However, such extensions should be done very rarely.

  • Edits Made at Entrants' Own Risk. A judge may download your entry any time after it is submitted. So any edits you make might not be considered by a judge. For this reason, you should submit your entry in as complete a form as possible. Use the preview function liberally. Once winners have been announced, entrants may edit their entries.

  • Images Allowed. If you want to use an image in your entry, you must first post it to your profile gallery.

  • Multiple Entries Prohibited. Each applicant may only submit one entry during the period in which entries may be submitted. Submitting multiple entries disqualifies all entries. Additional entries may be submitted after the competition closes, but they will not be judged.

  • Multi-Post Entries Prohibited. Each entry must be contained within a single post. The judges must ignore any subsequent posts.

  • Outside Links Prohibited. Entries may not include material hosted on a website other than the post on which the entry appears.

  • Plagiarism and Peer Reviewing Prohibited. All entries must be the original, exclusive work of the applicant. Entries found to be copying the work of another, or that have been posted for review prior to the close of the competition, will be disqualified.


Judges and Schedule


The contest will run from today through Friday, July 22, 2011. All entries must be submitted no later than 12:00 midnight at the end of that day (Eastern Standard Time). The judges of this contest are Nyarlathotep, Shaadow, and wrecan, and the coordinator of this contest is wrecan. Good luck and have fun!!
Questions and Answers

(questions posed by potential entrants and the coordinator's response)


Q. For purposes of the competition, does the haunt need to be actually haunted?

A. No.  A haunt is merely a location "that even heroes may believe themselves to be in mortal danger within."  The goal is to create a location that will scare the heroes (or their players).


Q. For purposes of the competition, can the haunt be entirely mundane and nonmagical?

A. Yes.  It just needs to be "designed to strike fear into the hearts of heroes."


Q. For purposes of the "Lore" required element, do the heroes need to know the information, or can they learn it during the adventure.


A. The information must be common knowledge to the people who live near the haunt and easily discoverable by the heroes before they enter the haunt.


Q. With respect to the "Looks Fine to Me..." optional element, what constitutes the "outside world"?

A. At a minimum, the haunt must appear mundane to those living near the haunt, as well as common travelers who might pass the haunt.  (Heroes are far from "common".) 


Q. For purposes of the "What Have You Done?!" optional element, must the character know that the action will harm other PCs?

A. Yes, though the character may not understand the extent of the harm that will befall, and may be misinformed as to how much benefit will be gained by the action.

Q. For purposes of the "What Have You Done?!" optional element, must the character know that the action will harm other PCs?

A. Yes, though the character may not understand the extent of the harm that will befall, and may be misinformed as to how much benefit will be gained by the action.


Q. For purposes of the optional element "You Startled Me!", can the NPC rolling initiative against the heroes unintentionally harm the heroes, or harm the heroes only after provocation?


A. Yes.  This element is met if the NPC has no active intent, at the moment in time when initiative is rolled, to cause the heroes harm.

Entry List

  1. Khorne37's Eastermen Homestead

  2. ToeSama's Darkest Pit

  3. ClanBattlerage's Haunted Mansion

  4. Johnathan_Vagabond's Dancing Hall

  5. Pluisjen's Mirror Mirror

  6. SpacyRichochet's Hunter's Wood

  7. Veok's Throne of the Shackled King

  8. Ankiyavon's City of Tendril

  9. Jzadek's Dead God's Dream

  10. dulsi's Primordial Maw

Supplemental Entry:

Medalists and Scores
We are pleased to announce the winners of Expert Dungeon Master Competition 29!

The bronze medal goes to...

Johnathan_Vagabond
for
Dancing Hall!!


The silver medal goes to...

Pluisjen
for
Mirror Mirror!


and the gold medal goes to...

SpacyRicochet
for
Hunter's Wood!!!
This means SpacyRicochet is our newest Heroic Dungeon Master and our newest eligible judge!  Congratulations  to all of the medalists for some truly frightening entries and thanks to all who participated in this competition, but especially to my fellow judge, Nyarlathotep!

Stay tuned while we plan Expert Dungeon Master Competition 30.  In the meantime, enjoy these carefully tabulated scores:



















































































































No.CreativityUsabilityThemesClarityBonusTotalEntrant's Entry
18.58.58.5732.5Khorne37's Eastermen Homestead
2119.58.57.536.5ToeSama's Darkest Pit
310.511.58.5636.5ClanBattlerage's Haunted Mansion
411.51196138.5Johnathan_Vagabond's Dancing Hall
51210.59.5739Pluisjen's Mirror Mirror
612.511.58.5840.5SpacyRichochet's Hunter's Wood
71111.577.537Veok's Throne of the Shackled King
811107.55.534Ankiyavon's City of Tendril
911974.531.5Jzadek's Dead God's Dream
109118634dulsi's Primordial Maw
Ohhhhh, I like this. I hope I can find the time for it.
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Oh this looks fun!!!  Must...focus...on...work.  Must...maintain...job...security...
Resident Shakespeare
My only regret is that I can't both judge and participate.  
Well, you can, you just won't win.  Unless you vote for yourself, I guess...
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Ok, I have an idea, nobody steal it.
Resident Shakespeare
w00t! Must come up with something scary...

Hmm... harder than I thought. Johnathan_Vagabond's idea will have to do. *stolen*
Heroic Dungeon Master
Ok, I have an idea, nobody steal it.

Too late.  Good idea, btw.

Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
That was a dude suckers!  The real idea is hidden safely away behind me, booya!
Resident Shakespeare
You do realize that you should never turn your back on a Haunt?
Heroic Dungeon Master
Wha-glargleglargleglargle!
Resident Shakespeare
Must....make....free time...
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
I'm *REALLY* looking forward to judging this!

..and may I say,  I hope you all do an absolutely horrific job...    Wink
FEAR MY ENTRY!!! ..... er.... I hope...  ;)
I really like this one as well.  I hope to god I can find some time for this one and not let it just fly right by like the last couple times around.
I live and work in Japan, near Mt. Fuji, teaching English to High Schoolers. In my spare time I also happen to be a husband, a father, and an Otaku. I run a biweekly DnD game on Sundays and blog about it every other day of the week at http://thedumpstat.blogspot.com

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D&D Home Page - What Monster Are You? - D&D Compendium

Question on the You Startled Me! optional element.

Can it be fulfilled by something that might unintentionally harm the PCs, or only by something that can not/will not harm them?
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
Never done one of these contests. Do we just post our entry here?

If it needs to be haunted, what is the definition of haunted for this competition? If I use the "What is that doing here?", how can it be haunted if I can't use undeads?





Something could also be haunted by fey-folk, for example.
Never done one of these contests. Do we just post our entry here?



Yep.
Question on the You Startled Me! optional element. Can it be fulfilled by something that might unintentionally harm the PCs, or only by something that can not/will not harm them?

Also, can it be fulfilled by something that will harm them, but only when provoked first?
Heroic Dungeon Master
Q. For purpose of the competition, does the haunt need to be actually haunted?

A. No.  A haunt is merely a location "that even heroes may believe themselves to be in mortal danger within."  The goal is to create a location that will scare the heroes (or their players).


Q. For purposes of the "Lore" required element, do the heroes need to know the information, or can they learn it during the adventure.

A. The information must be common knowledge to the people who live near the haunt and easily discoverable by the heroes before they enter the haunt.


Q. For purposes of the optional element "You Startled Me!", can the NPC rolling initiative against the heroes unintentionally harm the heroes, or harm the heroes only after provocation?

A. Yes.  This element is met if the NPC has no active intent, at the moment in time when initiative is rolled, to cause the heroes harm.


Q. Do we just post our entry here?

A. Yes!
Curse you guys!  I soooooo veerrrrry want to do this.  And of course it has to come right when work is the busiest its been in years for me. 

Hopefully I'll be able to find time to pull something together for this.  I have some decent (at least in my mind) ideas for this so I'm going to try to make the time for it.
Another question... for the purpose of the optional element 'What have you done!?!', do the characters have to harm or interfere with the other characters willfully? A blunt example, one character gets access to the nifty treasure if he pulls the lever, only to realise the rest of his party has just been dunked in the pool of acid as well. 'I didn't mean it!!!' Does this satisfy the requirement as well?

Or does it have to be of the type of 'I stabbed this hammer, yes stabbed, in my cleric's kidney. Can I have my unholy reward now?'
Heroic Dungeon Master
Another question... for the purpose of the optional element 'What have you done!?!', do the characters have to harm or interfere with the other characters willfully?


Yes.
A blunt example, one character gets access to the nifty treasure if he pulls the lever, only to realise the rest of his party has just been dunked in the pool of acid as well. 'I didn't mean it!!!' Does this satisfy the requirement as well?


no.

Or does it have to be of the type of 'I stabbed this hammer, yes stabbed, in my cleric's kidney. Can I have my unholy reward now?'


Yes.
For the optional element:

We're Trapped!:  Once inside the haunt, the characters cannot leave until accomplishing a difficult task described in the entry, and which does not require combat. 



Is combat allowed during and/or directly after the task?

For instance - if the Task is to bring Macguffin A to Location B, is the optional element still fulfilled if the party has to fight things to get to Location B, or if moving Macguffin A results in a combat encounter?

Likewise, what about if a combat encounter that comes as a result of the difficult task, where the characters are now free to leave, but still must fight (or flee!) to actually escape?
If you look past the plot and the voice acting, Metroid: Other M was an okay game. Not a great game, but an adequate one. Not using the Metroid item collect jingle though? That, was a mistake.
If you use a local from pop culture that has never been in D&D to your knowledge is it acceptable? For example lets say I make the tomb with the crypt keeper from tales from the crypt.
If you use a local from pop culture that has never been in D&D to your knowledge is it acceptable? For example lets say I make the tomb with the crypt keeper from tales from the crypt.



It's acceptable, but depending on judge, may dock you creativity.
If you look past the plot and the voice acting, Metroid: Other M was an okay game. Not a great game, but an adequate one. Not using the Metroid item collect jingle though? That, was a mistake.
what version of the rules do we have to use?  3.0, 3.5, 4.0?  2e??  :D
what version of the rules do we have to use?  3.0, 3.5, 4.0?  2e??  :D



This contest is for 4e. Again, you may use other editions, but you very possibly might lose points because of it.
If you look past the plot and the voice acting, Metroid: Other M was an okay game. Not a great game, but an adequate one. Not using the Metroid item collect jingle though? That, was a mistake.
While any rules must be 4e, remember that this specific competition does not require any statblocks.

Although I do very much agree that you'll probably lose some points for not using statblocks for anything, unless you are very creative... it's been done before. 
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Q. With respect to the "We're Trapped" optional element, is combat allowed during and/or directly after the task?

A. Yes.  The task itself is simply that which has to be accomplished so that the heroes can leave.  There may be other things that are also required to be accomplished before escape, which do require combat, but something must be required that does not.


Q. Can a character from pop culture be adapted to the game?

A. Yes.  From the Rules Wiki:

Creativity: Some factors judges consider when assessing an entry's Creativity: ... Does the entry provide a new twist to or thoughtful parody of a common trope?



Q. What version of the rules do we have to use? 

A. Fourth Edition.  From the Rules Wiki:

Usability: For purposes of this contest, it should be assumed the Dungeon Master has the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual, and subscribes to the D&D Insider (and all rules available thereunder), but has no other materials available. Some factors judges consider when assessing an entry's Usability: ... Is the entry compliant with the rules of the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons?

Note:  This entry is heavily influenced by a love of Lovecraft and many ideas from his short stories are evident within.


Name:


Eastermen Homestead


Lore:


Old Man Eastermen it was said in his youth would spend time in the surrounding hills of the Eastermen Homestead crying out the names of creatures that inhabit the far realms. Old Man Eastermen was also known for owning copies of ancient texts that were not of this realm and practicing dark sorcery. With the coming of his daughter Rosemary Old Man Eastermen is attributed to introducing her to these dark studies and Rosemary is also known to frequent the small stone circles found in the hills that her father once did. Rosemary was a girl of a distracted nature never seeming to be in the moment. She gave birth to a Dane Eastermen on her 18th birthday but the father is unknown. Old Man Eastermen takes Dane under his wing and begins instructing him in the dark arts. Dane also grows at an unnatural rate being fully grown by the age of ten. Then in Dane’s 12th year his mother Rosemary ends up disappearing.  Cattle from the surrounding farm area also begin to vanish at this time and folks report seeing Dane and Old Man Eastermen around the properties near the time of the missing cattle. In Dane’s 17th year Old Man Eastermen dies leaving Dane the sole resident of the Eastermen Homestead. Left alone Dane has been known to frequent local wizard’s but is always covered in full cloaks that hide his appearance. It is apparent that Dane now in his 20th year is searching for something but what is it?


Lure:


Besides being surrounded by odd rumors and a sense of evil surrounding the homestead items that Dane has been asking about have begun to come up missing and the local populace believe that Dane is collecting these items for some nefarious purpose that could shake up things in the region.


Lair:


The homestead consists of the main house which is a two story structure and a barn. The path to the front door of the house is heavily worn and the tracks of beasts of burden can be seen leading to the front door.  


When exploring the main house one should get a feeling of things not being right with the world. Like something is trying to invade the PC’s mind but is just beyond reach.  The bottom floor of the farm consists of three bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen.


One of the bedrooms belonged to Old Man Eastermen and has been converted over to a research room with many dark texts that refer to the Far Realm. This would also be a suitable location to place several low level magic items. Also in this room can be found Old Man Eastermen but not as he was known. Using the stats of a Brain in a Broken Jar from OG pg 140 is what is left of Old Man Eastermen being interred by Dane with a not so delicate touch to continue his dark work with the assistance of his grandson.


One of the other bedrooms is found with a lock on the door but is located on the outside. This room belonged to Rosemary Eastermen and was often locked in this room by her father. Scratch marks can be found on the inside made by Rosemary as she had fits of insanity following the birth. She too is still here but now takes the form of a non hostile Trap Haunt from MM pg 116 that will try to lead PC’s upstairs where she met her demise.


The third bedroom is a simple bedroom with a cot and contains no other furnishings. This room is where Dane rests when not studying dark and better forgotten magic. 


The kitchen and living room are both mundane and uneventful but can be locations to find Dane Eastermen. Dane Eastermen is actually a Foulspawn Mangler from MM pg 112 and will engage any PC’s he finds snooping about his home. When encountering Dane he should also be accompanied by Gibbering Beasts from MM pgs 126 127.


The stairs to the upper floor have been modified and are now ramps instead of stairs. These were converted by Dane and his grandfather to lead cattle to the upper floor. The upper floor has also been heavily modified. All rooms have been removed and the upper floor has also been reinforced. Scorch marks can be found on the walls, floors, and ceiling as well as the remains of several beasts and even the remains of several humans. There is also a large hole in the side of the upper floor which looks to be fashioned and not broken through.


                 The barn looks to have gone through a modification as well being heavily reinforced and locked with a huge cross bar. Here too are found the remains of several beasts and an eerie feeling comes upon the PC’s as if they are being watched. Nothing can be found in the barn besides the remains however strange noises can be heard such as breathing and soft gusts of wind can be felt. This is the home of the other brother. A Beholder from MV pg 26 who can become invisible at will but who will not attack unless cornered or hungry.


Several days after the death of Dane and if the PC’s do not discover the other brother the countryside should begin to abound with the news of destruction and mayhem. This is due to the fact that the Beholder has become hungry and bored being left in the barn and has now begun to rampage across the surrounding area. Only the PC’s can deal with such a threat and it must be stopped.


Optional Elements:


It’s Not Human: All of the inhabitants of the haunt or not humanoid.


Can Nothing Stop It: The Beholder in the barn defiantly threatens the outside world after its caretaker Dane Eastermen is no longer amongst the living.


It All Started When (with a twist): The Beholder should not be encountered in the barn choosing to hide rather than fight. Rather it should be encountered in the surrounding area after the locals complain about an unseen beast killing livestock.


The Curse is Broken: When all is said and done the homestead could be cleaned out and become a base of operations for the PC’s. But who would want to reside on a site where unholy acts have been committed as well as the death of several innocent.


You Startled Me: The trap haunt of Rosemary does not want to engage the PC's in combat but show them where she was devoured by her other son. She will protect herself though.


What Really Happened: No one knows for sure but it should be pieced together that Old Man Eastermen had some contact with creatures from the Far Realm and that some connection with this world had been made. The result is the pregnancy of Rosemary and the birth of the two abominations Dane and the other Brother. This story could fit in nicely to an area where a Farm Realm incursion is happening has happened or is about to happen.

Nice! And you can sense the Lovecraft in it. Good job

ARGH! I have too many ideas! And only one entry to put them in!
Heroic Dungeon Master
Khorne37 draws first blood!
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I have a deliciously evil idea for this.

Question #1: Does this entry have to be supernaturally-based?  Or can it be mundane, but still scary as all get-out?  i.e. chained to my mother-in-law on the Senate floor while she debates Conservative dogma with an all-Liberal congress?

................

Sorry...blacked out for a second there.

Question #2: Is the intent here to simply build a spooky campfire story or actually design crunchy bits that a DM could throw into an adventure/campaign?  i.e., do we relate the story of Michael Myers or do we actually introduce them to his machete?
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Q. Can a haunt be mundane, but still scary as all get-out? 

A. Yes.


Q. Is the intent here to simply build a spooky campfire story or actually design crunchy bits that a DM could throw into an adventure/campaign? 

A. The intent is to design a haunt based on the required and optional elements specified in the initial post.  How much detail you add or omit will impinge on the Creativity, Usability, and Clarity scores.

Eastermen Homestead




I ran a slightly modified version of your entry yesterday, and my players were scared out of their minds. Excelent work, and thanks for the ideas! It certainly delivered.
Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such sport, And the Dish ran away with the Spoon. He ran from conviction, and fed his addiction as the Dish heated the Spoon... The Spoon begged to go, but the Dish shouted : "NO!!" "The heroin will be ready soon!" "Any time doing the right thing is funny as hell, it's probably Chaotic Good." IMAGE(http://i46.tinypic.com/2jcu9fs.png)
Oh awesome I hope they enjoyed it and it was not too hard to fill any gaps. Good to hear.
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