Last night, we took a break from my Tamoachan DnD 5E game so that I could run a Halloween game. I chose to run Schwalb Entertainment's Dead By Dawn adventure written by Rob Wieland for Shadow of the Demon Lord.
The adventure comes in at 6 pages and I spent about 20 minutes reading it the night before, making some notes for about 15 minutes the next day, and then a final pass about 5 mintues before we started playing later the same night.
The set up is that the Players (all starting characters or 0 level in DnD) are staying at the Goathorne Inn (The two owners pronounce it differenty, by the way) close to a road winding through a foreboding forest.
My opening scene was set a bit before dinner and gave the Players, an orc, a human ex-marine, a human student of religion and magic, and an inquisitive human healer, time to meet each other and introduce them to Gelda and Ananda, dwarven adventurers who have settled down to run the Inn and their empolyee, Bester, a fair-haired kid.
Soon, dinner was ready and Ananada asked David, the magician, to go fetch Horvath, a local staying with them, from upstairs. Horvath's door was locked and David called for help, Ananda sent the keys to the room up with Matt, the healer. After they got the door open open, they found Horvath, naked upon his bed and dead for at least 24 hours. Amongst his belongings was a fur pouch with mystical symbols, identifying it as a blood ritual to David. At that moment, Horvath rose and began uttering a curse, but Matt used his dagger to stab the corpse in the head. The pair called up the rest of the group and as they spoke about him rising as a zombie they began to hear moaning and beating upon doors and the shattering of first floor windows.
The group sprang into action and began beating back zombies in the kitchen and then fortified the rest of the house.
David learned that the ritual was a protection from an evil tree that grew in the forest and that Horvath was to complete it. He explained that if they could survive until dawn, the tree's power would collapse under the daylight and they would be safe until the next nightfall.
Dead Until Dawn presents a system for a five part siege, with each part lasting 2 hours. During each part a player can attempt to fortify, rest from fatigue, heal, work the ritual, or run for supplies. If the ritual is worked, it requires blood and the more blood offered the fewer zombies might appear for that part, however it is best to use the caster's own blood, as another's blood adds Banes (my Player's did this for 2 parts before they caught on). Fortifying can also help reduce the number of zombies that appear for that part.
After actions are declared, there a d20 table for Unusual Events which affects, often negatively, that part. Finally, there is a Threat rating for the zombies for that part, if the ritual succeeds, the number of blood spent allows the players to remove specific undead (comprised of Animated Corpses and Zombies from the SotDL rule book). The number of successful fortification roles for that part also can lower the Threat rating (which defaults to 2). Additionally, if Gelda, Ananda, or Bester help to a Player, they add Boons to the roll.
It's a well done way to organize the chaos of a zombie siege and my Players and I loved it.
My group managed to make it until dawn, as David, their magician ran very low on blood, but the Orc, Benth, spent most of the night learning the ritual so he could finish it for the last 2 hour part. Sadly, Bester died (due to a roll on the Unusual Events table that would have required someone to go outside after him).
When dawn broke, the Orc (who had suffered an insanity) and Ananda (who was already a bit unstable) left the area together. Gelda, however agreed to accompany the other into the forest to take care of the evil tree.
My one-shot has turned into a (at least) a two-parter.
I can't recommend Dead Until Dawn enough!
Great game for a great Halloween Adventure.