Over the past several weeks I’ve alluded several times to my ‘evolution’ of The Dread Crypt of Skogenby. For the next several posts I plan to take a deeper dive into the details of that evolution to give you an example of how you might evolve your own adventures.
To set the stage, I need to first tell you about how I updated the adventure. I wanted my players to invest in Skogenby as a place, maybe even choose to come from the village, so I fleshed it out a little bit.
The crypt remains the focus of the adventure, and I didn’t change anything there. But I wanted to give myself the ability to play up how the crypt, Jora’s disappearance and the appearance of a terrifying spirit affect the village and begin applying stress to the relationships within it. To do that, I needed to decide who has power in the village and how the horror of the crypt might affect them.
Ultimately, the players will choose to engage with this material as much or as little as they want. Really, I created it to give me, as the GM, a better sense of the village and grist for creating interesting twists in town (and outside it as well, as you’ll see below).
Not only does this material help me roleplay my part in the current adventure, it will also set me up to evolve the adventure, which we’ll explore in a subsequent post.
The lonely village of Skogenby sits just a few miles east of Asktoft across the Hrada River. A ford connects the two villages, though it becomes impassable when the river runs high, especially in late spring to early summer. Skogenby butts up against the verge of a vast spruce forest in the foothills of the Silfjalls, and its stoic, hardworking people eke a meager living from the stony earth.
Stivardur Sigismund, Gydja Vigdis and Hakemunn Grim are the village elders.
Skills: Carpenter, Peasant, Weaver
Traits: Stoic, Rough Hands
Haggling: Ob 3
Flophouse, Home (equivalent to Flophouse), Market (This market is held once a month. Roll 2d6 when entering town; market is available on a roll of 9-12), Shrine, Stables, Street, Tavern
- All inhabitants of Skogenby must work Lady Gry’s lands 2 days out of every 7 (Ob 2 Peasant test)
- Brawling is a criminal act. Punishable by public humiliation.
Personalities of Skogenby
A Gott ridder (knight) in service to Greve Jermod the Lame, Lady Gry holds Skogenby as one of her fiefs but is largely an absentee landlord, preferring her manor, Asktoft. She’s content to let the village fend for itself, so long as nothing interferes with her rents. She can be affable with her peers, but is generally brusque with inferiors.
Belief: Wealth in cattle and horses is the measure of a lord and I’ll not be found wanting.
Sigismund is a Gott carl (landed farmer). As Lady Gry’s stivardur, Sigismund handles the day-to-day management of the village. He organizes the planting and harvest, ensures that all the villagers work Lady Gry’s lands as required and collects rents. He takes no guff from his fellow villagers, but is positively obsequious when it comes to Lady Gry. He’s desperate to get this business with the crypt resolved as soon as possible, especially since his son Jurgen was among Jora’s companions when she entered the crypt. He will become quite nervous if Greve Jermod’s rangers show up, as part of the fields the villagers cleared were technically within the bounds of the Greve’s forest. Sigismund and his brother Baugi secretly moved the property markers one night several months ago.
Belief: The Lords grant wealth and prestige to those bold and cunning enough to take it.
A Græling, Vigdis is the eldest woman in the village and is the grandmother or great grandmother of many of the villagers. While Gry and her proxy Sigismund technically rule the village, it is to Vigdis that many of the villagers look for leadership, particularly the Græling cottars (impoverished peasants that work a carl’s farm). As the village gydja, Vigdis is a priestess responsible for performing the rites and rituals to the village’s patron spirit (ættir), ancestors and Immortal Lords. She is patient, observant and expects deference. Vigdis suspects and fears that the only way to appease the horror the villagers have disturbed is with blood sacrifice—likely the children responsible. If the adventurers can’t resolve the problem, she will feel she has no choice but recommend such a sacrifice.
Belief: The Immortal Lords will have their due, one way or the other.
Grim is a Gott carl and the wealthiest, most prominent farmer in Skogenby. When he talks, the other freemen listen, despite his mean, churlish sense of humor. Grim believes the village should forget about the girl, seal up the crypt and wash its hands of the matter. He makes no bones about sharing that view. As more and more people die in the night, other villagers increasingly agree with him.
Belief: I know what’s best and anyone who won’t listen deserves what they get.
Gydja Vigdis’ granddaughter and apprentice, Johanna is also Jora’s mother and the wife of Vagn, the village blacksmith (a Græling whom even the Gott’s in the village respect). Johanna is terrified for her daughter and desperately wants her home safely. She’s working up the nerve to poison Hakemunn Grim before he sways the rest of the village to his view.
Belief: My family is my strength.
Jora’s cousin, Marius, is 12-years-old and carried one of the arm rings back to Skogenby after she disappeared. He’s ashamed of himself for abandoning Jora—he was the first to run. He is also grief-stricken: His father, Per, was the first of the villagers slain in the night by the spirit of the crypt. He blames himself.
Belief: The Immortals see our deeds and know the evil that we do!
Halvor, Captain of Greve Jermod’s Wardens
Halvor represents Greve Jermod’s interests in these parts, particularly the Post Road. Halvor and his wardens have come to investigate reports of bandits hiding in the forest near the Post Road and to determine whether Lady Gry and the villagers of Skogenby illegally cleared lands that are part of the Greve’s forest preserve. Halvor and the wardens have little sympathy for the peasants’ plight, but will seek to enforce the Greve’s rights to any treasure discovered if the crypt proves to have been in the Greve’s preserve. They will look favorably upon those who help them root out the bandits or reveal the village’s perfidy.
Beronin the Bandit Chief
An outcast dwarf from the Silfjalls, Beronin leads a group of bandits that eke out a living preying on travelers on the Post Road. They have a hideout in the forest near Skogenby. Many of them were once farmers in Skogenby or other nearby villages who turned to banditry after being outlawed for poaching, murder, failure to pay taxes after a poor harvest and the like. A handful are dwarven outcasts like Beronin himself. Beronin has heard rumors of treasures in the crypt and has taken some of his bandits to investigate. They’re just as happy to rob the dead as the living.