Thursday, August 4, 2016

Death Frost Doom and the Chrono-crone

This is a repost of an old post of mine because Justin from Dragons Gonna Drag asked for it to come back. I take requests.

Death Frost Doom is one of those modules that has the potential to be a very memorable adventure, but needs a bit of modification to suit my style of play.

One of the things I like least about it (and this is a pretty minor part of the overall adventure) is the magical clock found within the cabin leading up to the accursed temple. The clock is described thusly in the first version of Death Frost Doom (I haven't read the newer rewrite of it; every time I try I just get sidetracked by how awesome Jez Gordon's art in it is): 

The clock is magical; anyone physically moving the hands forward or backward will cause a time distortion. The distortion affects only the person moving the clock hands; if two or more people try to do it at the same time, randomly determine which is affected. Moving the clock backwards will stop time for that same amount of time, and the character will be able to freely act. Objects will only move if the character moves them, so it would be possible to do things such as walk between raindrops, drop a coin, take a walk, eat a meal, and come back and catch it before it has fallen an inch (provided enough time was moved on the clock to do such things). Other people and animals and undead things will be frozen in time, unable to act. Spirits will still be active, so sleeping on the grounds will have the same effect as normal. Adjusting the clock forward puts the character forward in time by the moved amount. That character will seem to disappear if anyone is watching, and will only reappear after the set amount of time, at which point everyone other than the clock-disturber will not be aware that any time has passed at all.

What I find problematic about the clock, especially if it is adjusted forward, is that it effectively splits the party and creates a headache for the GM who now must run two adventures along two divergent timelines. (It’s also one of the many effects in LotFP adventures that makes the players less apt to touch anything that seems ”weird,” which seems contrary to the point of ”Weird Fantasy.”)

My hack for this is simple: moving the hands on the clock cause the room to suddenly go outline of a door appears against a wall in fearful luminescence...and out of that unholy portal steps...THE CHRONO-CRONE.

Chrono-crone Hag
Chrono-crones are women whose appearance is bifurcated lengthwise down their bodies; the left half of their bodies is withered and old, while the right half of their bodies is youthful and blooming. Chrono-crones are often magically linked to enchanted clocks. If the clock is tampered with—for example, if the hands of the clock are moved manually—the room first goes black, is then filled with eerie, spectral light, and then the Chrono-chrome appears. Chrono-crones summoned in this way will offer to strike a bargain with a group of adventurers, such as providing the effects of a Haste or Time Stop spell when they most need it, because any tampering with the orderly flow of time does honors their
strange, otherworldly masters.

Move: 120’ (40’) AC: 14 HD: 10 Attacks: 2 (AB +10) Dam:1d4 (claw) Mor: 6
Special Abilities:
Stasis Touch – anyone hit by a Chrono-crone’s claw attack must make a successful Saving Throw vs. Petrify or be struck with a
Hold Person effect.
Mistress of Time – A Chrono-crone can cast Haste and Slow at will,
Passwall, Dimension Door, and Teleport three times per day, and Time Stop twice per day.

* * *

The way I play it, the encounter with the Chrono-crone isn’t about combat unless the players force the issue. (At which point they’ll likely be slaughtered given the crone’s magical abilities.) Instead, it’s a chance to tempt the players into a Faustian bargain: perhaps the crone will offer to use one of her abilities to the party’s favor in return for a little of their "time" (effectively taking some of their youth). The first time I ran Death Frost Doom the players called about the crone to cast some much-needed Haste and Dimension Door spells so they could make good their escape from the zombie hordes.

Of course, the characters are free to not enter into a bargain with the crone. The last time I ran Death Frost Doom the players politely declined the crone’s bargain at first, but made a bee-line for her as soon as they had the vampire in tow in his casket. They made a case to the crone that the vampire’s eternal life was an affront to the flow of time to get her to deal with the vampire so they didn’t have to–which I thought was quite clever, actually.