I wanted to do a fun little Halloween play with my family and our friend, so I looked around and found the #1 recommended Halloween One Shot: The Haunt. I know there are tons of options out there, but this one kept popping up and it's a haunted house, so I figured it'd be good to go. While I prepped for the One Shot, I wasn't disappointed with the interesting twists and turns of the content.
The characters were recommended to be at Level 4 or 5. I had my group make Level 5 characters. The only information I gave them was that it was a haunted house in the woods. What they created was up to what they thought they might need.
Since this is a One Shot, the group didn't have much of a backstory. So I started with one of the suggested adventure hooks and wove a small backstory around that.
The group is known for their hunting of the supernatural in the area. They just finished a case dealing with werewolves and were wrapping up the case with they were approached by Mayor Thom. Mayor Thom explained that people had been going missing when traveling around the notorious Montarthas Manor. People suspect foul place, but have been unable to locate any beasts or other questionable creatures in the area that could be causing these people to disappear without a trace. It had been rumored that some sort of spirits might be attracting and attacking the people.
I, as the DM, decided that the group takes the assignment and they are able to do some research in the village before heading to the manor (as a few had knowledge of history skills to use). I used the background to give the players some idea of what they're exploring and some history of the manor. I mostly focus on factual information, allowing for other speculation to come to light while they explore the manor. This would be the information about the night hag, Gertrude.
They start on the path to the front door of the mansion. Gretchen uses calk to create light and then they spend their time trying to get in. Gretchen is, of course, obsessed with the blue eyes that are staring out at them from a window nearby. I thought for sure that it would be difficult to get them to walk away from the door, which is part of the setup, but they finally decided to look for another way in and I was able to do the cool, creepy door opening.
Their first encounter is in the Manor Entryway and really put the small band of investigators to the test. The gargoyles came to life and were only responsive to certain types of attacks. It rendered my rogue useless and I had to lend aide to the others as they tried to take them down. It was a rough first encounter and put my crew on high alert. We needed an immediate rest to recoup.
In the next room they finally met the doll. I used a picture of the Annabelle doll from the Conjuring Universe movies. We shrunk her, though, so she was a smaller version of the movie doll version. My friend became obsessed with her, wanting to "be friendly" with the doll. The rest of the group became interested in the portcullis that was blocking the stairs and the griffin statue.
I didn't have much happen, because they weren't pulling on the griffin statue's paw and they moved on to the tea room where a chandelier fell on Bazhlissh, but he succeeded a dexterity save to get out of the way.
With some guidance, they were able to find the secret passage and the rest of the first floor was investigation. The best part was when they encountered the Zombie Beholder in the pool area! My husband and my friend knew how horrible Beholders were and freaked. But I didn't roll the disintegration ray, so they lucked out.
The final part, before going upstairs, was the basement and I had to essentially tell them to either go in the basement or skip it. I think that's one of the things that I don't like about the way this is planned out, but I guess it really is just a make a decision moment. And when they got down there, I thought it would take them a while to figure out the puzzle, but it took them hardly any time at all.
And it was with the basement that we ended our first session. My daughter was so upset, because she wanted to keep going. The flow of the first part was really great, but it was a school night and it was getting late, so we had to call it quits. Appropriate stopping points sometimes aren't at the time we want.