Here are a few pointers I threw together before you head to the lodge, there is much more to write about the Shudderwood but you hopefully shouldn’t journey to deep into it so this ought to suffice.
The Ascanor Lodge
A long institution within the history of Lozeri, frequently visited by the noble and wealthy to go on prestigious hunt from a safe haven within the Wyld. The lodge boasts a sizable library on various topics, which Estovion curates and ever so carefully manages as well as various other comforts including a small music room, where traveling artists frequently show their talents or Madame Ivanja for more carnal desires. The current residents within the lodge are not easily known to us, but these individuals we are certain of:
- Estovion Lozarov: The current caretaker of the lodge, where he grew up and has been since. He has sworn loyalty to the Palatine Council and is known for keeping his mouth shut and staying out of political affairs.
- Delgros Kroitzcer: Huntsmaster of the lodge who leads the majority of the hunts, he is a brilliant game hunter known for capturing aggressive animals – and equally known for his recklessness.
- Corvin Tergsvor: The second son of Cervaus Tergsvor, one of Courtaud’s most influential nobles.He is enjoying an extended stay at Ascanor after he was involved in a minor scandal involving the young wife of a wealthy courtier.
- Cilas Graydon: Retired military commander from Barstoi, he has been granted amnesty within Lozeri and is involved in Palatine politics. He is a frequent visitor to the lodge and chances are good that he is staying there currently.
Just because they are part of Lozeri on maps, do not confuse this area with the civilized lands. The woods are ruled by something more primal and raw and is filled with some of Ustalav’s most dangerous creatures. Not only that, it also seems to almost have a will on its own, having strange influences of those that stay within the forest. Pack rations, be prepared for diseases and poisons you have not seen yet, have silver at the ready, and make sure your clothes are sturdy and weather-proof. Oh, and one word of advice: If you see weird human corpses just keep your distance.
Traveling in the Shudderwoods is even more harrowing than in the rest of Ustalav, for here the influence of the Wyld is the strongest and tears at the mind and body of the civilized traveler, gnawing at it bit by bit until they are broken and remade.
Characters need to save when traveling a trail (and sometimes after resolving a location), failure means adding a tick to the character’s exhaustion track, on tick 3/5/7/10 a character suffers a penalty, growing in severity and stacking up:
3: -2 penalty on all task rolls
5: -2 penalty on AV and -1 on ST
7: maximum hit points lowered by 33%
Some trails are particular strenuous and also inflict 1 tick of exhaustion regardless of the save, unless an additional ration is consumed (and this additional ration does not grant a hit point)
Spending a day in a safe haven automatically removes 2 ticks of exhaustion
Additionally, instead of regaining hp each morning/evening a character may choose to lose 1 tick of exhaustion, if a healing potion is used, instead of regaining hit points, they may instead instantly lose 2 ticks of exhaustion.
A character needs to consume at least 1 ration per day or gain an exhaustion tick. Furthermore, each consumed ration also restores 1 hit point (up to a maximum of 3 hit point per day). Rations may be bundled into units of 4 per item slot and cost 1 silver piece to procure.
Tomes can be filled with the discoveries of the Shudderwood’s inhabitants, their dangers but also the uses of their body parts. Here are a few critters for you to watch out for.
- Ailiper: Dangerous snake that injects their prey with supercharged random diseases, if milked properly the Ailiper Phage is valued by alchemists who may create a miraculous cure-all from it.
- Bauik: Ghoul-like beings with a tongue of liquid silver which influences the minds of mortals – they are contortionists and lair in hard to reach places where they devour live prey. The tongue retains some power after death.
- Blight Motes: A pest of twisted squirrel skeletons with wings that despoil anything that they touch, be it rations or bodies of water, capable of despoiling entire landscapes in large masses. Universally hated.
- Devil Stag: Infernal demon-skinned deer which grant wishes, with devastating side effects – they may try to force travelers into deals, yet their golden antlers are valued magical items. You need silver for this one.
- Feral Knight: Knights of unknown origin, now twisted by the Wyld and incredibly dangerous. If you have to face one rely on silver and don’t stop fighting until its shape lies broken before you, they can keep going beyond mortal wounds.
- Grimmking: You can hear their arrival, the whispers and growls of a hundred feral mouths as it towers over even the largest pine trees – I don’t know how these things are created but stay away from them at all cost.
- Ravagers: This is what happens to you when the Wyld takes you – former criminals, bandits, mad hermits who have abandoned their mortality and instead have been granted madness and “gifts”.
- Root Troll: If you thought regular trolls are bad enough you have not seen what happens when one of them fuses with a growing tree. Use fire but even then you might lose someone, it can control the very trees around itself.
- Slavern: Whenever you enter a patch of the woods that seems to be particular lush but smells acidic, these dog-like creatures are around. They constantly leak digestive juices and use them to hunt, stay at a distance, silver helps.
Yes, full moon transformations, feral man-beasts that tear travelers apart, and so on. Within the woods they have actually formed close-knit communities and have a way of living very different from yours. Try to be respectful and forget about the full moon myths, it has a certain truth to it, but none of them will suddenly turn feral and tear you apart. The clan you are to seek out are the Vollensag, they are mystics with powerful divinations which is exactly what we need to track the Whispering Way. Otherwise the Mordrinacht also live relatively close to the lodge, they are sort of martial and occasionally trade with the lodge and travelers.
Not that far from Ascanor Lodge you may find respite in this eerie village of Moonelves – if they show themselves to you. The community is by no means rich but you might be able to resupply and find a safe space to rest here in the forest. Many of their mystics use runes to reference to deities not found anywhere else such as “The Lady Mirror” but they are harmless enough and may even offer some of their oversized symbiotic snails for sale.
Some Myths of the Shudderwood
- There lives an old crone somewhere alone in a hut – it is said that she helps lost travelers for a price but has a bad temper and is best left alone.
- Some strange power takes in all those who are broken and beyond redemption in the depths of the woods, if one only calls out “her name” – this supposedly even includes those on death’s door and beyond.
- A blessing finds you, if you offer strangers generosity thrice, reject them once and be thrice-cursed instead.
Other Hazards & Curiosities
- The Wyld: A strange force can be tapped into within the Shudderwood, but it cannot be tamed nor understood, some inhabitants may wield it and it warps them and you – or provides untold aid.
- Banshee Morels: Fleshy mushrooms that produce a small whistle from their heads – which turns into a deafening wail when threatened and attract local wild life.
- Kingsleep Moss: Large patches of turquoise-colored moss may be discovered by the lucky – sleeping on those mosses provides additional benefits and leaves one invigorated.
- Moontrees: Large weirdly twisted trees with a faint shimmer to them and a slightly blue bark, often humanoid faces grow on their stems and they never yield seeds. Those who harm them quickly disappear without trace.
- Fleshspawn: A horrible disease that causes the victim’s flesh to grow out of control, burying them in rolls of their own skin and muscle.
- Euphoria Streams: This stream is full of a potent euphoriant that absorbs through the skin and strong enough to send a horse into a dizzying, blissful coma.
- Skull Children: Small spirits of the restless youthful dead, Skull Children are physical apparitions bent on causing chaos wherever they go.