The following locations have particular features that fit well in the context of a horror game, such as minor unusual magic or creepy special effects. Though they might not be directly threatening like the hazards in the next section (and thus don’t possess their own CR), they nonetheless add an ambience of horror and a sense of unease to the game, and sometimes make the journey through the surrounding area much less pleasant.
Divining Water: Certain special bodies of water grant insight into the spirits of those reflected in them. The reflections of creatures that appear in divining water show each creature as though it were viewed with true seeing, bypassing any illusions or polymorph effects and revealing the creature’s true form. However, either right away or after establishing their divinatory properties, the reflections sometimes shift to show images of horrific creatures (generally undead and evil outsiders) instead of creatures’ true forms, especially when the viewer is in a state of fear or mental turmoil.
Faceless Statue: These specially created stone statues are humanoid in appearance and elegantly carved, but they stand out because of their completely blank visages, which appear as though the sculptor simply forgot to give them faces. Whenever a character casts project image within range of such a statue, she can project her image onto the statue, instead of creating the spell’s normal effect. This causes the statue’s blank face to transform into that of the caster, and the statue mimics the caster’s actions, rather than a projected image doing so. The statue has a movement speed of 0 feet, but a caster projecting her image through the statue can direct it to make up to two slam attacks per round as a full-round action, using the caster’s base attack bonus. The slam attacks each deal 1d8 points of bludgeoning damage. A project image spell cast in this way has a duration measured in minutes, rather than rounds, and the caster isn’t required to maintain line of effect to the projected image at all times. A faceless statue can also be affected by enter image, causing the faceless surface to transform into an image of the caster’s face for the duration of the spell, instead of producing the spell’s normal effects.
The statue’s hardness is based on the type of material from which it is made. Dealing an amount of damage to the statue equal to double the caster’s caster level ends either of the special spell effects channeled through the faceless statue.
Godless Void: Godless voids are pockets of altered reality that typically infest ruined temples, forsaken battlefields, and churches that fell from grace through the blasphemous deeds of corrupted worshipers. Even the divine might of deities is denied influence within these voids. The radius of a godless void is usually 1d6 × 100 feet. Within lesser godless voids, divine spells become more difficult to cast, and a divine caster must succeed at a concentration check (DC = 20 + the level of the spell) for a spell to function normally. If the caster fails, the spell doesn’t function, but the prepared spell or spell slot is still lost. In addition, the DC to resist channeled energy of all sorts is reduced by 4. Greater godless voids are more troublesome, as all divine magic melts away within them, so divine casters must operate totally cut off from their god, as if within an antimagic field.
Selective godless voids exist, though they are rarer still than their normal counterparts. Such blasphemous sites affect divine casters of alignments opposed to the void’s influence or who worship a deity or belong to a religion opposed to the void’s influence. For instance, evil lesser godless voids impede good-aligned casters’ access to spells and weaken their ability to channel positive energy as described above, while evil greater voids totally cut off spells and class abilities from good-aligned divine casters or casters who gain their powers from good-aligned deities. Good-aligned godless voids, or those aligned to law or chaos, are less common. Godless voids created by a great blasphemy against a particular deity might affect only that particular deity’s power.
Grave: Macabre reminders of mortality, a grave could be found among many more within a necropolis or alone on a windswept hill. Digging a grave (4-1/2 to 6-1/2 feet deep) in typical soil takes 1d4 hours, while digging a grave in frozen or otherwise harder-than-average soil takes 2d6 hours. Without standard digging equipment, these times are doubled. Climbing out of an open grave usually takes a move action and a successful DC 5 Climb check (plus another move action to stand if the creature started out lying down).
Careful examination of the surrounding area can reveal the presence of an unmarked grave or provide insight into how long ago a grave was dug. A successful DC 15 Perception check allows a character to notice an area of recently disturbed earth. For every week since the soil was disturbed, and for every day of rain since the soil was disturbed, the 152 Horror Rules 5 DC increases by 1. A successful DC 20 Profession (gardener, gravedigger, or other similar profession) or Survival check allows a character examining a patch of recently disturbed earth to determine roughly how long ago it was disturbed, as long as it was disturbed no more than 1 year ago.
If a character is buried alive, perhaps by the buried alive haunt, the rules suggestions give an idea of what that character needs to do claw her way out of an early grave.
Holy Ground: When first constructed, most good-aligned churches, temples, and holy sites are consecrated by the religion’s clergy in elaborate and expensive blessing ceremonies, culminating in the casting of a hallow spell.
This effect permanently wards the site with a magic circle against evil effect, bolsters channeled positive energy while reducing the effects of channeled negative energy, and protects interred bodies from turning into undead abominations. The magic circle prevents intrusion by evil summoned creatures, and GMs may rule that other evil creatures refuse to trespass on holy ground. This hallow spell also carries the protection of an additional spell for the first year—most often aid, bless, death ward, dimensional anchor, or zone of truth. The temple’s attendants usually renew this spell in a special ceremony each year on the anniversary of the blessing ceremony, but the effect isn’t in place for churches that have fallen into disrepair or been abandoned by their faiths. However, the remaining lingering hallow effect in a ruined holy site might still provide sanctuary for those seeking respite from dark forces.
The lingering presence of evil in or near a holy site can slowly undermine and eventually dispel the hallow effect.
This usually takes years or decades, and even a small amount of resistance by pure-hearted attendants can protect the site.
Evil denominations also perform rituals to increase the power of their unholy sites, but with the exact opposite effects, replacing hallow with unhallow, and providing similar protections against good creatures. Evil clergy are more likely to utilize detrimental additional effects like bane or cause fear to discourage trespassers on their unholy ground or even more powerful spells like dimensional anchor to ensure the trespassers will never leave.
Lost Halls: The corridors of some decrepit mansions can mislead those who seek to discover their hidden secrets. Within these lost halls, doors vanish, corridors impossibly twist and turn, staircases climb endlessly, and passages appear and disappear to confuse explorers.
Creatures caught in lost halls find themselves temporarily trapped in an extradimensional labyrinth. For each round spent exploring the twisting turns, an affected creature can attempt a DC 20 Intelligence check as a full-round action to find its way back to the point where it originally became lost. During this time, others might hear it calling out, but can’t see or detect the lost creature. The phenomenon is short-lived, so if the creature finds itself hopelessly lost, 10 minutes later it finds its way back to the point where it first disappeared. This phenomenon can affect multiple creatures at once, in which case they can hear the disturbing echoes of other lost creatures trying to extract themselves from the twisting halls, but they can’t otherwise interact with or assist their allies in any way. Unlike most of the other locations in this section, a lost halls phenomenon is normally harmless, if extremely unsettling, but when populated with creatures that target the separated characters, lost halls can substantially alter the threat of encounters.
Some powerful creatures are so corrupted that their malignancy creeps into the land around them, establishing dangerous domains of evil over which they rule. and though some vile lords find themselves trapped within these cursed realms, they also become capable of exerting tremendous influence over the atmosphere and composition of their domains, such that their lands grow to reflect their dark moods and deeds. These dark rulers are described in the dread lord template.
Domains of evil are dark pockets of supernatural activity embedded in a plane (often the Material Plane) like boils on pockmarked flesh. Most domains are hostile and uninviting at best, full of twisted forests, rough and intractable terrain, and putrid rivers that reek of rot and pollution. Wildlife could be similarly tainted, in which case even the occasional hare or ground squirrel is bony, cancerous, and infested with vermin. Packs of mangy coyotes, pustule-plagued wolves, and murders of molting crows might constantly harass travelers, nipping at their heels, ripping the flanks of their mounts, or snatching at the fingers of careless campers.
Supernatural creatures might also plague the unwary, as moaning zombies wander wind-blown mountain passes and spectral dead seek to drain the life from the living at every turn. Packs of ghouls roam the lowlands, devouring entire villages, and the gnawed skeletons they leave in their wake animate and attack travelers. Everywhere lurks the foreboding presence of some foul master, who has an uncanny knack for knowing the whereabouts of trespassers and is capable of bending the lands to his will to make them most unwelcome.
Such domains are not always devoid of humanoid populations—they may harbor villages of fearful and superstitious locals that usually serve as chattel and livestock for the domain’s lord. These populations tend to be incredibly insular and suspicious of outsiders and intrusions on their lifestyles, as trespassers into the realm—particularly adventurers—have ways of disrupting the locals’ tentative impasse with their lord.
When created, a domain of evil warps reality around it into a foul reflection of its master, with a radius of 5 miles for every Hit Die of its new lord (see the dread lord template). This radius usually centers on an ancient ancestral manse or cursed cairn that housed the dread lord’s family or was the scene of a tragedy that led to the domain’s creation. Though domains of evil are still located on their original plane (usually the Material Plane), with all the terrain, weather, flora, fauna, structures, and features normal to the area where they were created, their special natures cause them to have planar traits that alter their physical and magical properties, as well as some features exclusive to them. Domains of evil have the following features, as befits the horrible creatures that preside over these realms.
Alignment: If its master has 10 Hit Dice or fewer, a domain gains the mildly aligned planar alignment trait reflecting the alignment of its master. Domains with masters with more than 10 Hit Dice instead become strongly aligned.
Borders: Some domains are formed simply by the foul presence of an evil that has long inhabited the land, whether it’s a nosferatu lord lurking in the shadows or a restless ghost bound to the soil of its unquiet grave. The borders of such a domain are open; creatures can freely enter and leave, and its lord can pass to and from its domain without penalty, though the influence he has over his lands doesn’t extend past the domain’s established borders. Other domains of evil serve as torturous prisons for their cursed lords (see Cursed Domains), who find it impossible to leave the realms to which they are bound, oftentimes hindered by a pervasive bank of dread fog that prevents their egress. These mists resist intrusion into the domain, though the strange whims of dark powers might allow passage through the fog for those who might further trouble or torment the land’s lord.
Disturbing to Animals: The overwhelming taint of unnatural presences disturbs animals that are not native to a domain of evil. Animals don’t willingly approach the domain’s border unless their masters succeed at DC 25 Handle Animal, Ride, or wild empathy checks, and the masters must continue to attempt checks each hour within the domain to prevent their animals from trying to leave the area. The DCs of all other Handle Animal, Ride, and wild empathy checks to influence nonnative animals increase by 5 while the animals remain within the domain’s border.
Hazards: The domain morphs into a dark and twisted reflection of its lord, with dangerous landmarks and supernatural hazards mirroring the master’s temperament and personality infesting the landscape. Forests might become darker and more foreboding, full of misleading paths or gnarled oaks that grasp and tear at trespassers. Seemingly sentient fogs drift across the crags and crevices of the land, animating undead in their wakes, while bat colonies infest the domain’s caves and ruins. These hazards can shift and change over time as the land reacts to the moods and whims of the dread lord (a slow process that takes at least 24 hours, during which no hazard functions), but the total CR of all hazards found with a lord’s domain (that is, the CR of a hypothetical encounter with all of the hazards at once) can’t exceed double the dread lord’s Hit Dice, and no individual hazard can have a CR that exceeds the dread lord’s Hit Dice. If the land is the domain of a cursed lord and bordered by dread fog, the fog’s CR value doesn’t count against this limit.
Magic: The domain can have the enhanced magic, impeded magic, or wild magic planar trait, as befits the personality and temperament of its lord. If the domain has enhanced, impeded, or limited magic, one type of magic per 5 Hit Dice of its lord can be enhanced, impeded, or limited.
The categories of magic that are affected are relatively narrow. For example, an entire school of magic would be too broad, but “effects with the healing descriptor or that restore hit points” or “death spells and spells granted by the Death and Repose domains” would be appropriate. A type of spell can’t be both enhanced and impeded by the same domain.
Time: A domain’s time passes at the normal rate by default. In some cases, the lord’s powerful whims alter the passage of time, whether replicating the slow churning of years felt by a lich’s long existence, or the quickening felt by a blood-sated vampire. This alteration can be temporary or permanent, and the domain can have the erratic time, flowing time (half or double normal time), or timeless trait.
Though many dread lords so embrace their inherent evil that they slowly corrupt the lands around them, others perform deeds so horrendous that gods, the universe, fate, or another powerful force curses them to internal imprisonment in a domain. There is no escape for a cursed lord, who is continuously subject to living and spectral reminders of the tragic misdeeds that trapped him (see the cursed lord template). These realms have all the qualities of domains of evil, with the following additional traits.
Dread Fog: This cloying mist often encapsulates the boundaries of cursed domains, raised by terrible powers to prevent entry into, or escape from, the cursed lands they protect. Like normal fog, these pervasive banks of thick mists obscure all sight, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet, granting concealment to all creatures at least 5 feet away (20% miss chance). Navigation and orientation within the mists is treacherous, and creatures usually find themselves easily separated from their companions unless extraordinary means are taken to prevent separation, which can include shackling or binding adjacent creatures to one another with rope. Those within the fog have little hope of navigating the mists and risk becoming hopelessly lost. A creature must succeed at a DC 20 Intelligence check each hour after entering the mist.
Creatures that fail continue to wander in the fog until they succeed. Creatures that succeed exit the fog 1d10 × 100 feet from the location where they first entered the miasma. Spells and abilities that move a creature within a plane, such as teleport and dimension door, don’t help a creature escape this fog, although a plane shift spell allows the creature to exit at the location it originally entered the fog. Penetrating the fog to actually enter or exit the realm it protects is subject to the GM’s discretion. Navigating through might require difficult Knowledge (planes) checks, random happenstance, complicated arcane rituals beseeching favor, or simply the desire of the mysterious entities responsible for the cursed realm’s creation to see the torture of their prisoner ended or increased with the intrusion of the adventurers.
The fog’s hopelessness is pervasive, and creatures take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per hour they are within the fog. The wraiths and geists of those who have perished in the mists might also materialize to drain the life from travelers. Those who lose their lives within this miasma are forever lost, incapable of being restored to life by any means short of direct divine intervention. They often turn into incorporeal undead themselves, their souls feeding the strange boundary’s continued existence.
Haunted Lands: Cursed lords are plagued with the spectres of the acts that led to the creation of the domain, which materialize as haunts. The realm of a brutal dictator might be tormented with the haunts of those he tortured to death, reflecting the various violent means by which they were killed. The domain of a lich cursed for sacrificing her entire family to fuel her transformation into undeath may contain the spirits of those she betrayed, who wander the halls of a ruined manse at the core of the land. The cursed lord has no control over these spectral trespassers, placed to remind him of his former misdeeds. When a cursed realm is created, the domain manifests a number of haunts with a total CR value (that is, the CR of a hypothetical encounter with all of the hazards at once) of up to double the cursed lord’s Hit Dice, with no single haunt having a CR that exceeds the cursed lord’s Hit Dice. These haunts are chained to the cursed lord and can’t be completely destroyed while the cursed lord still exists. Other haunts not chained to the cursed lord might manifest within the domain of evil, but such haunts don’t count against the CR limit.