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While visiting a small village, you are approached by a middle-aged man wearing fine leather armor, with an assortment of weapons at his disposal. His face is scarred and his expression is cold and hard.
“Pardon me,” he says politely in spite of his harsh demeanor. “I’m looking for strong people for hire, to aid me in a most noble quest. Are you available?” If you tell him you are, he continues. “My name is Jeddik Erskine. I live locally, though I spend much of my time on the road, protecting merchant caravans and hunting bandits.
“This isn’t the career I had in mind when I was young. When I was a small boy, my family grew grapes and produced some of the finest wines in the region. The vineyard where I grew up isn’t far from here, but I haven’t been back in years for you see, my family was killed in horrifying circumstances.
“The details are sketchy, for I was young and frightened, but nobody travels to the old vineyard anymore, for good reason. Malevolent spirits dwelled below in a series of chambers that were hidden when first we moved there. Strange occurrences began to manifest; minor things at first, but then my family were killed off, one by one.
Erskine steadies himself as he deals with powerful emotions. “I have lived in fear of that place ever since, but I will tolerate it no longer. I mean to go there and vanquish those specters so that my soul can be at peace, and I can reclaim my family’s land. I can pay you well for this task; will you join me?”
If you agree to help Erskine defeat the literal ghosts of his past, he bids you follow him to the vineyard just down the road, outside the village. If you follow, you soon arrive at a place frozen in time. Fields covered in weeds sprawl beneath towering pines, keeping the place cloaked in perpetual shade.
Erskine carefully approaches the cottage with a sword in hand, looking for signs of trouble. He can’t bring himself to enter the cottage, but instead looks out over the fields. In the dim light, you can see faintly glowing apparitions of people working among the weeds, as if they were still alive!
“Don’t let their appearance fool you,” Erskine warns. “These are the monsters that massacred my family! Let us clear this area first.” If you join him, you advance on the specters, which immediately turn toward you and transform into visions of fang-toothed, clawed monstrosities, hungering for your flesh!
They howl and evaporate when destroyed, and should you defeat the specters in the field, Erskine turns and notices the entrance to the underground crypt.
“I remember this place,” he mutters, then visibly flinches. “The sound of people screaming from within, yes, I was here. It was terrifying.” He grips his sword tighter and marches with purpose towards the doors which he kicks in revealing an empty chamber except for a staircase. With a torch in one hand, he goes forward, and if you follow, you descend a staircase to a lower level.
“This is the wine cellar,” he confides as you proceed cautiously. “It used to be a crypt, but it was repurposed.” Bones and wooden debris crunch underfoot as you head further in, spotting intact barrels nestled into the alcoves along the way. The silence is deafening, but something compels Erskine to continue on. Only when you reach a shattered door at the southern end does he stop.
Through the door a single specter hovers over a casket, with more of the cursed spirits faintly glowing by the walls around the raised area. To your surprise, the larger specter moves forward and speaks in a ghostly voice.
“Why do you return to this place?” he asks Erskine. “Why do you continue our torment? Have we not suffered enough?”
“For killing my family, it’s the least you deserve,” Erskine snarls, ready to continue the fight. If you’re insightful, you might sense there is more going on here than you realize. If you ask the spirit what they’re talking about, you receive an answer.
“We are the spirits of those who died when the Erskine family plundered and stole our land,” he howls. “They cut us down in the fields, and those of us who made it into the wine cellar to take refuge were locked inside to starve. Our souls are disquiet, unable to free ourselves from the shackles of this torment until the last of the Erskine family dies. Only then will we know peace. Help us!”
“It’s a lie!” Erskine shouts, unwilling to listen further. “And even if it were true, I wouldn’t have even been born yet when that occurred. To want a man dead for the sins of his father is as monstrous as I would expect from those who butchered my family, including women and children. As the only survivor of the Erskine family, I cannot abide this! I will vanquish these demon spirits or die trying!”
If you side with Erskine, you must fight the undead spirits of the fallen until they are all gone. If you survive, Erskine thanks you profusely for aiding him in avenging his family’s death, and provides you with a handsome sum of gold.
If you side with the spirits, Erskine is livid that you would turn on him and fights you and the spirits like a crazed man. If you defeat him, the spirits breathe a collective sigh and slowly vanish into the ether, leaving Erskine’s valuable sword and armor – not to mention a pouch of gold.
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Inventor of the SabreRPG system (which we love), Steve's the wonderful GM who hosted many fantastic campaigns for the Seafoot family. He's been writing, illustrating, and publishing his own books for over a decade, and is best known for The Aielund Saga. We're so glad to have him on our team writing these fantastic adventure modules, as well as Adventurer's Guides. His experience as both writer and GM makes him incredible at what he does, and we think you'll agree when you read his work!