As the days remaining on the calendar dwindle, it seems as though life does, too. The days grow shorter, the wind grows colder, and all around us the landscape turns stark and barren. Trees take on the appearance of skeletons, and the bright leaves of autumn are buried under freshly fallen snow.
The world becomes even more chilling when its metaphorical death is accompanied by murder most macabre. Bodies have begun to turn up all around the city -- bodies that have been mauled by some ferocious beast until they are practically unrecognizable.
In The Dead of Winter, the fourth adventure in Stan's continuing Heartless campaign for the d20 Modern Roleplaying Game, the heroes must stop the monster behind these grisly killings. Can they solve the case before this blood stains the pristine promise of the coming new year? This adventure is designed for 12th-level characters.
Preview the Adventure
Over the years, members of the Children of Chaos cult have committed numerous acts of vandalism, obstruction of justice, destruction of property, and occasionally petty theft. Recently, however, they have stepped up their criminal activities. In the past few months, groups of these cultists have instigated a hostage crisis, a candy-tampering emergency on Halloween, and a tainted meat incident at a food bank for the homeless on Thanksgiving.
But the Children of Chaos have not yet realized that their leader, Nicholas St. Andrew, formed the cult for the sole purpose of gaining a source of expendable manpower. He needed people he could use, abuse, and even kill with impunity. The Children of Chaos filled that role admirably, willingly doing anything he asked of them, no matter how self-destructive it was.
By and large, the cult is composed of loners and outsiders -- people who had few friends before joining and few contacts outside the group afterward. In other words, they are unlikely to be missed, and if they turn up dead, the police probably won't devote much effort to investigating. Dozens of murders happen every day in a large city, so the death of someone nobody cares about isn't usually a high-priority case.
Before he can undertake the final rite and gain access to the supernatural power he craves, St. Andrew must perform many smaller ceremonies. The most horrendous of these involves killing six people via a ritual in which he must harvest their still-beating hearts. St. Andrew plans to use the remaining members of the Children of Chaos for this purpose.
His biggest worry is that the removal of so many hearts is likely to attract the attention of the authorities and the media, even if the victims themselves are unimportant. While the police might overlook several deaths from random violence or unfortunate accidents, deaths that appear to be the work of a psychotic serial killer would surely become front-page news. Thus, he realized early that he needed a way to hide the truth about what he was doing and ensure that any investigators made false deductions.
About the Author
Stan! has been publishing fiction, cartoons, and games professionally since 1982. He has served as a graphic designer and line editor for West End Games, an editor and designer for TSR, Inc., and an author, senior designer, and creative director for Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Stan! is currently the Creative Vice President for The Game Mechanics, Inc. His recent projects include the Urban Arcana Campaign Setting for Wizards of the Coast and the Modern Player's Companion for Green Ronin. In what he laughingly refers to as his spare time, Stan! writes and illustrates the Bolt & Quiver and Table Talk comic strips.
Stan! lives in Renton, WA, where he eats nothing but meat and cheese. Visit him online.