(5e) The Hanged Man

By Davis Chenault
Troll Lord Games
Mid Level? or High Level? It says both ...

A long journey under an azure sky filling with brackish, boiling clouds ends at a large oak tree. Here, from a muscled branch, a man hangs limply by a thick rope strangled around his neck. Beyond, a dim, rising, yellow moon silhouette’s a village. Snaking, ashy tendrils of smoke coil above rooftops, lights glitter in windows while a miasmal fog creeps down upon the village from freshly churned fields. Then, as sudden as lightening, a fife and fiddle begin a joyous tune. This stops as abruptly as it started. All that now can be heard is a rope straining and groaning with the weight of the hanged man.

This 21 page adventure describes a village with about two dozen homes and about twice as many people. A number of who want to kill you. The setup is good, the people are interesting, their descriptions are evocative … and it’s mostly unusable because it uses room/key format on the village instead of providing the DM the tools they need to run a village of murderous people.

Some people in the village hung an innocent hang. The man hanging from the tree is the first thing the party comes across on their way in to town. What they don’t know is that in punishment the gods cursed them the abyss, and they can only appear in the mortal realm, village and all, for two days a year. During that time some are content just to live their lives as they once did. Others are now murderous, corrupted by the abyss. Also, their heads are not well attached to their bodies and their bodies rot over the 48 hours, especially the last 12, that they are in the mortal realms. In to this the party stumbles three hours in to their return. Also, if the party can kill EVERYONE in the village inside of the remaining 45 hours then the curse will be broken … although it’s not clear to me from the adventure how the party learns of that. There’s one couple who seem to be willing to, slowly, reveal the curse, but that’s it.

So, about 48 people in the village. About Twenty or slow motivations/how they react. About 48 or so different descriptions. A pseudo-timeline of events. And each has some kind of idea/something they know, or don’t, about the hanged man, which investigating is the pretext to start the adventure … although this is never explicitly mentioned.

Unfortunately ALL of this is buried in room/key format. Building 1, from the map, someones home, with the key named as such: “Bill & Bertha Henderson.” Then there’s a description of what they were like in life, before the curse. Then there’s a description of what they do now, their current personalities. Then there’s a description of what they know about the hanged man/that situation and some more personality about their characters now. Then there may be notes about events and/or how they react to the timeline/party that the villager is getting ready to throw. Then there’s some notes about how they react to being attacked. Then stats.  Then there is a description of both of their heads … since they can fly off of the body and fly around on their own, eventually. And this is repeated about 24 times, once for each building. For about forty people in total all the buildings. 

And the content is great. From what they know about the hanging to their current goals, to the head descriptions. It’s almost all oriented towards actual play. “Almost” meaning theirs some information about their past lives and other details that are NOT actual play oriented. Normally I’d comment how this gets in the way of the encounter keys, but not in this case.

That’s because in this case it ALL gets in the way of running the adventure. I believe this adventure is unrunable in its current form, at least without serious highlighting and note taking. Embedding the timeline as well as the subplots in each NPC home description was NOT a good choice, at all. 

What this needs is a seperate timeline section, with the subplots integrated in to that and cross-referenced to their NPC entries and a seperate section for the subplots. Thus, a list of of subplots/how NPC’s react. A timeline. A brief NPC description. A table of NPC descriptions and personalities/notes that is cross referenced to the timeline/plots/events/map. THAT would make this adventure runnable, a hell of an adventure at that.

Are you willing to put in that work?

I’m not. I believe it’s the designers job to do that. This would be a terrific adventure rereleased in a usable format.

This is $10 at DriveThru, with a C&C version available also. The preview is six pages. The last two pages give you two entries for homes in the village. That should give you idea of what to expect with this adventure, how things are laid out, etc. Note the intermingling of data. Keep that all in your head. Then augment it by twenty more houses and forty more people. 


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5 Responses to (5e) The Hanged Man

  1. Ron says:

    “ About Twenty or slow motivations” – intentional Bryce-ism? Considering the pace of the adventure? 😉

  2. mike says:

    “Some people in the village hung an innocent hang.”??

  3. Robert, OSR Heretic says:

    Ugh, that’s too bad. This sounds like an interesting premise too. Fixing these kind of adventures takes too much work. I recently went through that when I used Huddle Farm from Dungeon #14. It went over well but I had to cut much of it out and reorganize things.

    I’m definitely not willing to pay $10 for something like this.

  4. Dave says:

    I don’t like the way to lift the curse being to go full murder-hobo and kill the whole village. That should be the fallback option for groups that don’t manage a more elegant solution.

    Also, what’s the party’s actual hook for investigating the hanged man? And doing so in the village? Even if it’s “it’s what we’re doing tonight”, there needs to be an in-world clue, not the GM telling or “hinting” that the solution must be in the village.

    All that said, I really like the theme. Hanging tree is a classic, and executions generally are an underused theme.

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      It would be better if the curse was that the hanged man comes back to life every night and murders the entire village. And then it resets…. every night. The villagers come back to life with memories intact and know they will again be stalked and murdered by the hanged man, night after night after night, for eternity, unless of course the PCs can intervene and take care of the hanged man but their efforts are hampered by the fact that some of the villagers have gone insane from their ordeals.

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