Dungeons & Dragons Online

Bastion – The Drowned Lands. A new Domain of Dread featuring an Inquisition, witchcraft, social decay, and zombies. Gothic horror and folk horror themes.

FULL PDF HERE: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LkXqY_ujOl9Tu84IAlhr-AvIbx2l5c4M/view?usp=sharing

Hey folks, DM Tool Chest here again. Went with something a bit different this time with a Domain of Dread constructed in the exact same format as the ones provided in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. You can find some of our previous posts here:

Rise of the Raven Prince: Stop the necromancer Rhazul and his loyal servants from animating the dead beneath the village in this 1st level adventure. : DnDBehindTheScreen (reddit.com)

Shipwreck of the Minnow – An adventure for 5th-6th level characters. : DnDBehindTheScreen (reddit.com)

Full Bastion text below:


Bastion

The Domain of Drowned Despair

Darklord: Octavia Lafont

Genres: Gothic Horror and Folk Horror

Hallmarks: Inquisition, witchcraft, social decay, zombies

Mist Talismans: Sackcloth doll stuck with pins, rusty thumbscrew, broken planchette

Perpetual twilight blankets the rotting corpse of what was once the proud nation of Bastion. Fields that were once ripe with wheat and grain have become encroaching swamps filled with monstrous creatures waiting for any foolish enough to step from the safety of the village walls. Twisted vines hang from rotting branches, ready to lash out at the unwary. At first glance, the town buildings and citizens appear decadent and luxurious, exquisitely built and elegant. A second quickly reveals the rot and decay, the flaking paint, and stained clothing. Those who live here know that appearances are deceiving, and the masks one wears are just as important as what they hide.

The occasional scream that echoes across the swamps may equally be the sound of a predator’s successful hunt or the bait they are using to draw in bigger prey. Twisted creations of feathers, twigs, and bone hang from moss-covered tree branches, the only warning of a hunting ground of one of the many horrors that stalk the wetlands. Undead zombies lurch from the waters, risen by witch covens that seek to tear down the last vestiges of civilization in this rotting land. Nightmare horrors ambush the unwary who risk the travel ways, disappearing back into the waters of the swamps with their prizes.

Basion is the home of the Iron Inquisition, led by the Darklord and High Inquisitor Octavia Lafont, who seeks to eradicate magic—both arcane and divine—along with those who practice it. The citizenry spends their days with forced smiles, never knowing when they will be arrested and brought in for confession. No amount of protestations are enough once the accusation is made, and all trials end with a death sentence—to be burned alive at the stake. Neighbors are forced into strained politeness at all times for fear of pointed fingers, giving the illusion of a gentrified and polite society. Even the slightest hint of magic is enough to bring the Inquisition’s wrath, burning everything—and everyone—in its path.

Bastion is also home to the twisted monstrosities born out of Octavia Lafont’s greatest fears. Witch covens and horrifying creatures fill the swamps, regularly attacking travelers and dragging their victims back to join their undead ranks. The Inquisition struggles to hold back the tide of monsters while the citizens spend their nights celebrating by the firelight of pyres burning those accused of witchcraft.

Noteworthy Features

Those familiar with Bastion know the following facts:

  • Magic is illegal, and anyone caught using it will be reported to the Inquisition for trial.
  • There are no cities and few settlements in Bastion; they eventually sink into the ever-growing swamps, leaving creature-filled ruins spread across the land. The largest settlement is the town of Saint-Delphine, where the Iron Inquisition makes its headquarters.
  • The Inquisition is the highest authority in the land, and the few remaining nobles tread lightly around them out of fear of being put to the torch. Each settlement is appointed a Lord Inquisitor who acts as judge and jury, and their word is the law.
  • The Inquisition is constantly recruiting those brave enough to enter the swamps in search of nests of witches to destroy or ruins to clear of monsters.
  • Citizens live in constant fear of the monsters in the swamps and the towns. Most avoid getting involved with any situations that would draw unwanted attention their way.
  • Politeness and maintaining appearances are essential in Bastion. The finest gowns and coats are worn at all times, even if they are the only garments owned. This veneer of a polite and sophisticated society masks the undercurrent of constant terror.
  • Superstition is rife among the citizenry, and many secretly carry charms and totems in hopes that they ward off the attention from the Inquisitors or the darkness from the swamps, even though they know it is often used as evidence against them if discovered.

Bastionese Characters (Sidebar)

Characters from Bastion might be disillusioned former Inquisitors, orphaned children of the accused, or hiding their newfound magical abilities from the law. Much of the primarily human populace possess dark hair and pale skin from lack of sunlight, typically hiding behind an abundance of facepaint and rouge. Their attire tends to be fanciful, no matter the occasion. Names often take influence from French and Creole inspiration. When players create characters from Bastion, ask them the following questions.

What was your life like in Bastion? Were you the child of a noble, peasant, or orphan? Did you grow up in the swamps or behind the walls of the villages? Did someone in your life vanish into the swamps or was taken by the Inquisition?

What superstitions do you cling to? Is there something you do or say to ward off the evil eye or unwanted attention? Do you carry a token or lucky charm with you? Do you see signs and warnings in the world around you?

How do you feel about magic? Are you uncomfortable around magic? Do you embrace or reject friendship with magic users? How do you feel about using magic items?

Settlements and Sites

Bastion is a twilight realm of decay and despair. The fetid swamps have swallowed most of the countryside, and formerly thriving towns are now ruins dotting the land. Survivors huddle in the settlements, afraid to leave the safety of the firelight for fear of what lurks in the misty shadows.

Boneyard Glades

Overgrown with razor vines and thick vegetation, this hilly swamp lies just to the north of the village of Bonchon. Unlike most of the wetlands in Bastion—which buzz and hum with the sounds of the creatures crawling through them— these glades are silent. The site of a significant battle of centuries past, the bones of ancient warriors come alive with the dark energy that permeates the waters. The bones of a dragon felled long ago are working their way slowly through the earth, jutting from the hillside as a visible warning to the nearby town that their doom is coming.

There have been sightings of a giant creature with twisted horns breathing fire that roams the glades, burning alive any unlucky soul who stumbles across its path. An undead creature born from the dark energies, the locals named it the Umbrabeast, and they fear the day it leaves the glades.

Marseu

Marseu is a rundown village in the northwestern corner of Bastion. The homes here were hastily built by the survivors of the fall of Leyonne after the Dark Powers brought them here through the mists. Many of the buildings were constructed from the stones of the ruins just to the west. It is the most common settlement for mist travelers to find when stepping out of the mists due to its proximity to the border—most wind up in the swamps and the gullets of the monsters living there.

The poor locals vainly try to keep up the appearances of polite society instead of a backwater swamp village. The Iron Inquisition has a smaller presence here than the other settlements, but it has no less of a hold on the citizens. The Lord Inquisitor Jacob Hellsmoth is a cynical military leader who does what he can to defend the town from the regular attacks of witch covens and undead.

Prig’s Bog

Prig’s Bog is named for the mad hermit that makes his home in this small corner of the swamps. Once known as Prince Rigly Bastion, youngest son and only surviving member of the royal family, Prig is now a shell of the man he once was. He lost his mind long ago after being driven mad by the horrors he experienced in the swamps. Prig now rules over a small clan that makes their homes in ramshackle huts in the bog. They all share in Prig’s madness and his newfound taste for human flesh. These backcountry cannibals roam the swamps with rusted blades in hand, hunting for fresh meat.

Saint-Delphine

The stone-walled town of Saint-Delphine is the largest settlement in Bastion and the seat of Octavia Lefont’s power. The town looks over the grim waters of the Blackmire Swamp and Jade Cove. A large field just outside the northern walls is filled with the bones and bodies of both undead and Inquisitor from their regular clashes. The Baronesse Georgette Forest is the noble owner of the land and town but is no more than a puppet for the Inquisition. Saint-Delphine was once a wealthy town built on a solid merchant trade, and the architecture, public gardens, and grand theaters reflect its former sophistication. It’s now covered in a decrepit veneer and a rotten shadow of what it once was. The Baronesse spends her time and money on elaborate public galas and performances at her estate, the Chateau Bittencourt, to keep the citizens distracted from the horrors around them. These festivities also help drown out the screams of the souls condemned to burn at the stake.

Many occultists and mediums secretly conduct business in the town through underground black markets, providing totems and charms to the locals. Seances are very popular, and speakeasy-style salons are hidden throughout the town. Many of these salons are also fronts for an underground railroad network. The agents smuggle people and goods out of the town and to a supposed haven in the swamps.

Mama Marie-Antoinette Benoit is the popular owner of The Silver Rose Tavern and Inn, a favorite local hangout. She is also an occult leader who secretly runs seances and rituals for the locals in a hidden basement under her tavern. Mama Marie-Antoinette has been fighting against the Iron Inquisition as best she can, smuggling refugees out of the town and to a haven she has made on Blackmire Isle.

Octavia Lefont

Octavia Lefont grew up poor in the small Bastionese village of Leyonne with her parents, who traded in herbs and potions. As a young child, she was blissfully ignorant of her lowly station in life and happily helped her mother pick the forest plants her father would then turn into minor alchemical potions and healing poultices. That happiness was shattered the day the Iron Inquisition came to Bastion, spreading its fear and hatred of magic. All manner of problems the locals were experiencing, whether bad weather or sudden illnesses, were laid at the feet of those who practiced the dark arts of magic. At first, they were ignored. When the plague came to Bastion, the Inquisition's numbers and influence grew, and soon neighbors turned against each other, brothers against sisters, and wives against husbands. The population was decimated, and the Inquisition stepped in as saviors.

It was not long before Octavia found herself an orphan, her parents arrested, charged, and found guilty of witchcraft. Taken in as a ward of the High Inquisitor and raised as his daughter. Under his tutelage, the love she once had for her parents was turned to disgust and hate, believing them to have been twisted monsters who practiced dark magic on her. As Octavia grew older and the Inquisition more powerful, she soon became a true fanatic, devoted to its cause and working her way through the ranks. After the death of her adopted father, she was raised to High Inquisitor as his heir.

Under Octavia’s leadership, the fires of the Inquisition were lit anew in Bastion. The skies were filled with burning ashes and the screams of those she condemned to the stake. She was standing in the charred husk of the village she was raised in, watching her men light the pyres under a dozen screaming peasants when the Dark Powers caused the mists to come to Bastion and reshape the land. Wherever the ashes fell, the plant life began to rot and decay quickly, and the earth started to soften underfoot.

Octavia believes the land to be under a magical assault that turned Bastion’s lush fields into rotting swamps and flooded forests. The Inquisitors now root through the populace, seeking to punish those who brought them into this hellscape. Determined to stamp out opposition to her authority, Octavia chooses to ignore the fact that the faces of the horrors of the forest resemble those she condemned to the fires. She has no care for truth or evidence, seeking only the purity of the fire as her answer to every problem, burning her way through the population one by one.

Octavia’s Powers and Dominion

Octavia Lefont is a capable military commander with statistics similar to a gladiator. She carries a brace of four pistols at all times with which she is proficient. While a talented warrior, her true power lies in her command of a rabidly loyal and fanatic army of Inquisitors that obey her every command. The High Inquisitor is rarely alone and fiercely protected by her loyalist guards. In the rare instance that her defenses are breached, the Dark Powers have given her the ability to innately summon an aura around herself once per day that acts as an anti-magic field spell lasting 1 hour without the need for concentration. She believes this ability to prove that she is the rightful leader of the Inquisition and her cause is worthy.

The Iron Inquisition. While it is not an overwhelmingly large force, the Iron Inquisition nevertheless has a stranglehold on the power in Bastion. The nobles have their guard forces, but there hasn’t been a standing military force left in Bastion after the plague decimated the populace. While the citizens fear them, they also know the Inquisition is the only thing protecting them from the horrors of the swamps. The Inquisitor soldiers use the guard stat block, and Lord Inquisitors are knights. Every Inquisitor wears an Inquisitor’s Mask (see Appendix) to protect them from magic users.

Anti-Magic Laws. The use of magic or magic items is illegal and punishable by death in Bastion. Anyone caught using or accused of using magic will be arrested and brought before the local Lord Inquisitor for summary trial and sentencing to the stake. The executions are made public for all to bear witness and are now a celebrated spectacle by the people, even if only for the simple fact that it is not themselves about to be set ablaze.

Closing the Borders. Octavia does not have the power to open or close her domain’s borders, so they remain open at all times. Few dare the attempt, and even fewer manage to make it through the monsters that wander the mists. The occasional traveler makes their way to Bastion, finding themselves suddenly waist-deep in a rotting swamp or walking down the lit cobblestone streets of Saint-Delphine.

Octavia’s Torment

Octavia Lefont’s fanaticism knows no bounds, and she spends each day firmly believing herself to be close to finally eradicating magic once and for all in Bastion. The Dark Powers torment her by bringing her victims back in the form of monsters that haunt the swamps, building up until they attack a settlement en masse and swallowing it into the swamps. Octavia knows that the people fear her and hide behind niceties and revels in her power to force them to behave, even if it's through fear. Octavia’s extreme paranoia and regular nightmares have made her a gaunt figure, almost skeletal, but the fire of her fanaticism sustains and strengthens her body. She feels reinforced with every pyre she orders lit, ignoring that unshakable feeling that it also seals her doom.

Roleplaying Octavia

Octavia is ruled by her fanaticism and paranoia, only leaving the Inquisition headquarters in Saint-Delphine to observe the executions in the Field of Atonement from the town’s walls. She values competency and people of action, abhorring the tedious paperwork and bureaucracy she’s forced to deal with as the High Inquisitor. With the ever-present threat of the encroaching swamps, she is constantly looking for those willing to enter and complete her goals. Octavia believes that her situation results from a powerful magic user somewhere in the region and offers great rewards for those who can bring them to her.

Personality Trait. “I do only what I must for the greater good of all. Only I can guide this nation on the path of righteousness.”

Ideal. “Once the realm is cleansed of magic, I will lead the people into a new era of peace and prosperity.”

Bond. “It is my sacred duty to protect my people from the plague that is magic. I must purge it from the land for them to truly be free.”

Flaw. “If innocents are sometimes killed, they are the sacrifice that must be made.”

Adventures in Bastion

Bastion is a setting where gothic horror and folk horror collide. The town of Saint-Delphine and its Inquisition provide characters opportunities to delve into the darker side of Bastion’s political and social troubles. They may find themselves engaging in the local activities—masquerades, galas, and theatrical performances—being held as the citizens attempt to ignore the horrors of the swamps around them. These inevitably are entwined with secret cultists, lycanthropes, and witches hiding within the populace. There is an opportunity to find a way to smuggle out those peacefully trying to exist or even join the inquisition and hunt down those preying in the shadows. Magic may be illegal, but it is still found in abundance through back channels and a strong following in the occult.

The swamps provide a breeding ground for many different types of atrocities that stalk in the perpetual twilight that blankets the domain. The undead roam freely without fear of the sunlight that never makes its way to this realm. Swamp hags raising undead from the swamp waters, zombie wolves stalking through the forests, backcountry cannibals hunting the travel ways, and a fire-breathing moose provide a litany of dangers. An abundance of ruins, sunken caves, and hidden treasures can be found throughout the swamps and bayous. Some citizens are even willing to risk the dangers of the swamps instead of living under the Inquisitions rule.

When building adventures in Bastion, consider the motivations of the characters and how they either align or conflict with the Inquisitions’ goals. Characters may find themselves working with the Inquisitors against the monsters in the swamps and while at the same time secreting magic users to a safe haven.

Consider the plots in the Bastion Adventures table when planning adventures in this domain.

Bastion Adventures

d10 Adventure

1 The characters are enlisted as guards on a supply caravan headed through Devil’s Run, where zombies of all types are known to emerge from the swamps.

2 Locals in Lejeune have been disappearing, and the Inquisition hires the characters to investigate. They discover a seamstress named Marie-Louise has been promising a haven only to lead her victims to her cannibal family’s cabin in the bayou.

3 Baroness Georgette Forest is hosting a gala, and the characters are invited to attend. The acrobat troupe hired to perform are replaced by doppelgangers sent by witches to assassinate the Lord Inquisitor, who is also in attendance.

4 Mama Marie-Antoinette Benoit is a beloved local healer who is secretly the occultist leader of an underground railroad in Saint-Delphine. The Inquisition is starting to get suspicious, and she needs help escorting a group of refugees to her hidden camp on Blackmire Isle.

5 The Inquisition is set to execute a dozen people convicted of witchcraft. The young daughter of one of them pleads with the characters to rescue her father. The child turns out to be the homunculus pet of the only actual witch in the group.

6 A zombie army is ready to wipe through the village of Marseau. The local Inquisition forces are too few to handle such a large-scale attack and need the characters’ assistance in preparing defenses.

7 The waters of Blackmire Swamp bubble and erupt as an undead black dragon emerges from the fetid waters and begins to attack Saint-Delphine.

8 A decadent masquerade full of acrobats and musical entertainment is being held outdoors on Saint-Delphine’s main thoroughfare. A gang of vampire thieves is preying on the attendees, and one is forced to kill when it is accidentally unmasked.

9 The Inquisitors in Grael have determined the location of a hideout of magic users in the nearby swamps. They hire the characters to escort their messenger through Devil’s Run to request reinforcements from Saint-Delphine.

10 The party learns of a possible cache of magic weapons hidden somewhere in a half-sunken fort in the former town of Darois. The ruins are said to be haunted by a banshee and other spirits of the former residents.

The Drowned Domain

The central theme running through Bastion is the ever-present sense of pressure from all sides. The domain is both literally drowning as it sinks into the swamps and figuratively in the despair of its people. The Darklord Octavia Lefont is the anchor weighing the domain down, pulling it into the sea of her fanaticism and drowning it in her oppression. This pressure is presented as obstacles the characters can address in multiple ways, but like in all horror situations, the more one struggles, the worse it becomes. There is always a negative counter that the domain throws back at them for every success the characters may have. For example, for every refugee that the characters protect, twice as many are burned by the Iron Inquisition.

Travel In Bastion

Bottomless swamps and impenetrable undergrowth grow thick across Bastion, and characters who attempt to explore the domain will be forced to stick to the travel ways or risk the dangers within. Maps of the realm can be purchased at any settlement, but most only show the travel ways as few locals dare to step into the swamps.

The domain’s swamps and forests are difficult terrain, reducing a party’s travel pace by half. This means that characters can move through most of the domain at a normal pace of 1.5 miles per hour and 12 miles per day. Characters can move at a fast or slow pace, with effects as outlined in the PHB.

Horses are rare in the swamps and are twice as expensive as normal to purchase at 100 gp each. Peasants more commonly use donkeys for their carts. A ride on a horse-drawn carriage between towns can be bought for 20 gp. They travel at fast paces and still run the risks of those creatures that hunt the travel ways.

The Iron Inquisition

Built on fanaticism steeped in a burning hatred of magic, the Inquisition seeks to destroy magic in all its forms. Led by the Darklord Octavia Lefont, these soldiers patrol the streets and keep an ever-alert watch for any sign of witchcraft. Each Inquisitor hides their face behind an Inquisitor’s Mask (see Appendix) that helps protect their identities as well as from magic users. They justify the use of the magical masks as necessary to fight fire with fire. Only Octavia keeps her face bare to the world without fear as the High Inquisitor. The Inquisitors operate a quasi-secret police force, raiding suspected magic users' homes and workplaces and arresting them.

Witchcraft & Occultism

Witchcraft and occultism play a heavy role in the Bastion social setting. This translates to spell components used by locals, including hand-crafted items such as totems, hex bags, and charms made from feathers, bones, and other natural materials. A cauldron and herb rack is a typical setup for alchemical creations. Occult symbols are hidden in jewelry and everyday wear to hide them from the Inquisitors and still satisfy the highly superstitious nature of the populace. Bastion has no gods, and occult mediums fill the role of spiritual leaders. Through rituals and seances, they speak with the dead for guidance, perform last rites for those who have passed, and create the charms and tokens the locals rely on for protection.

There is a distinct separation between the spiritual occultists and the devil-pacted witches (see provided stat blocks in Appendix. The occultists are mediums between the spiritual world and the material plane, with abilities and powers similar to a cleric. They conduct seances in the hidden smokey salons and speak with the dead. The witches of Bastion have gained their powers through dark pacts with archdevils and granted magic in the same way as a warlock. Both are persecuted, hunted down, and burned at the stake if caught by the Iron Inquisition, who does not care about their differences.

The occultists can craft many supernatural charms, and examples can be found in the Occultists Charms section (see Appendix). These can be given by locals as rewards but must be kept hidden.

The Undead Threat

The witch covens that live in Bastion’s swamps are waging war with the Iron Inquisition. They use their powers to amass armies of undead beasts to strike at the settlements and attack travelers on the road to add to their ranks. Often led by night hags who build the coven for those witches that escape the stake, these groups are no less militant than the Inquisitors. Their creations often come in nightmare versions of undead dire animals stitched together in horrific ways. At least once a month, these covens assault one of the outlying villages or Saint-Delphine.

Appendix

This appendix describes some of the new creatures, NPCs, and magic items found in Bastion.

Occultist

Raised on the traditions and rituals of the occult practices, these mediums are a conduit between the material plane and the spirit realm. Tapping into these energies gives Occultists a view of the world beyond that of an average person. They can see signs and portents in weather patterns, through tarot readings, and communing with the dead through seances.

As spiritual leaders for their community, they provide comfort and aid as healers. They also assist in warding off evil through the creation of charms and amulets.

Mediums. Occultists regularly conduct seances to commune with the deceased for guidance. They have a natural ability to calm the spirits of the dead to gain helpful information.

Charm Crafters. Tapping into the spiritual plane while crafting charms allows Occultists to imbue them with supernatural power.

Occultist Charms

This section describes several new supernatural charms that the occultists in Bastion can bestow using their Charm Crafting ability.

Charm of the Strong Heart. A thin silver link necklace with an engraved locket that is warm to the touch. Inside is a charm made of a raven’s still living heart bound in gold wire. While wearing this charm, you gain advantage on your next Constitution saving throw, after which the heart shrivels to dust.

Charm of the Reaper. A small quartz vial holds a mercurial red liquid inside that evaporates the instant air touches it, impotently releasing its power prematurely. While in possession of this charm, you automatically succeed on your next death saving throw, after which the vial crumbles to dust.

Charm of the Swamp Walker. This charm is made of a shriveled three-clawed chicken foot, wrapped in twine with feathers and beads. This charm has 3 charges. As an action, you can expend 1 of the charm’s charges to gain the following benefits for 24 hours:

• You and your allies within 15 feet of you ignore difficult terrain caused by swamps.

• You are immune to the frightened condition.

As each charge is expended, one of the chicken claws shrivels off the foot. When all charges are spent, the charm crumbles to dust.

Charm of the Evil Eye. A stylized eye made from gold and silver wire with a small blue stone as the iris. While wearing this charm, you can give yourself resistance to psychic damage as an action. This benefit lasts for 24 hours, after which the charm crumbles to dust.

Charm of the Zombie. A shrunken head with its eyes and mouth stitched closed with thick black thread. While in possession of this charm, you can take an action to cast raise dead (zombie only), no components required, after which the head shrivels to dust.

Witch

Witches gain their powers through making deals with devils and other dark patrons. In exchange for their services (and often their souls), these practitioners of the dark arts gain access to magical abilities and spells. They often form close groups called covens, working together to perform even more powerful spells and incantations.

Coven. A coven of witches shares their strength, combining their powers and tapping into spells ordinarily unavailable to them.

Hexes. The hex of a witch is a powerful curse, draining those afflicted of their strength until it can be removed.

NEW MAGIC ITEMInquisitor's Mask

Adventuring gear (mask), uncommon (requires attunement)

This stylized iron mask fits across the wearer’s eyes, obscuring their face but providing unobstructed sight. While wearing this mask, you gain darkvision out to 30 feet if you do not have it already. This mask has 3 charges and regains all expended charges at dawn. As a reaction, you can choose to expend a charge to cast absorb elements, no components required.

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