The Witch in the Wood

With the GM’s Guide complete, we’re going back to Vestitas today, for a visit to some spooky woods haunted by an evil witch who murders anyone who sets foot in the entire hex.

Summary: A witch lives in the jungle and stalks any who enter, harassing them with cursed totems and slaughtered animals to break their will until they become susceptible to her deadly voodoo dolls.

Discovery: The witch is omnipresent throughout this hex. If characters stay the night here (which they will probably have to if they’re on foot), their random encounter will always be with one of the witch totems. Just being near such a totem (within twenty meters) immediately inflicts all characters with a curse. They must roll an Ordinary(+10) Willpower check, gaining one point of insanity for each degree of failure, and one point of corruption for every second degree of failure. Regardless of their result on the check, the characters are now unable to leave the hex. They can attempt to leave and make hex crawl procedures as normal, however no matter what they do they will always end up in hex 05.01. Actually picking up or handling the totem requires a Challenging(+0) Willpower check or else the character takes 1d10 corruption. Continuing to carry the totem will not cause any further ill effect directly, however the witch will prioritize anyone carrying her totem as a target. If the totem is left out of sight for more than a few minutes, she will reclaim it.

Exploration: Each night the characters are stuck in the hex the witch leaves another totem and the characters must make another Ordinary(+10) Willpower check. Although no additional corruption can be inflicted after a character’s first encounter with a totem (unless a character who has never physically handled a totem does so, in which case they make the Challenging(+0) Willpower check as normal), the totems can continue building insanity.

The witch leaves the totems through purely supernatural means and she cannot be physically tracked from them, however an Ordinary(+10) Psyniscience check will lead characters directly to her seemingly abandoned cabin. If characters fail the check at one totem, they may try again when the witch drops another the following night.

Characters who are out of sight and at least a dozen meters from anyone else will be ambushed by the witch, who will assume corporeal form to make the attack. She will vanish instantly if she becomes critically wounded or if others begin to approach and is impossible to sneak up on through mundane means, meaning the only way to kill her during such a confrontation is if the victim does so single-handedly and takes her straight from 1 or more wounds to dead in one hit or to use psyker powers. Many psyker powers will be ineffectual due to their reliance on mundane things like line of sight (for example, while Molten Beam is a psyker power, it requires a character to physically see the target with their biological eyes and then shoot a beam through normal physical space, which means the witch’s ability to vanish when someone approaches will be just as effective). However, Divination abilities like Warp Perception or (given time) Scrier’s Gaze can be used to locate the witch despite her powers, and once detected, powers that do not need to pass through physical space to strike a target like Crush can be used to target the witch despite her not being within physical line of sight. However, if the witch survives such an attack, she will immediately become noncorporeal and vanish.

In the (likely) event that characters do not split up of their own volition, the witch will instead attempt to harvest body parts (especially easily shed hair) or items of importance for sympathetic magic. If characters are all asleep at night, each of them can attempt an Arduous(-40) Awareness or Psyniscience check to notice her harvesting the hair despite being asleep. Characters rolling Psyniscience must roll before characters rolling Awareness. Anyone who succeeds on the Psyniscience check will awaken and see the witch just before she vanishes. If no one succeeds on the Psyniscience check, the first one to succeed on the Awareness check notices a strange sensation on their skin, like someone’s fingers brushing up their arm towards their neck, but see nothing when they awaken. Anyone who failed, including everyone who rolled Psyniscience, is missing locks of hair. Anyone who hasn’t rolled Awareness yet is lucky. The witch was forced to flee before she could get around to harvesting their hair. If they all fail, they wake up with missing locks of hair but are otherwise unharmed (immediately).

The witch can also harvest from characters using blood shed in battle if she has inflicted any wounds on them during an ambush, or if they suffer any wounds from other circumstances and leave the scene of the battle behind without vigorously cleaning it (a shot of flamer on all bloodstains will definitely do the trick, but otherwise cleansing the area will take at least an hour). Failing that, any non-consumable item important enough to bother listing on a character sheet in the first place can be harvested for sympathetic curses if the character should end up leaving it out of sight long enough for the witch to claim it (which is about fifteen seconds).

Any character whose hair has been harvested can be heard screaming in terror or pain whenever that character is out of sight from any others. This means that if the party splits up (even very briefly), characters from one group will hear the screams of any characters in the other group who have been harvested and vice-versa, however no characters will hear screams of harvested characters in their own group. The screams are supernatural and are inaudible to anyone who can see the character whose voice is being mimicked, even if they’re easily within earshot of other characters who cannot see the character whose voice is being mimicked and who are hearing the screams. The screams cause a Disturbing(+0) Fear test.

Starting the night after a character has been harvested, they may begin going briefly berserk under the influence of the witch. Characters make an Ordinary(+10) Willpower test and if they fail, they are under the witch’s control for about the duration of one combat round. The witch can, but almost never will, force the character to do something blatantly insane, like attack another party member with a lethal weapon. Instead, she will have the character take actions that can be chalked up to rashness and frustration, like impulsively destroy or discard vital equipment, getting them into agitated non-physical fights, or having the character wander off from the rest of the group unnoticed for the 5-10 seconds it will take for them to reach a distance where they can be ambushed.

If the witch successfully kills a character, she will leave body parts of theirs strewn about in the path ahead of the survivors. Upon discovering the parts, survivors must pass a Disturbing(+0) Fear test.

Confrontation: Once the group has been winnowed down enough that the witch can be confident of victory in an open confrontation and after it’s been at least three nights, she will begin leading them directly to her cabin using her ability to influence the direction cursed people walk in (how she’s been keeping them in the hex to begin with). When they arrive, she will attempt to take influence over every one of the harvested party members to get them to run into the cabin and begin searching about in a panic. If she is successful, this panicked state means she will have at least one full round of attacking a character alone before others show up to the fight. She will use this round to break the doll associated with the character, which allows her to make an attack that functions like the Haemorrhage psyker power but which always succeeds (degrees of success on the opposed check to resist allow the victim to reduce damage, potentially to zero with enough degrees of success, but usually not) and with additional bonus damage equal to the target character’s current Insanity bonus. If she kills the character and attacks a second time (as per the Haemorrhage rules), these free follow-up attacks do not gain the Insanity bonus to damage. Breaking the voodoo doll in this manner requires destroying the body part or personal belonging harvested to create it, which means the character is no longer harvested after being targeted by this attack.

Those killed by the destruction of their voodoo doll remain biologically alive and the witch can issue them simple commands such as to stand somewhere or carry something, but they cannot hit hard enough to be a combat threat, nor can they pull triggers, nor are they otherwise any particular threat at all. The witch will sometimes use them to bodyblock exits or provide a distraction. If she successfully wipes the party, she will kill any characters so zombified afterwards.

If the group uses Psyniscience or other supernatural means to track down the witch’s cabin before she’d like them to, then she has no choice but to physically confront them inside anyway. She must remain corporeally within the cabin unless she is stalking another living being outside of it, so unless the group has been split and the witch is corporeally ambushing someone away from the cabin, she will have to physically confront the party when they enter. If the party is split up, the witch can ignore her usual rules about only ambushing lone party members and attack the entire group outside of the cabin directly if she thinks she has better odds of defeating them in a direct confrontation than the group that’s entered her cabin.

The witch is consumed by overwhelming desire to kill anyone who disturbs the sanctity of her woods as to be totally unreasonable. She is a supernatural creature sustained by pure hatred now, and her ability to respond to conversation at all is completely shot.

The group might also decide to use supernatural means to leave the witch behind rather than attack her. Psyker powers, especially Divination, can allow the party to leave the hex without fighting the witch. The witch will try anything to foil such an attempt, which means the psyker must know of and be able to counter her misleading spirit. 4 or more degrees of success on a Scrier’s Gaze check allows a psyker to successfully lead the party out of the hex without confronting the witch. The party will still be confronted with totems, ambushed, etc. etc. on their way out, but the witch will not risk an open, physical confrontation with an escaping party unless she is confident she can kill them all.

Rewards: Once the witch is dead, her ability to control characters and keep them trapped in the hex immediately ends, and characters can leave the hex normally. The witch’s cabin contains voodoo dolls of every character who has been harvested. Each doll is a little man made of sticks and the body part or personal belonging harvested from them, usually hair woven into the sticks that make up the body. These dolls remain effective and can be used to temporarily control the actions of their target or be broken to inflict damage on them. The user does not have to have the Haemorrhage power, or even a Psy Rating, to break a doll and inflict damage.

Hidden under the floorboards of the cabin is the witch’s original body, long since expired. Also hidden here is her grimoire. Finding the book and its original owner requires a successful Hard(-20) Awareness test while searching the cabin. The grimoire will allow any character with the Misfortune power to set up a haunt in any hex with a ritual requiring two hours’ time and inflicting 1d10 Corruption, guiding anyone who enters the hex in any manner the character likes. Unless foiled by supernatural intervention, affected travelers will be tugged towards or away from a location of the psyker’s choosing. If there are more people in the hex than ten times the square of the user’s Psy Rating, it fails and cannot affect anyone (for example, 10 for PR1, 30 for PR2, 90 for PR3, 160 for PR4, and etc.). It does not matter how many people in the hex the psyker is choosing to affect, if there are too many people in the hex at all, the guidance cannot be used to affect any of them. The haunt effects also fail immediately when the character themselves leaves the hex it affects.

A character with Haemorrhage who reads the grimoire may make voodoo dolls. This requires a body part (including hair) or significant possession of the target, inflicts 1d5 Corruption on the creator of the doll, and takes about half an hour of time. As a full round action, a pysker may attempt to seize control of any number of people they currently hold as dolls using the same rules the witch did. They won’t automatically notice they are being controlled, especially if they don’t do anything especially out of the ordinary. If they can rationalize their actions under the influence of the doll as being their own, they usually will (although they might be more suspicious if they already know they’re being supernaturally affected). The doll can also be broken by anyone (psyker or not), which has the same effect as when the witch broke dolls made of other characters.

Finally, the doll constantly tugs slightly in the direction of the character it’s sympathetically tied to (i.e. whoever’s body parts or belongings were harvested to make it), regardless of whether it’s held by a psyker or not, and for any psyker with Scrier’s Gaze, the doll can be used to instantly locate that character precisely, without actually using the Scrier’s Gaze power. No further information other than the character’s location can be gleaned this way (not even what the place they’re in looks like or who else is there – the character knows what direction they’re in, exactly how far away, and can successfully navigate there so long as it is physically possible to reach them, but knows nothing about what will be there when they arrive).

Any character, psyker or not, can use the grimoire to construct one of the witch totems. This creates a supernatural aura of fear that provokes a Fear(1) check from anyone to come within twenty meters of it. Creating such a totem inflicts 1d5 Corruption on the maker.

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