Handfuls of death Plot in 13 | World Anvil

Handfuls of death

Level range
Pathfinder (1e)
Location-based adventure
Optimised for a group of 4

How to run this adventure

Location-based adventures are open-ended by nature. They do not have to be run in a specific order. Rather, the players have the freedom to explore them at will (according to their characters' abilities). The map contains 92% of all the info the GM needs (or links to where the information could be found). The other 8% of the information is on the sections preceding the map. Those paragraphs contain the information that acts as the glue of the location.
Read Aloud Sections

These sections are meant to be read out loud to players. They are a general description that you can alter to suit your player characters or the situation.
GM information

These sections provide additional information to the GM and are not meant to be read out loud.   They are often providing additional information, information to be provided if the PCs meet the DCs, or help with the rules.
Handfuls of death is a loose continuation for my adventure "Arcane Oracle". The adventure, however, will fit any area where necromancy is forbidden. Three hooks have been provided to bait PCs into looking closer at the town's "illusionist". All hooks lead the party to the tower, where, upon investigation, they discover it to be a necromancer's den.    


Ezanoip, the local illusionist wizard was a well respected, although not fully welcomed, part of the nearby town's community. Tired of being paid paltry sums of money for performing illusions, teaching teenagers, and creating the odd potion or scroll for mercenaries or adventurers, the local illusionist decided to seek a different path. One promising exciting discoveries, opportunities, dangers, and also, lots of money.   With the aid of Kraiglu, a wizard from Friac'seoue where necromancy was not seen as inherently evil magic, this wizard spent the plague years studying necromancy and changing his specialization from illusion to necromancy. He never told anyone of course, as his illusionist past provided him with a very solid alibi against any necromancy suspicions.   After making a few contacts in an underground seedy market, Ezanoip started animating bodies for a range of questionable groups. Most often, the groups provided the bodies themselves, but once in a while, the local illusionist was forced to improvise.
by artflow.ai
His bright-orange hair, despite pushing almost 100 years old, reveals that Ezanoip has nothing to fear of the Bleaching. He has never told anyone in town how is he managing to keep so young and vital, particularly after the ravages of the plague.


Parties following from "Arcane Oracle" are likely trying to find the necromancer that killed Kraiglu and bring them to justice. The town's people are unaware of any necromancer in town but they may suggest asking the illusionist who lives close by, as he may know more about other wizards. You may want to use one or more of the following hooks to create several threads of inquiry.
If your PCs are not the sort to follow leads on their own, I recommend the hook "Missing Thieves". As part of this hook, the PCs are directly asked to investigate the wizard's tower & find the missing thieves.

Bring me Hands

The local illusionist has been posting rewards for the death of different menacing creatures in the area. The locals are very happy the illusionist has been helping the town by making its surroundings safer. The current bounty asks for one or more legs as proof of killing the Spider, Giant Tarantula that lives in the forest. The reward is 100 gold pieces. For further details, the poster refers back to the authorities.   The authorities in town explain that the wizard has been financing all these monster-hunting opportunities. Every time a bounty is fulfilled, the wizard posts a new bounty for whatever the authorities inform him is a danger to the town. They have offered to pay a bounty for every creature, except strangely for a Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing, which he does not seem to think worth the money. The authorities have a stack of all the creatures he has paid people to get rid of. Every single bounty has one thing in common: to bring back one or more hands of the creature as proof.   If the party brings one or more spider legs, the wizard is overjoyed and pays an extra 10 gold for every additional leg the party brought back. The wizard seems to be prepared to tackle the hairy legs, and seems more interested in the legs than in any details about the spider or its fate. A Sense Motive DC 22 reveals that the wizard's intentions are clearly not in making the town safer.   If the PCs don't find their interactions with the wizard suspicious, they find a crawling hand crawling towards the necromancer's well on their way out.

Missing Thieves

A group of locals down on their luck were planning on trying to steal from the illusionist's tower while he was out to visit a wizard from a nearby town. They have never been seen ever since. The friends are worried but they cannot go to the authorities since they don't want to incriminate their friends. Passing adventurers or mercenaries make a great opportunity for them.   The friends ask the party to investigate the wizard's tower. They did ask the wizard if he had seen their friend, but Ezanoip said he hadn't. The group thinks the wizard is bound to have a dungeon filled with traps, and their friends could be just there, bleeding out without the wizard even knowing. If the party could sneak in and find their friends and save them, they would be very grateful.   The misguided & missing thieves are:
  • Walatia, a female human with an ugly scar on the right cheek
  • Molgrii, a female ratfolk missing the whiskers on the left side of her face
  • Forina, a female human with freckles all over her
  The friends have no money but will offer the party an old valuable painting. They believe the painting is worth at least 50 gold pieces. An Appraise DC 26 check reveals the painting to be worth 500 gold pieces in the hands of an art collector or conoiseur.


What begun as a rumor and assumed to be the consequence of returning home drunk is now spreading as a certainty. People have been increasingly seeing vampires in the area! Or to be more precise, undead-looking bats, which everyone of course assumes are vampires. The bats look plainly deceased, and yet behave with absolute normality. They even bleed when killed, further proof of their vampirism, of course.   No one in town has managed to figure out how to turn the bats back to vampires, or how to stop the spread of vampirism amongst the bats. They will gladly pay outsiders 300 gp to deal with the undead bats and root out the vampire from their lair, wherever they may be.   The undead bats are not really undead, just appear so due to the curse the illusioninst placed on the well by which any creature entering his den through the well looks undead when performing certain activities. The bats can be followed returning to the caves where they nest during the day through the well at the wizard's tower. Or someone in town can let the PCs know that Ezanoip's familiar is a bat, and that he may know well where the bats rest during the day.   If the wizard gets confronted about undead looking bats coming from his well, he says he will resolve it on his own and ushers everyone out of view. He kills all the bats and puts a lid on the well.

The Wizard's Tower

PCs have three areas to explore: the wizard's tower, the wizard's basement, and the wizard's well, which links to the subterranean caves & basement underneath the wizard's tower. Each area is explained on the map, including relevant traps & monsters. These areas can all be explored in any order.
The wizard can be encountered by knocking on his door.   Otherwise, the PCs have a 1-in-8 chance of encountering the wizard every time they enter into a new area. The wizard is hostile to trespassing parties; however, he is smart enough to dimension door away and return with a horde of zombies to stack the odds in his favour.

Wizard's Tower

Most of the protections in place are illusion-based. In order to find ways up or down, the characters have to investigate the illusion of rubble in the ground floor, which hides the entrances to both the upper levels of the tower & the basement.   Here the PCs can find proof of the wizard's necromantic experiments (in the library, illegible journal). They can also meet the wizard prior breaking in inside of his house, in which case he receives the party in his dining room. If the PCs break into his house, however, the wizard will plot their destruction & lead them into the basement where his army of zombies will help him.  
Purple markers

Wizard's Well

The well no longer produces water, something which is disguised by the enchanted bucket, which creates water when lowered more than 30 feet. At 35 feet deep there is also a curse for any living being that crosses the threshold.   Creatures entering the wizard's premises through the well will be exposed to the curse. Those adventuring past the curse may find the secret entrance to the basement, in which case they will have to deal with the protector gargoyles on the other side of the secret entrance. Or they may continue the descent, all the way to the caverns full of undead.  
Orange markers

Wizard's Basement & Cavern System

The basement area is heavily trapped to avoid anyone finding out about the wizard's necromantic secret. The caverns are where the necromancer storages his creations until he can find a seller for them.   Those exploring from the basement will have a chance of discovering the fate of the three missing thieves. They can even help the ghost of one thief to achieve peace in the afterlife. A Nuckelavee resides in the depths of the flooded sections of the tunnels. They despise the undead, but charms keep them at bay, locked prisoners.    
Blue markers
Past-Illusionist Tower
This wizard's tower is the home of the wizard known for being an illusionist.   Map by Dyson Logos, modified by Maria Gatta.

GM's Advice

Roleplaying Ezanoip

Ezanoip is currently focused on one thing: learning necromancy & experimenting with creating new types of undead. Although he got started with necromancy for monetary reasons, seeing it as a much easier way to earn money through it, thanks to its illicit nature, he is now fully invested in all that necromancy magic is hiding.
His main area of research is creating several zombies out of one body (for example, by creating a zombie and a crawling hand) and mixing creature body types and then reanimating them.
He denies being a necromancer unless the PCs have irrefutable proof. He still knows a large amount of illusion spells, so it is not hard for him to pretend to be an illusionist. He will very well consider killing a party of PCs to keep his secret. To do so, he will use the aid of his zombies & skeletons, so he will use illusions to draw them just where he wants them.

Appendix I: Statblocks

The wizard & his bat companion

CR 10


Wizard (Necromancer) 11 CN S Humanoid, Gnome
Initiative: +4 Senses: low-light vision, perception +10, life sight


AC: 11, touch 11, flat-footed 11 (+1 size)
HP: 55 11d6
Fortitude: +7 Reflex: +6 Will: +10 ( +2 vs. illusion spells or effects )


Speed: 20 ft.
Melee: Grave Touch (Sp) As a standard action, you can make a melee touch attack that causes a living creature to become shaken for 5 rounds. If you touch a shaken creature with this ability, it becomes frightened for 1 round if it has fewer that 11 Hit Dice. You can use this ability 10 times per day.
Special Attacks: Necromancer Spells Prepared (CL 11th; concentration +16)
6th - create undead , programmed image (DC 23)
5th - mind fog (2) (DC 20) , persistent image (DC 22) , *repair undead (mass) (DC 21)
4th - animate dead (2) , complex hallucination (DC 21) , dimension door (2)
3rd - fly (2) (DC 18) , gentle repose (DC 19) , major image (DC 20) , rain of frogs , *vampiric touch
2nd - arcane lock , detect thoughts (DC 17) , knock , minor image (2) (DC 19)
1st - cause fear (2) (DC 17) , disguise self (DC ) , ray of enfeeblement (DC 17) , repair undead (DC 17) , silent image (2) (DC 18)
0th - acid splash , arcane mark , mage hand , read magic
Spell-like Abilities: Spell-Like Abilities: dancing lights ( 1/day) ghost sound ( DC 13, 1/day) prestidigitation ( DC 13, 1/day) speak with animals ( DC , 1/day)   Gnome Magic (Sp) Gnomes add +1 to the DC of any saving throws against illusion spells that they cast. Gnomes with a Charisma of 11 or higher also gain spell-like abilities.   Power Over Undead ~ Command Undead (Su) You can channel energy 8 times per day to command undead. You can command up to 11 hit dice of undead. The will save DC of your command undead attempts is 20.   Life Sight (Su) You gain blindsight to a range of 17 feet for 11 rounds per day. This ability only allows you to detect living creatures and undead creatures. This sight also tells you whether a creature is living or undead. These rounds do not need to be consecutive.  


Str 8, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 21, Wis 10, Cha 16
Base Attack: +5 CMB: +3 CMD: 13
Feats: Casual Illusionist, Command Undead, Conceal Spell, Extend Spell, Heighten Spell, Improved Channel, Improved Initiative, Scribe Scroll, Spell Focus (Illusion, Necromancy)
Skills: Acrobatics (When Jumping) -4, Appraise +5, Bluff +12, Climb -1, Craft (Alchemy) +11, Craft (Untrained) +5, Diplomacy +4, Disable Device +1, Disguise +6, Escape Artist +1, Fly +10, Handle Animal +4, Intimidate +3, Knowledge (Arcana) +16, Knowledge (History) +11, Knowledge (Local) +9, Knowledge (Nature) +9, Knowledge (Planes) +11, Knowledge (Religion) +11, Perception +10, Perform (Act) +7, Perform (Untrained) +3, Sense Motive +11, Sleight of Hand +3, Spellcraft +13, Stealth +5, Swim -1, Use Magic Device +14
Languages: Common, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Goblin, Sylva
SQ: Abjuration Opposition School, Arcane Bond, Bonus Arcane School Power Use (2x), Cantrips, Evocation Opposition School, Arcane Bond (Familiar), Gnome Magic, Hatred, Illusion Resistance, Keen Senses, Life Sight, Low-Light Vision, Necromancy School

Gear: headband of mental prowess +2 (int, cha ring of counterspells; cloak of resistance +3; potion of cure moderate wounds (x2 oil of invisibility; potion of inflict serious wounds

CR -


N Diminutive Magical beast
Initiative: +2 Senses: Blindsense 20 ft., low-light vision, Perception +17


AC: 22, touch 16, flat-footed 20 (+2 Dex, +6 natural, +4 size, )
HP: 27
Fortitude: +1 Reflex: +5 Will: +9
Defensive Abilities: Improved Evasion SR: 16


Speed:  5 ft. Fly 40 ft. (Good)
Melee: bite +11 (1)
Special Attacks: Deliver Touch Spells


Str 1, Dex 15, Con 6, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 5
Base Attack: +5 CMB: +3 CMD: 8
Feats: Weapon Finesse
Skills: Acrobatics +6, Acrobatics (When Jumping) -6, Bluff +6, Climb +2, Craft (Alchemy) +1, Diplomacy -2, Disable Device +3, Escape Artist +3, Fly +17, Handle Animal -2, Heal +2, Intimidate -3, Knowledge (Arcana) +8, Knowledge (History) +3, Knowledge (Local) +1, Knowledge (Nature) +1, Knowledge (Planes) +3, Knowledge (Religion) +3, Perception +17, Perform (Act) +1, Ride +2, Sense Motive +13, Sleight of Hand +5, Spellcraft +5, Stealth +18, Survival +2, Swim +2, Use Magic Device +8
SQ: Alertness, Blindsense, Intelligence Score, Low-Light Vision, Natural Armor Bonus, Share Spells, Spell Resistance

Ezanoip's Necromancy Spellbook (Level 11 Necromancer)

A sombre leather-bound journal, the only decoration being the golden edges of each thick parchment page.
Opposition Abjuration, Evocation

Protection The first page has an illusory script (Will save DC 20)

Value 5.000 gp


6th - create undead, programmed image

5th - mind fog, nightmare, persistent image, repair undead (mass)

4th - animate dead, bestow curse, complex hallucination, dimension door

3rd - fly, gentle repose, illusory script, major image, rain of frogs, vampiric touch

2nd - arcane lock, blindness/deafness, detect thoughts, false life, hypnotic pattern, knock, minor image

1st - cause fear, color spray, disguise self, hypnotism, ray of enfeeblement, repair undead, silent image, ventriloquism

Disguise Death Each day, you can disguise one corporeal undead to appear as they did while they were alive, for up to 8 hours. You must control the undead and spend 10 minutes performing the ritual on them.

Dead thief

CR 6

Rogue ghost

Rogue 5 NE M Undead, incorporeal
Initiative: +7 Senses: darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13


AC: 19, touch 19, flat-footed 15 (+5 deflection, +3 Dex, +1 dodge)
HP: 61 5d8
Fortitude: +6 Reflex: +7 Will: +2
Defensive Abilities: channel resistance +4, evasion, incorporeal, rejuvenation, trapfinding, trap sense +1 Immune: undead traits


Speed: fly 30 ft. (perfect)
Special Attacks: malevolence 1/day (DC 17), sneak attack +3d6


Str —, Dex 16, Con —, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 20
Base Attack: +3 CMB: +3 CMD: 16
Feats: Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Toughness
Skills: Bluff +11, Climb +8, Craft (woodcarving) +9, Craft (metalworking) +9, Escape Artist +11, Knowledge (local) +9, Knowledge (nature) +6, Perception +13, Sense Motive +9, Stealth +15
Languages: Common, Gnome
SQ: fast stealth, surprise attack
by artflow.ai

Undead swarms

CR 3

Crawling hand swarm

NE Tiny Undead
Initiative: +0 Senses: blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.; Perception

Scuttling hands in different stages of decomposition rush with an almost single-handed objective.


AC: 13, touch 13, flat-footed 12 (+1 Dex, +2 size)
HP: 26 4d8
Fortitude: +3 Reflex: +2 Will: +5
Defensive Abilities: swarm traits (half damage from slashing and piercing weapons) Immune: undead traits Weaknesses: aoe


Speed: 40 ft., climb 40 ft.
Melee: swarm (1d6 plus distraction)
Special Attacks: Distraction (DC 16)   Overwhelming touch (Ex) The crawling hands aim for one of the target hands. and attempt to cleave the hand from the target. Their claws inflict bleed 1d4. If the target dies from the bleed damage, their hand is successfully detached and joins the swarm, giving the swarm 1d8+1 temporary hitpoints.
Spell-like Abilities: Str 3, Dex 11, Con —, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 14


Str 3, Dex 12, Con —, Int 3, Wis 12, Cha 14
Base Attack: +3
Feats: Ability Focus (Distraction), Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills: Climb +5, Perception +8, Stealth +12
Languages: Common and one additional language (can’t speak)
SQ: swarm traits; Magic touch (Su) A crawling hand swarm’s damage counts as magic for the purposes of bypassing damage reduction.


Environment: any land
Organization: solitary, incursion (2 - 6), or doom (7-13)
Treasure: special (ring, see table)

Swarm of Crawling Hands Loot Table

Roll the Dice
2Cheap copper ring, leaves a green mark when worn
3Tarnished silver ring with a crusty hexagonal pattern
4Tricoloured braided twine ring
5Wooden ring with the letter M inscribed on the inside
6Spiral silver ring
7Plain gold ring
8Silver ring with topaz and emerald gems
9Golden hand chain with three rubies
10Gold insignia ring, the insignia displays a lion curled around the letters TW
11Ring of protection +1
12Ring of climbing

At high enough density, crawling hands gain a primal intelligence. They swarm people and attempt to cut their hands from them; when successful, the resulting hand joins the swarm. Necromancers are equally fascinated by these swarms, able to raise others without seeming necromantic powers, as nervous, given the great potential for the situation to get out of hand.   In fact, when crawling hand swarms get too big, they splinter off and look for new targets. Their ability to multiply themselves (up to once per day in populated areas) can lead to dangerous situations.

CR 4

Undead snake swarm

NE Tiny Undead, Animal
Initiative: +2 Senses: darkvision 60 ft., scent; Perception +9

Missing scales and leaving a trail of rotting flesh behind, the swarm of undead snakes glides mindlessly around.


AC: AC 16, touch 14, flat-footed 14 (+2 Dex, +1 Dodge, +1 natural, +2 size)
HP: 32 5d8
Fortitude: +4 Reflex: +3 Will: +5
Defensive Abilities: swarm traits Immune: undead traits Weaknesses: aoe


Speed: 20 ft., climb 20 ft., swim 20 ft.
Melee: swarm (1d6 plus poison and distraction)
Special Attacks: Distraction (DC 13)   Pallor Poison (Ex) Bite—injury; save Fort DC 13; frequency 1/round for 4 rounds; effect 1d4 Cha damage; cure 1 save. A creature who has lost & not recuperated the Charisma damage inflicted by the Pallor Poison gives off a particular scent that causes unintelligent undead to target that creature preferentially above other living beings.
Space: 10 ft. Reach: 0 ft.


Str 9, Dex 15, Con —, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 12
Base Attack: +3
Feats: Dodge, Great Fortitude, Toughness
Skills: Climb +15, Perception +10, Stealth +18, Swim +7


Environment: any
Organization: solitary or knot (2-5 swarms)
Treasure: none

Engineered zombies

CR 1

Zombie with dire badger claws

NE Medium Undead
Initiative: +0 Senses: darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0

A walking corpse whose heavy dire badger claws make it lurch forever forwards.


AC: 12, touch 10, flat-footed 12 (+2 natural)
HP: 12 2d8+3
Fortitude: +0 Reflex: +0 Will: +3
Immune: undead traits DR: 5/slashing


Speed: 30 ft.
Melee: slam +4 (1d6+4) B 2 claws +4 (1d4+4) B/S


Str 17, Dex 10, Con —, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Attack: +1 CMB: +4 CMD: 14
Feats: Toughness


Environment: any
Organization: any
Treasure: none

A balancing act between a rotting human corpse and rotting dire badger claws. These zombies are engineered to be able to make full use of both claw attacks at once, and can both move and attack, making them eerily similar to fast zombies.

Cover image: by ArtRose


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Apr 30, 2022 19:51

I just adore how the wizard is embedded within the world, with the bounties, the thieves and the vampires. Entering through the well sounds so cool! I do wonder, maybe I missed it, are there alternative ways to enter, like through the front door or a window? It could be really interesting to tackle this tower from multiple directions.

If you have some time, I would much appreciate your feedback on my entry for Adventure April: Carbon Copy Paradise
May 1, 2022 17:13

Hi,   I'm glad you enjoyed the different hooks! I did not add stats for the windows and doors, good catch! I have added them now on the map as their own pins. So if anyone has a grappling hook... those second-floor windows are open-game :D

May 4, 2022 05:57 by George Sanders

Great background on the BBEG! That really makes it easy to understand his motivations and how he might deal with the adventurers. The hooks are very elaborate and could generate 3 very different starts to the adventure! Thanks for sharing your link.

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May 5, 2022 21:07

Hahaha, the hooks are... yeah XD I started writing the adventure, and after a while, I realized I didn't have one adventure, but four in my hands! I'm so happy about your comment about the BBEG, I'm glad you found the information useful :)

May 4, 2022 15:34 by A

An interesting adventure you have here. Providing additional hooks is a great way of "dragging" the players to the destination. Everything here is so well made that one can just be thankful for everything here as a GM. It is a quite high-level adventure as well, making it a welcome addition compared to many others I have read.   I do believe it to be more advantageous to have the stat blocks be block links instead on the map, it makes it easier to read in my opinion.   Well written and done! Definitively deserves a like!

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May 5, 2022 21:04

Thanks so for reading & stopping by. I'm really glad you enjoyed the adventure :D   I have now switched to the links, hopefully, that helps with the readability of the map. Thank you for the suggestion.