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Free Zweihander One Shot: What Growls Beneath

One of my goals when starting Lightheart Adventures was to diversify my TTRPG knowledge by experimenting with other systems. My familiarity lay mostly with D&D and Malifaux: Through the Breach, but neither had the kind of gritty, bleak feel that I’d seen in other games. That all changed when I read through Zweihander a few weeks ago (here’s my first impressions, in case you missed it). Long story short: I’m digging the d100 system, the brutal yet elegant combat, as well as the host of player options. 

For this week’s Side Quest, I’ve created a cozy inn out near the edge of civilization, where travelers are few and far between. While the company may not be the best, it is a dry hearth to wait out storms, or simply rest between one adventure and the next. I hope you enjoy this week’s free Zweihander one shot: What Growls Beneath

If you’re new around here, we post a monthly Side Quest, which are short, free TTRPG encounters with corresponding maps that can be easily threaded into an ongoing or one shot campaign, allowing busy DMs to throw in a random encounter at the drop of a hat. Our Adventurer Level 2 tier on Patreon allows patrons to pick the game system, theme, and name a character or two in an upcoming Side Quest. We create a free adventure around their idea, and now everyone gets to enjoy this free Zweihander One Shot! Plus, Patrons receive a downloadable version of all our Side Quests.

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Reference Resources Needed

Free Zweihander One Shot: What Growls Beneath

Overview

This adventure takes place primarily within the walls of the run-down Steinhardt inn on the edges of the woods. The married owners, Otto and Emma, operate the inn with what little income they get. Their son Horst lives under the same roof, though under different circumstances. Horst fell victim to a wolf bite a year ago and became infected with Moon Fever, cursing him to an endless cycle of fury brought on by the passing of the moon or during times of stress. The boy keeps to the stone cellar beneath the inn for the safety of his family and himself. 

Now, the family lives in fear of discovery, as a witch hunter happens to be staying at the inn at the same time as the players during one of Horst’s transformations. Will the characters aid in unearthing the Steinhardt secret, or will they refute the witch hunter and help the family?

This side quest is designed for four to six Characters in the Intermediate Tier.

History

The Steinhardt inn resides near the crossroads on the edge of a small forest. While once a popular locale due to proximity to a flourishing lumber community, the inn now struggles to remain afloat after the lumber company left the area, and is lucky to see a single traveler within a week’s time. However, luck has not been kind to the Steinhardt family. Because their stream of steady customers slowed, Horst Steinhardt, son to Otto and Emma, turned to poaching to supplement their meager income. Unfortunately, Horst fell afoul of a Moon Fever-afflicted wolf while hunting and contracted the disease. Horsts’ illness worsened as the Steinhardts were unable to afford a doctor for treatment, and ultimately, became irreversible — Horst undergoes a painful transformation under the full moon or times of stress into a fearsome wolf-creature. With no choice, Otto and Emma converted their old root cellar into a prison for Horst, one that he spends nearly every waking moment within. While the Steinhardts fear what their son has become, they fear more what would happen if their secret got out. 

Enter Viktoria von Fuchs — a notoriously ruthless witch hunter for the region. Von Fuchs dispenses holy justice to those she perceives as “corrupted by chaos”, and also happens to be passing through the area.

Dramatis Personae

Otto Steinhardt

  • Professions: Servant 
  • Ancestry: Adult Human (41 years old)
  • Social Class: Lowborn
  • Motivation: Legacy
  • Alignment: Order-Aligned
  • Bestiary Entry: Rebellious peasant (Pg. 533)

Otto’s pride and joy is the inn that he built with his own two hands, though recently the inn seems more a prison. He is caught in indecision: the inn keeps his family safe, but it’s only a matter of time before something bad happens. Otto knows that Horst would be executed on sight should his secret get out, so he and Emma continue their routine and hope their secret stays hidden.

Emma Steinhardt

  • Professions: Servant
  • Ancestry: Adult Human (37 years old)
  • Social Class: Lowborn
  • Motivation: Secrecy
  • Alignment: Order-Aligned
  • Bestiary Entry: Rebellious peasant (Pg. 533)

Emma loves her family dearly, but the toll of caring for her lycanthrope son is nigh-staggering. She is willing to do what it takes to protect Horst and keep him safe, even if that means he must stay below.

Horst Steinhardt

  • Professions: Trapper
  • Ancestry: Adult Human (18 years old) 
  • Social Class: Lowborn
  • Motivation: Nihilism
  • Alignment: Order-Aligned 
  • Bestiary Entry: Lycanthrope (Pg. 551)

Cursed son of the Steinhardt family. While once a spirited youth, his subsequent affliction and imprisonment leaves Horst in a deep depression. He withdraws deeper into his misery with each passing transformation, scarcely able to look his parents in the eyes due to shame. Despite their reassurances, Horst feels he is losing his humanity, but cannot bring himself to take action. Unfortunately, even minor stresses can potentially cause a transformation, leaving the Steinhardts little choice but to keep Horst hidden.

Viktoria von Fuchs 

  • Professions: Inquisitor
  • Ancestry: Adult Human (38 years old)
  • Social Class: Burgher
  • Motivation: Absolution
  • Alignment: Order-Aligned
  • Bestiary Entry: Witch hunter (See Appendix)

Von Fuchs travels from town to town in search of insidious cults or mutants hiding within the populace. It was not suspicion that brought her to the inn during her travels, merely fate. However, von Fuchs is always on guard, and never hesitates to act upon instinct. Her only companion is her jet-black rouncey Midnight, who rests within the nearby /stables.

The Steinhardt Inn

General Features

The Inn is over a story tall, with slightly sloped roofs and a covered entryway providing relief from the elements. Ceilings inside the inn reach up to four yards high (to accommodate any taller-than-usual guests), while a mix of wood and stone tile line the floors. Hanging oil lanterns provide light in all rooms except the basement. Doors made of solid wood and reinforced with metal are unlocked unless otherwise noted. 

Free Zweihander one shot Map
1. Courtyard

A sturdy three-yard-tall stone wall circles the Steinhardt inn, protecting it from the wilds. Two double wooden doors lead to the north and south, while inside the walls the inn sits opposite a small stable. In the northeast corner of the courtyard hides a small three-door outhouse for guests staying at the inn. A woodsman’s axe sticks out of a stump nearby. Tracks in the packed dirt of the inner courtyard suggest horse and rider. A successful (Standard +/- 0%) Survival Test reveals that the tracks are a few hours old. 

2. Stables

Four stalls make up the entirety of this modest shelter. A handsome black horse rests in one of the stalls — its saddle and tack removed and secured in a nearby cabinet. A successful (Hard -20%) Skulduggery test using a lockpick unlocks the case.

Trappings. The tack and saddle hold two doses of opium, three bandages, and a tent for one, while searching the cabinet reveals three animal traps.

3. Main room

Sturdy double doors lead to a dog leg-shaped tavern, modestly furnished with handmade furniture and decor. Bare tables sit beside simple wardrobes that provide minor security for guests who elect to sleep near the fire. The tavern smells of woodsmoke, dirt, and fresh-baked bread. Emma cleans a clay mug behind the bar and greets the characters as they enter. Viktoria von Fuchs sits near the fireplace to the south and nurses a flagon of ale while perusing a book.

Services. The Steinhardt family offers a variety of services for guests:

  • Simple meal of vegetable stew, bread, and cheese: 4 bp
  • A tasty local ale: 3 bp per cup
  • Bottle of middling wine: 10 bp
  • Night in the stables: 6 bp
  • Night in the main room: 1 ss
  • Night in a private room: 5 ss
  • Stabling for horse: 8 bp

Trade goods. Emma purchases commodities and other goods up to a value of 30 ss from characters if offered. Characters that succeed on a (Challenging -10%) Bargain Test increase Emma’s limit to 40 ss. If characters convince her that what they’re selling is good for the inn, change the difficulty to (Standard +/-0%).

4. Guest rooms

Three simple yet clean private rooms sit along a narrow hallway separated from the main room. Each comes equipped with a single bed, a stool, and a low dresser to place equipment. Rooms have enough separation to muffle most noises from the main room, though past guests have commented on faint animal sounds late at night. Dressers in the halls hold extra sheets and blankets. Von Fuchs rents the south-eastern room. 

5. Kitchen

Stone tile lines the floor of the back half of the inn. The kitchen is both living space and work area for the Steinhardts, who spend their time preparing meals or fixing items around the building. Otto is in preparation for the evening meal — tending a slow roiling stew and bringing bread out to cool. 

Trappings. The kitchen holds a mix of food supplies and home goods fit for lowborns. Notable among the items are two particularly sharp kitchen knives (counts as dirks), three bandages, and a bottle of smelling salts. 

Searching the sleeping area reveals an old hunting bow (belonging to Horst), 6 arrows and quiver, 4 sprigs of Wolfsbane, and a small locked chest containing 53 gc, 105 ss, and 498 bp. Unlocking the chest without the key requires a successful (Standard +/-0%) Skulduggery Test.

6. Storage

Crates and barrels top each other and reach to the rafters in this cool storeroom. A small workbench with woodworking tools sits near a locked door that leads to the courtyard. 

Concealed trap door. A metal-reinforced trapdoor hides in the northeast corner of the room, obscured by crates. Spotting the trapdoor requires a successful (Challenging -10%) Awareness Test. The underside of the trapdoor also has extra cloth padding attached to aid in muffling noise. 

Trappings. Most of the crates and barrels contain various dry commodities. Searching the workbench reveals a small carved figurine of an elk, worth 8 ss.

Basement

Shallow wooden stairs lead down two yards to a hard-packed dirt floor. Beyond the stairs the space extends into a five-by-four yard chamber, rough stone and mortar comprising its walls. An odor of lilac and animal musk seems to hang in the air, as a small vase of flowers sits next to Horst, who rests against the southern wall in chains in preparation for his transformation. 

Trappings. Horst has a few amenities for when he is not indisposed, including a stool, a small table with writing equipment, a few books, and a set of playing cards. Near the stairs sit a second small table that holds two sprigs of wolfsbane (sealed in glass jars), and two bandage strips.

Part I: Night of the full moon

The characters should arrive no later than dusk on the night of the full moon. If they have horses, Emma comes outside to greet them directly. Emma offers a 50% discount on stabling if the party has more horses than the three available stalls. Both Emma and Otto speak with the characters throughout the evening, discussing the world beyond their walls. They hesitate briefly when asked about themselves, and a successful (Challenging -10%) Scrutinize Test reveals that there is something they aren’t letting on. Von Fuchs is cordial, though she limits her interaction with any non-human characters. As long as the characters don’t outwardly display magic or signs of mutation, von Fuchs keeps her peace, though she does get preachy if left to drink.

Before long, von Fuchs retires to her room, leaving the characters alone with Emma and Otto. One of the two innkeepers leaves to tend to Horst during his transformation, claiming to start “kitchen chores”. The remaining innkeeper helps the characters settle in for the evening and tends to closing duties (locking gates, exterior doors, etc.).

Part II: The change

A monstrous howl echoes through the walls of the inn late at night. A successful (Standard +/-0%) Handle Animal Test reveals it to be of a wolf, and a big one at that. If the characters leave their room and explore, they notice that Otto and Emma are nowhere to be found. Von Fuchs leaves her room at the same time, fully garbed and armored, and begins drunkenly rambling about demons. 

A second, louder howl sounds, followed by crying, if the characters either don’t search or are unable to locate the source. Von Fuchs goes outside to check the courtyard, which leaves the characters ample opportunity to search the interior. The continued sobbing can be heard inside the storage room, specifically from the trapdoor on a successful (Routine +10%) Awareness Test. 

If the characters descend the trapdoor stairs quietly, they succeed on a (Easy +20%) Stealth Test, as the growling grows louder from within. Before them is a fully-transformed werewolf chained to the far wall. Both Emma and Otto fret over the creature, though they do not notice the characters until Horst begins lunging in their direction. Once the characters have Otto and Emma’s notice, they become fearful, pleading for them to not to hurt their son. This is their only opportunity to explain the situation before von Fuchs comes downstairs. Von Fuchs will not tolerate the werewolf to live and demands that the couple back away, as well as telling the characters to leave if they will not aid her. 

The characters must decide who to aid: the Steinhardts and their son or the witch hunter. Siding with von Fuchs causes the Steinhardts to attack using dirks. Horst rips free of the chains after three rounds of combat to maim everyone he perceives as threats, and flees out of the building. Siding with the Steinhardts draws von Fuchs into a righteous fury, as she draws her weapons to defend herself.

Were-diplomacy

However, combat is potentially avoidable on both sides. A simple social intrigue challenge may be initiated to either convince the Steinhardts of the folly of keeping their son confined, or von Fuchs that not all monsters are deserving of death. 

Convincing the Steinhardts to allow von Fuchs to end Horst requires two successful (Hard -20%) Charm, Guile, or Intimidate Tests. If successful, they lower their weapons, defeated in spirit. They allow the characters and Fuchs to use the wolfsbane they have nearby to aid in putting Horst to rest. The inn is put to the torch a week later by von Fuchs and her colleagues, though Emma and Otto flee the region. 

If the party aids in killing Horst, Von Fuchs offers little to reward the party, though she informs her superiors about their aid, which grants them a favor. 

Convincing von Fuchs to leave the Steinhardts alone requires a successful (Arduous -30%) Bargain, Charm, or Leadership Test. Von Fuchs does not respond to Intimidation Tests and immediately attacks if attempted. If successful, von Fuchs lowers her weapons in disgust and leaves, though not before warning the Steinhardts that she’ll be back.

If the party stops or kills von Fuchs, the couple thank them, even though they must finally decide on how to help Horst. They reward the party with 10 gc, plus Horst’s old hunting equipment (Hunting bow, arrows, and traps).

Epilogue

Few, if anybody, receive a full night of sleep after the events in the basement. If they survive, Otto, Emma, and Horst abandon the inn in search of a possible cure. They take their money and few personal items. Few know if they found what they search for. 

If von Fuchs survived, she says little to the characters and leaves on her horse, to continue her one-person crusade against the darkness. The characters are free to take anything they see fit. 

The Steinhardt inn remains empty, eventually collapsing as the woods reclaim the building.

Unplanned exploration

This is just a small section for situations where the party decides to go off-book or do things that the GM might not anticipate. 

  • If the characters either wait too long or refuse to enter the trapdoor during part 2, von Fuchs re-enters the inn and locates the source of the noise. She descends first, and with no trial, opens fire on Horst, which initiates combat with Otto and Emma.
  • If the characters enter the basement before nightfall, Horst will be in human shape. He is easily confused and unless the character attempts to calm him with a successful (Hard -20%) Charm or Guile Test, he begins to transform prematurely. 
  • It’s possible that somewhere in the great wide world that there is a possible cure for lycanthropy! This could be a quest on its own, and von Fuchs might have a change of heart and join in on the search! 
  • The characters might stay at the inn several times on their adventure before the full moon or before von Fuchs arrives. The Steinhardts hide their secrets pretty well before the chance occurrence of the characters and a witch hunter staying at the same time.

Appendix - NPC Statblock
Witch Hunter

These individuals travel the length and breadth of the lands searching for corruption to unearth and demons to banish, even if they have to invent them themselves. Not every witch hunter is a self-serving fanatic, though they seem to be the norm rather than the exception these days. Armed with silvered bullets and blades that cut through supernatural defenses, but rarely put to good use when confronted by an angry mob. 

Witch Hunter — Size: Normal

  • C/45% [6] — B/35% [5] — A/50% [5] — P/40% [6] — I/30% [4] — W/45% [6] — F/30% [2]
  • Int/+12 — Mov/8 — DTh/8 (14/20/26) — PTh/9 (15/21/27) — Par/75% — Dod/50% — RFa/Intermediate (Medium)

Skills

  • Awareness +10, Eavesdrop +10, Folklore +20, Interrogation +10, Intimidate +10, Martial Melee +20, Martial Ranged +10, Resolve +20, Scrutinize +10, Toughness +10

Attack Profile

  • Flintlock Pistol: 55% – Distance (ranged 9 yards) – Load (3 AP) – Damage (5) – Gunpowder, Volatile
  • Saber: 65% – Distance (melee engaged) – Damage (5) – Defensive

Traits

  • Grossly Paranoid: These creatures have factored in +3 to their Initiative.
  • Lamb to the slaughter: When these creatures Injure a foe with a melee weapon, they inflict two Injuries instead of one.
  • Menacing: When these creatures use a Litany of Hatred, they inflict 1D10 +[BB] mental Peril.
  • Silvered Weapons: Weapons wielded by these creatures negate magical defenses of supernatural foes, allowing them to deal normal damage. 
  • Steely Fortitude: These creatures always succeed at Resolve Tests and cannot be Intimidated.
  • Witch Hunter’s Insight: These creatures are always under the effects of the Generalist Petty Magick called Wytchsight. However, they retain their normal vision, able to ‘turn off ’ this sight on command.

Trappings 

  • Bandages (2), Brigandine armor, Flintlock pistol, Gunpowder & shot (5), Holy symbol, Laudanum, Torch, Saber

Wrap up

I hope you all enjoyed this (rather grim) free Zweihander one shot! My experience with the game may still be new, but I feel like there’s so much more to explore. Please feel free to share your thoughts on my free Zweihander one shot in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord! If you’d like access to more maps and content, including downloadable PDFs of our adventures, check out our Patreon. We’re able to do what we do because of all our amazing Patrons!

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