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Researching the Malevolence

Source Malevolence pg. 59
The key perils within and below Xarwin Manor can be defeated only temporarily through combat and magic. To put these hauntings and sinister undead to rest permanently, the PCs must discover the secrets of the manor's history by researching clues found within the structure's libraries and collections, by studying journals and notes left behind by its doomed inhabitants, or even by experiencing vivid dreams. These insights into the area's history will help guide the PCs' explorations, reveal goals, and (as they complete research topics) earn them experience points.

These investigations are performed using the Research subsystem. The PCs can choose to research several topics, some of which they might not initially have access to when the adventure begins and must be discovered (or “unlocked”) through the course of play. When a PC wishes to Research, they should indicate to the GM which topic they want to investigate and then attempt an appropriate skill check for the venue of research they utilize.

Special Terminology

Source Malevolence pg. 59
The rules presented in the Gamemastery Guide assume PCs research divisions within a library, but in this adventure, the terminology used differs slightly. Instead of being organized under libraries, divisions are listed as topics, such as “Ioseff Xarwin” or “Psychopomps.” Within each topic, numerous venues are listed, be it the PCs' own knowledge, a collection of books, journals found in the manor, discussions with NPCs, phantasms, or dreams experienced while under the manor's influence. The amount of time needed to perform the check varies by venue but is listed in each topic's stat block.

Each topic has a level associated with it. Once the PCs reach all of a topic's research thresholds, they earn XP as if they'd defeated a creature of the topic's level. For example, a party of 3rd-level characters, upon completing research about a 5th-level topic, earn 80 XP, the same amount this party would have earned for defeating a 5th-level creature. To keep things moving, you should let the PCs know when they've completed research on a topic rather than let them continue trying in vain learn more.

Dream Research

Source Malevolence pg. 59
Once the PCs visit Xarwin Manor, their psyches become linked to the malevolence. Thereafter, whenever they sleep within a five-mile radius of the manor, they experience disturbing and unsettling dreams that seem to simultaneously present strangely precise clues and revelations. The PCs might all share the same or very similar dreams, or each character might receive a different visions in the same night, at the GM's discretion.

Whenever the PCs have these strange dreams, have them roll a DC 15 Arcana (trained), Nature (trained), Occultism (untrained), or Religion (untrained) check while they dream. On a success, that PC realizes that they can use this dream to research topics they've unlocked during the adventure by taking the Dream Research activity.

Dream Research

Concentrate Downtime Trigger You fall asleep within 5 miles of Xarwin Manor.
Frequency once per 12 hours
While you sleep, you experience dreams that verge on nightmares. In these dreams, your mind drifts from your soul, and everything you know feels like it's being drawn up into the dark places between the stars to be devoured. During the dream, you can concentrate on one research topic you've unlocked that you haven't fully investigated. If you choose a topic for which the party has already discovered all research thresholds, you can immediately switch to a different topic.

The skill you use and the DC for the check depend on the topic, as detailed in that topic's Dreams venue. If you're not dreaming within the manor grounds, the spiritual link to the malevolence is lessened and you take a –2 status penalty to the check.
Critical Success You gain 2 RP.
Success You gain 1 RP.
Critical Failure You peer too far into the malevolence, which notices your attempt. You manage to break the mental link just before you lose some memories to its ravenous appetite. Increase your malevolence condition value by 1.

Research Topics

Source Malevolence pg. 60
When Malevolence begins, the PCs might start with certain research topics already unlocked, depending on what adventure hook you choose. In this case, a PC can use the Regional Lore venue to perform research before traveling to Xarwin Manor.

In cases where a PC must attempt a Library Lore check, you can allow a PC with another potentially appropriate Lore skill to roll that skill instead. Options to Recall Knowledge to know information automatically can only be attempted once per character per venue.

Before the PCs can research a topic, they must unlock that topic. A topic can be unlocked during play in encounter mode, or it can be unlocked by successfully researching related topics. As this adventure progresses, you (or a player) should keep a list of unlocked Research topics for quick reference as needed during play.

Note that for most of these topics, the final research threshold manifests as a dream. If the PCs reach this threshold using the normal Research activity rather than Dream Research, this final revelation manifests as a sort of waking dream or vision on the spot, triggered by a final bit of successful study on the topic.