Carrion Crown is a gothic horror adventure that takes place in the fog-shrouded nation of Ustalav. This was once a peaceful land, but that ended 1,500 years ago when an ancient evil, the dread necromancer Tar-Baphon, rose as a lich—an undead monstrosity of unimaginable power.
Tar-Baphon, the Whispering Tyrant, ruled with impunity until the Shining Crusade crashed upon his borders. Three mortal armies combined to slay the lich, slowly working their way up the Lake Encarthan coast over the course of a century. The losses the crusaders suffered at hands of the undead hordes were staggering, but they managed to destroy Tar-Baphon in a final assault on his tower stronghold at Gallowspire. Fearing what horrors might lurk in the dungeons, the crusaders then sealed Gallowspire and committed themselves to an eternal vigil over the corrupted land.
These events occurred nearly 1,000 years ago, but the Immortal Principality of Ustalav remains a cursed land. The spirits of the restless dead walk the moors and haunt the woods, and it is for this reason that the people of Ustalav trust their superstitions and treat any outsider with suspicion or outright hostility.
In the small town of Ravengro, in the county of Canterwall in Ustalav, a man by name Petros Lorrimor was found dead at the ruins of Harrowstone, the old prison. Professor Lorrimor's will summoned four people from across the Inner Sea: Allynna Telerelhûn, hedge witch; Laurent d'Avignon, flame of Sarenrae; Ros, shadow of Kalistrade; and Valdís the Bladebound.
These four, together with the Professor's grieving daughter, Kendra Lorrimor, began investigating the strange circumstances surrounding Petros's death. They quickly uncovered evidence that he had died in an encounter with a mysterious death cult known as the Whispering Way.
The cultists were long gone but their activities had set loose five evil spirits that had long dwelt in the ruins, each belonging to a notorious criminal held at the prison when it burned down some 50 years ago. The adventurers realized that without their intervention the spirits would overtake the town, so they delved into the haunted dungeons to put the prisoners to their final rest.
After saving Ravengro, the party traveled north, to the river city of Lepidstadt, to return a number of forbidden tomes of lore to the famous Lepidstadt University. They arrived to a festival atmosphere, as the town celebrated the capture of the Beast of Lepidstadt. This monster, a thing neither living nor dead, an amalgamation of limbs taken from a dozen corpses and animated by some unnatural spark, was to stand trial for its crimes and, if all went as expected, found guilty and burned at the stake.
As fate would have it, one of the tomes the party was to return belonged to Judge Embreth Daramid. Upon hearing of their exploits in Ravengro she divulged that she was to be one of three judges presiding over the trial of the Beast, and she had serious doubts about the Beast's culpability. She couldn't look into it fully herself, so she implored the party to investigate in her stead. They agreed, and lit out to collect evidence in the Beast's defense.
The adventurers are now infamous around Lepidstadt. The certainty of the Beast's guilt that fueled the city's festivities has been replaced by anxiety as the entire populace awaits a verdict that could fall either way.
It is in this tense moment that you make your entrance.
The character options detailed below are only jumping-off points—outlines of a history and an immediate motivation, so it'll still be up to you to bring the character to life. However, if you feel motivated to generate a character on your own, I am absolutely on board, and these can serve as signposts to point you in the direction of the types of characters that fit in well with the world and the campaign.
Oracle (Haunted, Ancestor mystery): Native of Ustalav, demonstrated a connection to the divine at a young age and was inducted into the Church of Pharasma thereafter. However, it soon became clear that her connection could not be controlled, and she was expelled. She is constantly plagued by the unquiet spirits of all those who have perished on Ustalav's soil, but can sometimes wield these ghastly beings as a weapon against evil. Even so, she still seeks some way to give rest to these haunts.
Menhir Savant Druid (Growth subdomain): Filled with a preternatural vitality and attuned to magical threads known as ley lines that bind the multiverse. She has used them to travel the world over (and perhaps a few locations beyond). She ended up focusing a great deal of attention on Ustalav after discovering a massive disruption in the lines across this land. She hasn't rooted out the source of this disruption yet, so she continues to travel Ustalav, seeking out ancient fonts of power and ley line confluences.
Cleric of Desna (Liberation and Travel domains): Well-traveled and devout follower of Desna, once sprung Ros from a Druman jail even though she knew her to be guilty. Varisian in origin, she migrated to the Lake Encarthan region following a series of disturbances in her hometown of Sandpoint (see the Late Unpleasantness, Pathfinder Adventure Path #1: Burnt Offerings, and Pathfinder Adventure Path #4: Fortress of the Stone Giants). She is elated to hear of Ros's involvement in the Trial of the Beast, and desires nothing more than to be reunited with her old friend.
Inquisitor (Souls subdomain): Hailing from Osirion, grew up in the Church of Pharasma but had trouble keeping to the Church's tenets. Before long, she was moved to a secretive sect devoted to hunting down necromancers and others who seek to meddle with the normal cycles of life and death. She helped contain an undead uprising in Wati, the Half-City (see Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves), and was thereafter dispatched to Ustalav. Her target is one Adivion Adrissant, who the Osirian priesthood had reason to believe was in contact with the necromancers responsible for the massacre at Wati.