No Night So Dark
Several years ago, the Shipwarden of Ilthmar was supervising a routine firing of a pirates' nest when he was stuck by a poisoned arrow and killed. At the time this was considered a particularly unfortunate accident (although rumours circulated that the fatal arrow came from the other side of the magical wards that should have protected the Shipwarden). These rumours reached the ears of Dyneach the mage, now an old man - and the father of the late Shipwarden. He determined by various tricksy means that the current occupant of the Shipwarden's chair was responsible for his son's demise. To this end, he has set about a circuitous plan for revenge. He knows that a direct assault on the Shipwarden would be likely to fail, and besides he has come to loathe the whole backstabbing coterie that rules Ilthmar and has determined to do them all as ill a turn as he can. However he does not particularly wish to give them any satisfaction himself and so has at length selected a small group of particularly unpleasant rakes as his instrument of vengeance.
The group he has selected are :
- Alscarion - The second son of the Master of the Guild of Ferrymen and Carriers. Although officially an officer of the guild, he spends most of his time gambling and carousing. He is heavily in debt.
- Montani - The only son of a notable mercenary captain recently retired to his country estate. He is a captain in the City Watch, and embittered that he was unable to afford a captaincy in the much more prestigious (and less boring) City Guard.
- Bassalinor - The illegitimate son of a guild officer in the Guild of Precious-smiths. His father is very wealthy, and has provided him with a house in which to live, but he is too arrogant to take the relatively menial (to his eyes) postions that he has been offered. Of course, never having been apprenticed, he cannot join the guild.
- Mescalior - The third son of a minor official in the Guild of water-masons, he is regularly condescended to by the others in the group, but is tolerated because his brother has acquired a mysterious source of funds, which he (and his friends) regularly dip into. Mescalior's older brother Tomarrion is occasionally part of this group - or was until recently. Now his remains are decaying in the cistern of his house, due to Dyneach's ministrations. Dyneach himself, in sorcerous disguise, has taken his place - which explains the mysterious funds.
- Tybati - the final member of the circle, is a charming rogue of no particular family. He is part of the group due to his manner, elegant clothes and abundant coins. This is because he is a member of the Thieves Guild - in its own way as much a respected part of Ilthmar as the more conventional guilds (they even have their own parade, at night, in which all participants march masked and unmolested - due to an incident in the long-ago war against the monarchy). He is also a forger of some repute (in the right circles!).
Dyneach (in the guise of Mescalior's brother, Tomarrion) has inflamed the sense of grievance which each of this group has and has given into their hands a magical tool with which they can increase their fortunes. He has convinced Montani that if the current shipwarden were to die, that he might better his position by pledging allegiance to one of the contenders. Alscarion hopes to remove his main creditor and Bassalinor has been persuaded that if his father became Guildmaster he could gain a position more suited to his dignity - of course, certain other guild members would have to be removed.
The implements for this course are two. First, a crystal globe that allows anyone looking into it to see things far away. Second, a curious assemblage of bones supprting the globe that allows the users to create a sort of mental monster driven by their own bestial urges. These items are currently stored in Bassalinor's apartment, which has been used as a meeting place for the conspirators.
- Scrying globe : Telescopic vision (+12 on PER) plus N-ray vision, usable by others (85 active points)
- The globe has the following disadvantages : Independant (-2), Concentration (0 DCV, only to turn on, -1/2), extra time (1 turn, -1), OAF (fragile, -11/4) Incantation (throughout, -1/2), for a total of -51/4 (total cost 14 points).
- "Monster" creator : 18 d6 mental illusion - major changes to setting, does BOD and STUN (effect must reach ego +30) usable by others, invisible effects (202 active points).
- The monster creator has the following disadvantages : Independant (-2), only a single illusion (-1) Concentration (0 DCV, only to turn on, -1/2), extra time (1 turn, -1), OAF (fragile, -11/4) Incantation (throughout, -1/2), for a total of -61/4 (total cost 28 points).
To send forth the monster requires the expenditure of 18 END per phase, and the attacks of the monster can do no more damage in active points than the number of points rolled on the dice (average of 63!).
Since the monster is formed from unspecified mental fears, it appears as as an inchoate mass, constantly changing form, lashing at its victims with tentacles, fanged maws, claws, etc all boiling up out of the body. Note that although as many targets as there are operators (up to 5) can be attacked, there still appears to be a single monster - with more minds fuelling it, it simply becomes more horrific. An observer who makes a PER roll (at appropriate penalties in combat) might notice that although the victims suffer injury, their equipment does not.
The first part of Dyneach's plan has borne fruit already. Although the houses of the rich are normally shielded against scrying, the Shipwarden was detected by the conspirators as he was returning from a party. In a moment, both he and two of his bodyguards were torn limb from limb (although the effort rendered two of the conspirators unconscious). The confused description of the assailant given by the two surviving guards has thrown the city into confusion. Was it a random attack by some daemon of the ether? Or was it a more deliberate assault? In an attempt to lull their targets into a sense of false security and also disguise their motives, the conspirators have several times sent the monster abroad to slay - first, a randomly chosen household and subsequently several attacks on people in the street. All the attacks have taken place by night to decrease the chance of discovery (anyone not attacked might divine the nature of the power involved, by seeing people fight invisible assailants). Now few venture abroad by night and the general consensus is that some fell beast is abroad in the city, killing at its whim. The conspirators are ready to try another target. It is at this point that the players come on the scene.
The Watchwarden of Ilthmar has his own suspicions about the death of the Shipwarden. If, as he suspects, it was an assassination, then it may involve politically powerful people - who will certainly have spies within the city watch. Not knowing who to trust, he has decided to recruit a bunch of adventurers from out of town - they will have no loyalties to anyone else, and if they discover something too embarrassing to become public knowledge they can be quickly made to disappear....
Running the game
The GM should check the map of Ilthmar and become familiar with the layout of the city. There is a more detailed map of Kalamar Island, with the major sites marked in green. The Key is:
- 1 Thieves Guild safehouse
- 2 Alscarion's father's house
- 3 Bassalinor's house
- 4 Tomarrion's house
- 5 Tybati's hideout
- 6 Mescalior's father's house
- 7 Site of Shipwarden's killing
- 8,9,10,11 Site of other known killings
The players should be allowed to roam about looking for clues, disturbing footpads and honest citizens and generally getting into minor trouble. The description below give a general trhead of events, but it is impossible to predict exactly what actions the players might take - with the threads below in your hands, the GM will have to blend them into the action as it unfolds. As GM, don't be afraid to drop a few hints to get the players headed in the right direction, but don't give too much away.
Enter the Heroes
The players can be recruited as they approach the city, or immediately after arrival. If necessary, the Watchwarden will have a trusty agent plant stolen goods on the PC's and then have them arrested. As presumed foreign thieves they could be sold into slavery in the galleys or left to rot in the dungeons - but in exchange for a small service, they will be pardoned and even recieve a substantial reward. If the players have to be coerced, they will have to agree to have the Soulhook spell cast on them. This is a 5d6 RKA, triggered by the breaking of a "soul image" made by the Watchwarden's sorcerous bodyguard during the casting of the spell. Once the PCs are recruited - one way or the other - the Watchwarden will tell them of the monster and suggest that they scour the city at night in the hopes of flushing the monster. If they can take it alive, they should - if not, simply kill it. If they fail to kill it, but at least see it they should report to him - and he gives them a token used by his spies to ensure admission to his presence. He doesn't realise how difficult these tasks could prove to be....
Attack by night
Things are further complicated by the fact that Montani - one of the conspirators - has become aware that some foreigners are being recruited for something. Being naturally suspicious, he is hanging around the citadel to catch a glimpse of these strangers. He will follow the PC's until they find some lodging (the Watchwarden will direct them to some if needed). If they make a successful PER or shadowing roll he will be noticed. Having become alarmed by the possibility that these strangers are involved in the ongoing monster-hunt, he will urge his fellows to set the monster on them that night. If the players find this prompt attention suspicious, well, they should! (A hint along the lines of "So, who knew you were here?" might help if they failed to spot Montani).
If they survive the attack, they should remember that they have been asked to report back to the Watchwarden. The fact that someone has confronted the monster and survived will worry Montani, who will panic if they straightaway go to the Watchwarden. He will immediately disappear and go to Bassalinor's house to send the monster against the Watchwarden, who he (correctly) suspects as the brains involved in any monster-hunt. He will also send a message by link-boy to a senior watch captain that several foreigners are attempting to assassinate the Watchwarden. If the linkboy is questioned he can provide a rough description of Montani, which the playes will recognise if they have previously seen him.
It will take the PCs a while to reach the Watchwarden, since he is always busy, which gives Montani time to reach Bassalinor's and scry for them. When they meet the Watchwarden, he will set the monster on him and then let it disappear, catching a light boat back to the headquarters to denounce the PCs as being in league with what is obviously now a sorcerous creature. If the PCs cannot save the Watchwarden, they will have to escape from the citadel, pursued by the forces already alerted by the linkboy. Then, if they cannot identify the malefactors and prove their innocence, they will be killed on sight. If they save the Watchwarden, it will be obvious that someone in the watch is involved (give them an INT roll if they can't work it out themselves) and it can easily be discovered that Montani is not at his post.
If the PCs have to escape at all, they will probably have done so already by the time Montani arrives back. If they are smart, they should be able to pick him up when he leaves the Watch headquarters that night heading for a meeting with his conspirators. They will also be able to get some information on his normal companions - it is an common knowledge that he meets Alscarion and Bassalinor. If he fails to kill the Watchwarden, he will not return, instead seeking out Tybati and sending him to gather the other conspirators to warn them to gather at Bassalinor's where he will lay low until they can strike at their enemies. The Watchwarden, if he survives, and Montani's absence is noted, will tell them of the probable location of Alscarion and Bassalinor (and their fathers' houses) and get the PC's to quickly find them and bring them to him. He considers it more essential than ever that he use outsiders, since the fathers of both men are influential and there could be a major conspiracy afoot - if so, he wants to be able to work out what is going on before he commits himself to telling anyone else important what he has found.
If the players arrive at the building which houses Bassalinor's rooms they will find the conspirators there (except Dyneach) before them and the conspirators will use the monster-creator to attack the PCs. This time they will not stop until all of them are unconscious from END loss (they will have time to recover for a final hand to hand session by the time the PC's get up to their rooms). Meanwhile Dyneach, was soon as he heard that the law had gotten involved, will have gone to Tomarrion's house to pack his belongings and flee the city - he has a boat already organised. The other conspirators, if questioned, will rapidly identify Tomarrion as the originator of the plot, but even a cursory search of his house will reveal his corpse - obviously a couple of weeks old. Successful PER rolls (or similar) will reveal that the house was recently vacated - warm cookpots, spilled clothes suggest a hasty departure and a search of the house's back steps will reveal (with PER or Tracking rolls) evidence that some heavy stuff has been loaded recently onto a boat.
If Alscarion's father is informed - and he will be soon by the watch - he will offer to trade his son's life (in exile if necessary) for help tracking any boats (but only if asked) - and can quickly locate the people who hired their barge to Dyneach. He can also offer transport to overhaul him - leading to a final showdown. Dyneach will try to parley before combat, telling the PCs about his son's death, and claiming that what he has done is justified. If that doesn't work, he will fight - he has been largely resigned to death since his son's murder, and will do anything to avoid being taken back to Ilthmar.
Finishing the Adventure
If the PCs can locate the monster creator, and catch some of the conspirators alive, they will earn the gratititude of the Watchwarden (if he is still alive) and a suitable reward. If he is not alive, they will clear their names and be politely asked to leave the city. The monster creator and only dead conspirators may be sufficient, (the Watchwarden would actually prefer that, since it tidies up any loose ends) depending on how the PCs play it. Capturing or killing Dyneach will raise the rewards and restore them to the esteem of the authorities even if the Watchwarden has died. Their exploits will bring them to the notice of powerful people in the city who could be interested in offering them employment (and who could rescind any request to leave). They will also have made some potential enemies, in the conspirator's families.
for simply surviving
1-2 (depending on play)
for finding the monster creator
for defeating the conspirators
for catching Dyneach
The PCs can acquire the following rumours if they ask around - give out one for each attempt - more for successful Conversation rolls.
- The location of the monster's attacks (fairly accurately - it has been a major source of discussion).
- All the attacks have been at night (true).
- The monster is one of the elder Wizard-kings, or a minion of theirs freed by excavations in Oldshedding (false).
- The monster is a werewolf (false - since only the first attack took place on a night of the full moon. It is now the dark of the moon)
- People are staying indoors, since all the people killed have been attacked outside (not true - one family was attacked at home. If the PCs are attacked at their lodgings, it might make them even more suspicious, though).
- Many rich families have left for their country estates until the monster is caught (true).
A successful Streetwise roll (or a Luck roll) could lead to someone who has the following information ( a Conversation, Interogation roll or similar would be needed to extract it). In no case will more than one of these pieces of information come from a single group.
- Mescalior got drunk in Ota's (a bar of low repute) a while ago and responded to a discussion about the safety of walking home in the dark by boasting that he knew all about the monster and that there was nothing to fear that night. At the time, none of his listeners paid much attention, but hey, you never know...
- Tybati (a good man if you need fake papers) has had a stroke of good luck - Kilmer the rogue was killed by that monster the other night. He had sworn to carve Tybati up for running around after his sister.
- Ascalior has also had a stroke of luck - Dannor the blade - who owns a tavern which Ascalior owed a lot of money to - has disappeared (the monster dragged him into the harbour and finished him there - there is little left of the body to identify even if it was found)
- The fact that all the conspirators are known to hang out together (only likely to be revealed in response to direct questioning about one of the group - perhaps in response to information #2 or #3)
- The location of the conspirator's lodgings (but see caveat above).