Redrafts of the Specularum Series (long posts)

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Ville Lahde
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Redrafts of the Specularum Series (long posts)

Post by Ville Lahde » Wed Sep 02, 2009 2:47 pm

Specularum Scenario Series, Part I:

“Coloured was the Bay, bloody were the streets”

by Ville Lähde


This adventure was published originally in the Finnish RPG magazine “Claymore” with the title “Kirjavat olivat vedet, ja punaiset kadut” in 1994. I designed it for OD&D, and the events were supposed to take place in Specularum. As D&D was not used so much in Finland at the time, I wrote the scenario in a generic form. This is a second English version of the scenario, now made explicitly for Mystara and for the “Fantasy Cities: Specularum” fandom project. Some of the stats of the important NPCs can be found in the NPC section of the coming book, others are provided in these scenarios in a schematic form, so the GMs can adjust the power levels to her/his liking.

This scenario opens a series of adventures, which includes the five original scenarios published in “Claymore”, plus two brand new ones – new and extended, combined and reworked versions of the adventure seeds provided in the “Grand Duchy of Karameikos” Gazetteer (namely “Davinos’ Complaint”, “The Sins of Valdo Tisza”, “Prisoners in the Night” and “The Missing Rose”). [Note: I will perhaps include also a short adventure on prince Valen’s Shearing and the Cult of Halav.] This series involves the PCs with most areas of the city, its different social environments from the lowest gutters to the palace of the Duke himself, the various social, economic and political tensions, and it will present dire threats to the city and the very security and integrity of the Grand Duchy. Thus especially the latter parts of this campaign can be fitted with the advanced adventure ideas of the Gazetteer: war with Black Eagle, civil war, religious war, or wars with foreign powers. Seeds of strife are sown throughout the series, and the final scenario will perhaps see them sprout. That is of course down to the exploits of the PCs and the GM.

The overall genre of these scenarios is investigation and intrigue. But fear not, there are ample opportunities for PCs to get into harm’s way or inflict some. As always, such “detective stories” work best if magical levels are pretty low, so divination magic doesn’t eliminate the suspense. If this is not possible, I definitely advice the prospective GM to adapt these scenarios to the circumstances formed by the rule system and the power level he or she prefers. It should be noted, however, that the first part is conceived with beginning adventurers in mind, and ones either new to the city or from the lower rungs of the social order.

SETTING

This scenario involves the following elements of Specularum most intimately: 1) The guild system and foreign trade; 2) Foreign Quarter and the ethnic gangs; 3) Veiled Society and the street life in general; 4) The City Guard.

Guilds and Trade

The guilds are obviously an important part of the everyday workings of the city, and the events of this scenario involve the Dyers’ Guild and the Tailors’ Guild, and the PCs may even get interested in the Merchants’ Guild during their investigations. [Note: I assume that the Guild system will be described in the coming book, since we have solid work available on it by Giampaolo Agosta?] In short, the craft guilds control and preclude competition within their respective fields and keep the prices at the preferred level. Retail and wholesale are controlled by the Merchants’ Guild. Craftsmen have some limited rights to sell their products, but this is controlled by the Merchants’ Guild (which widens the influence of the Radu faction). Even foreign craftsmen and merchants of the Foreign Quarter need permission to ply their trade there, and getting it is not always easy. This tension is at the heart of this scenario.

Another central feature of the scenario is Specularum’s location, its role as a hub of marine trading. Proximity of the sea however doesn’t only explain the events of the scenario, it flavours the events. After all, the city was named according to the beautiful Mirror Bay, at its best when the rays of the morning and evening sun give it a hue of red. The Bay, the rushing Volaga, the constant salty tang in the air, and the visibility of the sea in the horizon are important in the everyday life of the Specularumians: the noise of the harbour, the presence of foreign travellers and exotic wares, the swirling seagulls everywhere, ever so annoying. The mystic opening of the events of this scenario will be a scary surprise, even a dark omen, to the residents of the city, especially the superstitious Traladara.

The Foreign Quarter

This exotic and cosmopolitan enclosure offers sights, products and services not available elsewhere in the city, except to the wealthy and influential. Foreign drugs, novel forms of entertainment, different foods, even illicit religions… you name it. [The Foreign Quarter, and some of the people and factions that will possibly be involved in this scenario, are described in the City Book.] Even though the guilds technically rule over enterprise also in the Foreign Quarter, the powerful gangs make it much harder to control it.

The Veiled Society and the street life

Events of this scenario also involve a powerful Veiled Society starosta and his local cell from the South End. [Originally I had Kingdom of Thieves in this role, but the Veiled Society works much better.] More generally the PCs will have to work the streets in the poorer regions of the city, tracking important clues. So it is possible that they become involved with other factions such as the Kingdom of Thieves, small gangs et cetera. It should be noted that the Veiled Society is not necessarily an enemy of the PCs in this scenario, even though they get into an awkward situation with the organisation in the beginning. It is very possible that they manage to impress the starosta and get recruited. This might require some reworking of the latter adventures, but they would still work. Any criminal organisation has schisms and factions, so Veiled Society members can well end up investigating their own organisation in the second scenario of the series.

The City Guard

Guard Phorsis has offices and barracks around the city, and quarters and smaller areas are allotted to captains and lesser officers. The Nest and the Foreign Quarter are no-go or limited areas for the guards, which is an important part of the setting. The corruption and injustice (in modern terms) of the guards is also an important part of the events. Guard officials can be bribed, and career is often more important to them than justice/order/rule of law. Also they are not always too keen on finding the actual criminals, and convenient scapegoats suffice for the smaller offences. This doesn't necessarily mean arbitrary arrests, but they are not very interested in examining the evidence. Circumstantial evidence, even the word of an official, can often lead to a conviction. Any beginning PC should be pretty much aware of this.

BACKGROUND

The events take place in early spring, at the beginning of a new trading season. Karameikan ships will leave for foreign shores, and first foreign ships will arrive with the trade winds – mainly Thyatian, Minrothaddan, Ierendian and Darokinian, with the occasional Ylari, Sindian or Northern Reaches vessel, even though the latter are rare exceptions. Trade in foreign goods is lively, causing fierce competition and fluctuations in prices. Fortunes are made and lost, as in an environment like this it is never certain which shipments arrive and which are lost. Merchants have only partial information on the incoming shipments anyway. Investing in certain goods may be disastrous, if the market is suddenly flooded by another shipment arriving suddenly.

Downright smuggling and profiteering around the Foreign Quarter is also common, which causes tensions within the Foreign Quarter and between local residents and foreigners. Guildmasters complain about illegal trade and unfair competition, foreign traders try to work around the tough restrictions, exotic drugs cause havoc, and sudden influx of funds after the winter make local gangs more aggressive. Street fights between “ethnic” and local gangs are common. This causes a lot of grief for the already overworked Guard Phoris. Most of its troops are tied up in protecting warehouses and markets, but the fights and crimes divert them elsewhere, which causes vulnerabilities.

The crooked merchant Tegell, an Ierendian expatriate, has recently moved into the easternmost parts of the Foreign Quarter, the Ierendian area. He is quite wealthy, but not filthy rich, and he is one of the richest men in this relatively poor area. He has trading contacts in Ierendi, and before coming to Specularum last autumn he had just invested most of his fortune in a valuable shipment of exotic dyes. These particular dyes are produced from certain excretions of captured monsters, and they are used mainly in shimmering and glittering cloths used in festival costumed and banquet dresses. Nothing of the sort is produced in Karameikos.

Tegell plans to deceive the dyers and tailors of the city and to make a killing on his shipment. His plan is built on an elaborate deception: Disguised as a red-haired man he has ordered an expensive banquet costume from every tailor of the city, meant for the coming Masked Ball in the Darokin Embassy. The down payments he has given for them are peanuts when compared to the expected profit of his venture. Of course the red-haired buyer will never come to collect these costumes, and due to the elaborate designs the tailors cannot sell them to anyone else (there is hardly any market for costume ball dresses) or even scrounge them for materials (Darokinian fashion favours strips, bundles and knots of expensive cloth).

After this Tegell has made a contract with the Ierendian gang “the Breakwater”, led by Zila the Pirate. He has hired some goons to break into the stores of the Dyers’ Guild and steal all of the exotic dyes that he is importing. The thieves are supposed to bury the dyes somewhere. Unfortunately the thieves are not totally reliable, as we will soon see. Tegell has also hired the gang to keep the area clean of nosy outsiders, just in case. Tegell has used the identity of Amsumal to deal with Zila, but she and her closer aids have a general idea about his real personality and where he lives.

Tegell knows that the Dyers’ Guild house is located in the area of the South End guarded by the unit led by Captain Porius and protected by the Veiled Society cell led by the feared starosta Stavros. So he assumes the identity of “Amsumal” and hires some freelance thieves to break into the house the Davidos couple, a local veterinarian and a healer/herbalist. In order to foster conflict he leaks information about the coming robbery to the Guard and the Veiled Society.

Unfortunately Tegell makes some small mistakes along the way, leaving clues that may lead to him. But no matter what happens, the fate has still one cruel card left.

THE STRUCTURE OF EVENTS

The PCs are hired by Amsumal to break into the house of the Davidos couple. They get caught in the middle of Captain Porius and Stavros’s Veiled Brothers. As the diversion is revealed when news of the Dyers’ Guild robbery arrive, both big players are in a difficult situation, so they need the PCs to sort things out… or else they can serve as handy culprits. So whilst keeping in relatively good terms with both, the PCs need to find the mysterious “Amsumal” and the people who raided the Dyers’ Guild.

Meanwhile a mistake by the thieves causes alarm in the city, and Tegell’s plan causes uproar in the guilds. The PCs have very little time to find Tegell and bring him to justice (and satisfy the Veiled Society, as it needs to make an example of someone). Fortunately Tegell has been careless, as have the thieves, and there are some clues that can lead the PCs into the Foreign Quarter. But in there they will have to deal with the difficult tensions between the gangs in order to get to Tegell.

The GM can also arrange the first events in a way that the PCs meet. They could for example be: a Veiled Society recruit, a Guard rookie, a freelance thief, even an apprentice of one of the Davidos’s. The most important thing is for the GM and the players to discover a solid motivation for the PCs to engage in the investigation together. Threat of prison and/or mutilation is always a good one, especially if the PCs are poor. In this kind of context leaving the city for the wilderness without ample supplies and good skills is a recipe for disaster. They have to deal with it.

TIMELINE AND DETAILS

Day 1:

Things are set in motion in the first day of Spring, as the trading season opens. The citizens are eagerly awaiting for the arrival of the first ships after the winter. On the other hand, spouses and children of sailors weep on the piers, and drunken sailors are stumbling into pubs and bars for the final binge before setting sail. The first foreign ship arrives at noon from the Five Shires, carrying tobacco and beer. Many inns and taverns offer a free sound and a complimentary pipe for their customers.

Meanwhile in the Foreign Quarter tensions rise, as the Breakwater gang members, emboldened by their good deal, act more self-assuredly and aggressively. They are buying more drugs and weapons, and tensions are on the rise with their neighbours, “the Swords of Kalim”, the Ylari gang (which is already involved in scuffles with “The Myrrh of Night” and the dwarven moonshine gang). The raid on the Dyers’ Guild is supposed to take place the following night.

“Amsumal” hires the freelance thieves to break into the house of Davidov. They are supposed to strike at midnight “when the owners have been alerted to tend to a sick horse of a noble, a wild goose chase of course”. They are sent to steal a fictional valuable cache of magical medicinal herbs. If the PCs are curious, they can learn that Amsumal speaks with a foreign accent. Tegell tries to hide it, but someone with the needed skills can recognize Ierendian traits.

At the same time Tegell hires a street kid to leak information of the heist to Captain Porius and Stavros’s Veiled Society cell. This causes Porius to take part in the patrol himself and to change his route, which would have included the Dyers’ Guild normally. He wants to impress his superiors. Veiled Society sends some muscle to hide around the Davidov house, with orders to teach the thieves a lesson.

As the thieves approach the Davidov house, they are accosted by the Veiled Brothers, who are hiring in the herb bushes. [I placed the house in the fields west of South End.] Depending on the thieves, a battle may ensue, or else they are captured. In any case Porius and his men arrive in a very “what’s all this then” way. As Porius and Stavros have an accord, this is a difficult moment, and the PCs look like excellent sacrificial lambs. Fortunately a runner will bring Porius news about the Dyers’ Guild robbery. Porius is in trouble, as he was supposed to protect that area (being greedy, he did not tell anyone of the warning – he wanted to surprise his superiors). The Veiled Brothers are furious, as nobody screws around in their turf. Both parties want this dealt with, and the PCs are handily available. Either they find the culprit, or Porius and Stavros divide them amongst themselves in order to satisfy their superiors. Somebody has to pay, after all. Whether the PCs get anything else than their charges dropped (they did try to break and enter, after all) and the Veiled Society off their back is up to them, but they are not especially well set up for bargaining. (In our campaign the PCs had to run a debt to get funds for this investigation, which solidified their interests later on. But this depends on the chemistry and habits of the players.)

It might be a good idea to set a deadline. Porius can keep things under the wraps for two days (or something) at most, then he is forced to act.

If the PCs act quickly, they can learn right now that the information was leaked to both parties by the same source, the street kid. This is Tegell’s first mistake, as the kid has distinctive features. He has a constant tick on the right side of his mouth and a lazy, even deformed, left eye. (If the GM wants to make a subtle link to the second part of the series, the kid can also be an atabe user, in which case it is good to establish now that he is of Thyatian stock. A clever PC could use this later on – my players missed it, and man were they annoyed! This is often fun too.) But if they miss this, it is of course possible to learn these things later, albeit a bit more troublesome.

Day 2 and beyond:

The morning starts with ominous news. A huge crowd has gathered into the harbour, gawking at the Mirror Bay. Its waters used to sparkle in the morning sun (the Volaga keeps is surprisingly clean – if you don’t check the bodies and trash at the bottom, of course), but now it is tainted with a strangly swirling chaos of colours. The prayers of the priests do not work, and the mages are baffled. The truth is of course the goons of “the Breakwater” were lazy and dumped their loot into the Bay. Perhaps Tegell should have been a tad more explicit about the importance of burying the loot, even to the point of paying extra for it. Tegell is understandably furious and nervous, but Zila promises that nothing can lead to the gang members and to him. If only she knew… the careless thief who lost his emblem would be disembowelled.

The ingredients of the different magical dyes have reacted and created a concoction that will remain on the surface for days. It is as if the waters are alive. This is seen by many as an evil omen. (The GM can create another link to the second part of the series by referring to the same legends that are used in connection with the comet.) In any case the PCs can learn from the Dyers’ Guild that the stolen dyes were of semi-magical origin, and with additional consulting from mages or alchemists they can work out the origin of the colours – or most likely they just guess it. From the Dyers’ Guild they can also learn that nothing else was stolen and only the specifically labelled jars were taken (Keeper of the stores, Malev, knows the place very well). The thieves have also left a clue as to their origin – a gang emblem of sorts, but this needs some searching. It will also be hard for the PCs to learn of its nature, since few in the inner city know about the details of the Foreign Quarter, and it is unlikely that the PCs at first understand to look there.

During the day the word hits the streets that the tailors of the city are angry: nobody has collected the elaborate costumes, and all of the exotic dyed cloth has been used. The Darokinian Embassy ball is in a few weeks, and orders for new glittering costumes will start coming in soon, and there's no dye left to make new cloth. The masters of the Tailors' Guild argue about improving communication between the craftsmen and raising the level of advance payments. If the PCs investigate, they can learn that all the orders were made by a red-haired stranger with an accent. If they investigate further (and if they paid attention in the first place), they can learn that the stranger had the same accent as “Amsumal”.

The street kid, happy with his reward, has disappeared into the Nest and the home turf of the Kingdom of Thieves, so the Veiled Society will not get to him. It may be possible for the PCs to get to him, though, as they are freelance. Any contacts in the Nest will serve them well. If they find the kid, he can tell them that he was hired by a red-haired man with a strange accent. Tegell should have switched disguises more often.

The PCs can also learn about the logic of shipping, surprise shipments and fast profits if they inquire in the harbour or the Merchants’ Guild. Nobody knows about the coming shipment, of course.

Meanwhile, fights between the eastern gangs of the Foreign Quarter intensify, as “the Breakwater” gets on the offensive against the Swords of Kalim.

ENDGAME

Eventually everything points to the Foreign Quarter, the Ierendi area and “the Breakwater”. The investigators can take advantage of the gang conflict in many ways, and they can end up either helping or opposing Zila’s crew, for example. Zila is not above breaking the treaty with “Amsumal”, if a good incentive is shown (like the fact the Guard Phorsis and the Veiled Society would like nothing more than a reason to crack down on them).

Most likely the gutters run with crimson for the nights to come. The result of all this is uncertain. Tegell might yet come out on top, or he might forge a deal with the other parties – he has some cash left. However the PCs would need something to appease Porius and Stavros with.

However, the Fate shows a dark sense of humour. The shipment of dye that shook Specularum never arrives. The ship sinks, taking lives beneath the waves, as the first spring storm surprises it. The few saved sailors ramble on about waves swirling with unearthly colours... The residents of Specularum, who know nothing about all this, wait nervously what these omens foretell. And Fate will provide, as we see in the next part of the series “Omens and Portents”.

CAST

- Tegell (see NPC section)

- Stavros (see NPC section)

- Porius (see NPC section)

- Zila and the Breakwater gang (see NPC section)

- Findilius, master of Tailors [if you do not wish to include him, I will detail him here]

- Kantianos, master of Dyers [as above]

- Malev, storemaster [as above]

- The Davidov Couple:

* Julius Davidov (NM, lawful) is a sweet old man with a balding head. He has a habit of munching on cooking herbs, so it is sometimes hard to make out what he is saying. He charges very little for his services.
* Svetlana Davidov (NM, lawful) is an old woman with a dry and commanding voice and a stern disposition. She keeps her hair tied to a tight bun and wears straight and nondescript clothes. She is an expert in healing, herbalism and related arts. Her customers are mostly people who cannot afford priestly healing (there are a lot of them) or who prefer traditional medicine for their ailments.
The only sin is selfishness. So said the good Doctor.
- Iain M. Banks

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Ville Lahde
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Re: Redrafts of the Specularum Series (long posts)

Post by Ville Lahde » Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:24 pm

Specularum Scenario Series, Part II:

Omens and Portents

by Ville Lähde


This adventure was originally published in the Finnish RPG magazine “Claymore” in 1994 with the title “Pahoja enteitä”. It is important that the GM prepares the atmosphere for this adventure, so some time should lapse between the previous part and this. In city campaigns a slower pace is usually good anyway, so the yearly cycle of the city can be seen by the PCs. (This adventure is also a good opportunity to prepare for the coming events, especially the troubles of the Torenescus. Christoph Torenescu might “fall ill” during these events and seemingly succumb to the mysterious illness. Obviously Boris takes advantage and poisons his brother. This way the later events around Alexander Torenescu have some background. But this is of course not necessary, the later adventure will work well without it.)

SETTING:

This scenario involves some familiar elements from the previous part of the series, as well as some new ones: 1) Stavros and his cell of Veiled Society; 2) Al-Azred and his gang “the Swords of Kalim” (unless something happened to them, in which case the GM must substitute them with someone else); 3) The ethnic and religious tensions of the city; 4) Church of Traladara; 5) Church of Karameikos and the extremists; 6) Drug use

Stavros’s crew and Veiled Society

The events of this adventure reflect the power play of the Radu clan, the secret movers of the Veiled Society. They have gone in cahoots with a drug dealer, seemingly the gang leader Al-Azred (see later), but they are also trying to use the havoc caused by the drug to their advantage and cause unrest and aggression against their Thyatian overlords. Stavros has been given this operation. The story will also see a split within Stavros’s cell, reflecting the conflictual nature of the organisation. Note that not even Stavros knows the true identity of his masters and the extent of their plans. He is just playing out a list of actions handed to him.

Al-Azred and the Swords of Kalim

The true culprit is using his identity and casting doubts on his gang. Thus Al-Azred is a potential ally of the investigators. Note that the Swords of Kalim detest drug use, which is one of the reasons they hound their “hazar” neighbours.

Ethnic divisions

This adventure builds on the ethnic tensions between Thyatians and Traladarans. As much as ethnic and religious, or even more, the division is based on the imbalance of economic and political power, despite Duke Stefan’s attempts to balance the situation. The Duke will stay impartial, even to the point of passivity, during these events, unless they deteriorate very badly. This is a good way to convey the nature of Stefan’s rule, just but indecisive, to the players, with eye on the future of this campaign.

Church of Traladara

The PCs are introduced with the nature of their church, especially its relative powerlessness due first of all to the subjugated status and secondly due to the fairly casual and informal nature of the church itself. In a time of crisis, the Patriarch has a limited range of options. It is important to remember however, that the greatest resource he has is his friendship with Patriarch Jowett.

Church of Karameikos and the extremists

This scenario also introduces the dual face of the state church. Patriarch Olliver Jowett cares for all the citizens, whereas the Oderbry faction is likely to be provoked by the machinations of the Veiled Society into medieval police brutality and racist actions. The street-level face of Thyatian supremacy, Sir Lucius Thraxus, can be used to convey the latter image in this scenario. After all, despite the motives of Duke Stefan and Patriarch Jowett, in effect the Church is a tool of conquest and cultural colonialism. They believe that this crucible can form a new and unified people, others see it only as a source of burning zeal.

Drug use

Drugs have an important role in this scenario. As suggested in the previous part of the series, much of the drug trafficking takes place in the Foreign Quarter, although Iron Ring and/or Veiled Society dabble in it too. The Kingdom of Thieves doesn't seem the type. In Specularum laws against drugs are strict, or actually laws against smuggling drugs. There are licensed herbalists and alchemists who can sell narcotics, like boosted absinth, stimulates and hallucinogens. Alcohol, tobacco and mild herbal drugs are allowed. These create revenue that can be taxed. Illicit trade and use is hounded by the Guard Phorsis.

What kind of drugs might be around? From Ochalea via Thyatis opiates, hashis from Ylaruam, (really) magic mushrooms from the Dwarves or the Nosemen etc. In a magical world, just like in a modern world of synthetics, a new drug can wreak havoc quickly, and with ugly results. This is at the heart of this scenario.

BACKGROUND

The Plague Strikes

The adventure starts in early summer, a few months after the opening of the trading season. A few weeks ago a comet appeared in the skies, a powerful omen and a portent of evil things. The comet’s tail appears as two tails, which due to the direction of the tail has the appearance of horns. This unnerves especially the Traladara, for whom the figure of the Horned One, a manifestation of the Black Prince, has been historically important. Perhaps they connect this with the strange unearthly visions on the Mirror Bay a while back. [This derives from M. Geneva Gray’s “Mystaran Chronicles”.] They fear drought, famine and flood. Most of the Thyatians scoff at this, especially those leaning towards the Oderbry faction.

Very soon is seems that the omens were true. A strange plague afflicts the people of Specularum. The afflicted persons become pale, they suffer from amnesia and fits of madness. After a period of these symptoms many regress to just sitting on the streets and coughing up black goo. Slowly people begin to die. The GM should build up the tension created by the comet, the prophesies and the emerging plague slowly, perhaps against the background of some other events.

Priests from the Church of Traladara walk the streets, trying to help the sick and setting up temporary aid stations, but new cases are revealed each day, and their prayers seem ineffective. Even the more powerful prayers just ease the symptoms for a while, until they return with a vengeance. Patriarch tries to pray to the Immortals, seeking the roots of this malady, but to no avail. Meanwhile the Church of Karameikos is fairly passive, which causes some underlying bitterness. Order of Griffon, especially the Oderbry faction, keeps an eye out for trouble (perhaps itching for some themselves).

At the beginning of the scenario, the officials are baffled. Meanwhile the atmosphere of the city is tense, and ethnic grudges manifest in street brawls and drunken fights. Prophets of doom and demagogues hit the streets. People mad with the illness hint to some dark and sinister force at work. For added spice the GM can have Cult of Halav start praying on Duke’s Palace for deliverance, and other parties preying on them. Emilio’s entourage may stage a play on their exploits.

The Truth behind the Plague

It is no wonder that even esoteric research has not shed light on the plague, since everyone is looking in the wrong place. The comet attracts attention on celestial matters, plagues and dark forces. Yet the root of the malady is mundane: drugs. Very early this spring a new Ylari drub called “atabe” hit the streets. Its normal effects are mild hallucinations, euphoria and laziness. It is taken orally as a black paste covered in leaves (boiled cabbage, wine leaves etc., so it is usually disguised as food). It is almost instantly addictive, both physically and psychologically, and the users quickly develop constant black miasma in their mouth. This and the strong urges make the users hard to open up about their problem. Long-term use results in heavy physical and psychological addiction, paleness of the skin and emotional irritation. All in all, this is a very lucrative product for criminals.

But unexpectedly the effects of the drug on the Traladara are much more severe: amnesia and memory distortion, and recurring violent madness. Eventually the victims become catatonic, their whole mouth blackens and their lungs begin to excrete black goo until they suffocate in a horrible way. How very un-60’s of them.

Thyatians don't suffer from these extreme adverse effects, they only get the normal symptoms and the fast addiction, whereas mixed people get easier versions of the symptoms. There is a historical reason to this, linked to Nithia, which is why the drug has long ago caused similar troubles in Minrothad, where similar genetic traits can be found in the population. They call the drug “the Black Devourer”, and it has been banned. The dealers of the drug did not know about this effect (or alternatively, their master might have known, if the GM wants to add some mystical spice – see later).

The Drug Dealers

The leader of the drug dealers and their supplier is a dangerous and powerful doppelganger who has magical abilities. He arrived to the city right before the winter. He had been travelling in a Ylari caravan and disappeared before they arrived in Specularum. He quickly assumed the identity of Karol, a rich man living in the noble quarters of the city, close to the city walls. Then he had his supply of drugs, a delivery under a false name, transported by the Ylari caravan, delivered to the house of Karol. So now he is living the life of Karol, a family man, and whilst enjoying these luxuries he is involved in drug trade and perhaps some dark practices. (Perhaps the comet was right, and the doppelganger is a cultist of the Horned One? He may have come to do his master’s bidding with the unholy drug, devouring the hapless victims of the sickness while he is at it?)

The doppelganger has made a deal with the Veiled Society in order to get the drug distributed. He has assumed the identity of the gang leader Al-Azred in order to draw suspicion to a wrong target. The deal stipulates that the Veiled Society gets a handsome cut for distributing atabe. Stavros’s cell has been ordered to do the job, and he has given a dozen of his lesser goons to Al-Azred. It is important to realise that 1) the Veiled Society does not know that atabe targets Traladara, and is sure to pull the plug if this is proved to them; 2) “Al-Azred” has quickly bought the loyalties of his dealers with extra money, so they are ready to defect if they are ordered to stop their activities. With the money they are getting, they can retire comfortably away from their masters. (If the GM wants, the doppelganger may also be using esoteric means to influence them.)

Most of the drug is sold in the Old Quarter, South End and the areas of Nest not controlled by the Kingdom of Thieves. The dealers of course stay out of the Foreign Quarter. By the beginning of the scenario, however, new cases of “illness” are popping up in the Merchant Quarter too. Most of the users are thus Traladara, but there is also a Thyatian market, which is important for the PC investigation (see later).

Plans of the Veiled Society

The Radus want to use the troubles created by the new drug to foster suspicion of the Church of Karameikos and the Magicians’ Guild, for their “ignorance of the plight of the people” or “failure to help”. People riled with prophesies of doom are easy to turn on arbitrary targets, not to mention ones with a history of colonisation and oppression. Initially the Radus stick with the plan, despite the radically worsening situation. But in any case, they will cut ties with “Al-Azrad” eventually, but by that time it is far too late, and it won’t stop the drug trade completely anyway. So the PCs better succeed in their task (see later).

THE INVESTIGATION

The PCs can be involved in many ways, but the default assumption is that they are enrolled by the secretary of Patriarch Nikelnyevich, Rodoz Marianov to investigate the nature of the plague. As Rodoz is likely to believe any rumours hinting at the Horned One, his initial briefing is bound to set the PCs on a wrong track of mind. His aide Svetlana, who is the liaison of the PCs in the coming investigation, is fortunately more down to earth, and can help them to gain the attention of the Patriarch, if they manage to learn anything vital (see later). The investigators are given letters which confirm that they are on official church business – it would of course be ideal if one of them is a priest of the church, but a member of the Church of Karameikos can easily have been sent by Magdel to help her colleague, for example.

The investigators are asked to learn more about the disease by questioning the patients and the healers, and in any other way they can come up with. The letter can carry some weight when it comes to the residents of the city, the guilds or even Guard Phorsis, but they of course have no extra rights or powers, so the do have to tread lightly. Rodoz Marianov also instructs them to help keep the peace, as Patriarch Nikelnyevich is worried about extremists on both sides.

There are a number of clues that the PCs can unearth during their investigations:

1) The Demographics: The supposed disease seems to be spread only to Traladaran and mixed population. Also the symptoms vary between these two groups.
2) Hallucinations: As the memories of the users have been distorted, it is very hard or even impossible to gain knowledge of the drug from these victims. Instead they ramble on about “the Dark Prince” who offers happiness eternal – a drug-addled memory of the hooded dealers, of course.
3) The areas where the disease was originally strong were the Old Quarter, the northern parts of the Nest. Then it spread to South End (but keeping away from the areas controlled by Stavros – you do not foul your own nest, and he wants to be a good neighbour). Recently there have been cases in the Merchant Quarter. This may direct the PCs to look for recent cases.
4) Early and Thyatian users: Black miasma is a common factor, if the PCs can find any Thyatian users (more likely in the Merchant Quarter). The Thyatian users can provide them with knowledge about the drug, as their memories are not distorted. But the social stigma associated with the drug use is strong. On the other hand, they can use that to their advantage.
5) Captured drug dealers are unlikely to provide any important clues, aside from noting that disturbing the Society is very dangerous. That is unless the PCs get cruel – granted, they often do. At this stage the dealers however only know the identity of “Al-Azred”, and they get their product from Stavros.
- Note that if the PCs capture drug dealers, the Veiled Society will begin to watch out for them or even hunt them down, depending on their actions.
6) By studying the drug itself the PCs can learn that the plant used in the packaging is definitely Ylari, and a master in drug and herbal lore can identify it through the Minrothadian legends (see above).
7) If the PCs inquire about recent arrivals from Ylari, they have a chance to learn about the caravan, the disappearance of one traveller and the mysterious delivery. However, the trail will run cold as “Karol” employed hired porters, whom are extremely hard to find.

TENSIONS RISE

As the PCs engage in their investigations the plans of the Veiled Society progress and unrest spreads. If they stay true to their commission from the Patriarch, they will get involved, as they are supposed to keep the peace. So: Stavros’s crew is causing disturbances in the city by using demagogues to anger the population. In the beginning a couple of Thyatian shops are robbed (as a bonus the Radus are interfering with their rivals in the Merchants’ Guild).

The first big event is a demonstration organised at the Statue of Ban Bogdan Ivanovich. It is either organised by Stavros’s crew, or if the GM wishes to introduce people and elements from the later parts or the series, the resistance leader Vladimir and his “Spring Flood” might be laying ground for their plans. In any case, several demagogues of the Veiled Society are present, and they will try to incite a riot and send the crowd surging towards the Church Quarter “to demand help from the oppressors”. If this happens, Sir Lucius’s crew will be very aggressive in the coming days, and Guard Phorsis (aided with the Knights of Griffon) will use violence to stop the mob.

Sir Lucius will in any case patrol the streets with his followers in order to protect the Thyatians from the attacks done or instigated by the Veiled Society. The PCs have it thus that much harder, as Sir Lucius is unlikely to welcome nosy goons of the native church. There may be blood.

If the PCs don’t manage to stop the downward spiral, things will get out of control. Later on the Veiled Society will try to organise a riot outside the Guild of Magicians. During times of evil omens and bad portents, the mages are often blamed. If the PCs do not intervene, there will be more bloodshed, and serious this time, as some of the mages panic. On the other hand, the PCs have a chance to gain important allies and resources by saving the day. But by this point the Duke will finally get active, martial law is declared, and any unofficial action becomes very different. Thus atabe gets to do its dirty work, and deaths mount, even though the possibility of drug trade will also dwindle. (If the GM wants the doppelganger to be an evil cultist, and not just a greedy lecher and perhaps a connoisseur for the succulent human flesh, he may decide to poison a central well with the rest of his stash. This would be a true disaster.)

HOW TO STOP THE DRUG TRAFFIC?

As mentioned earlier, eventually the Veiled Society will pull out anyway, but by that time it will be too late (see above). The best way for the PCs is appeal to Stavros by pointing out that the drug is hurting only Traladara. They can also influence the situation slightly by public announcements of the dangers of atabe. This will not help the already addicted, but new users will be harder to find. On the other hand, this will definitely lure an ambush by the Veiled Society, unless they use official channels to make the announcement.

If the true and inherently race-biased effects of atabe are proven to Stavros, he will get permission to withdraw from the drug traffic. However, the Veiled Society will make trouble as long as it can (see above). In any case some of the dealers defect and contact “Al-Azrad” in order to continue the drug traffic. The investigators can at this stage learn the name, but at first this is likely to divert them to the Foreign Quarter.

Still, if things are settled with Al-Azred and Stavros, the PCs are able to focus on finding the dealers and their master, and they can gain help from the various parties. hunting down individual dealers is the obvious way. At this stage they know “Karol” by description, but the PCs still must tract down his identity and residence.

Anyway, the doppelganger must be killed. This will be interesting, as the PCs will most likely think that they are raiding the house of a crooked noble and not a magically savvy changeling with a taste of human flesh. Karol’ wife, children and servants are also living in the house. In a secret cellar room the PCs can find lots of atabe, proceeds of the drug traffic, and perhaps even a shrine of the Horned One with hundreds of gnawed human bones.

AFTERMATH

Even if the doppelganger is killed, things remain grim for a whole. Many people have died or will died, and hundreds are suffering from serious withdrawal. Depending on the actions of the PCs, there may be additional tensions within the Foreign Quarter and with the rest of the city. Depending on whether the Veiled Society succeeded in their plans, the tensions in the city are very high, and they are bound to take advantage of them, as are the extremists of all churches.

Over all this the comet is slowly fading, but it is as if an evil grin is spreading on the face of the Horned One, as he watches over poor Specularum…


CAST

- Rodoz Marianov (see NPC section)

- Svetlana (C2, lawful): Rodoz’s aide. She is a healer and a more down-to-earth person than her master. She is likely to believe more clinical explanations than the curse of the Horned One. Svetlana also knows Magdel of the Church of Karameikos quite well, but not as well as she would like, as she harbours a secret (and in this context a very dangerous) love of her colleague.

- Al-Azrad (see NPC section)

- Stavros (see NPC section)

- Doppelganger: Powerful even for a doppelganger and a wicca/shaman. The GM can create the stats according to the desired power level.

- Sir Lucius (see NPC section)

- Malachai, Herb Lore Master (M8): He works in the Magicians’ Guild and is the best authority to consult about atabe and drugs in general. He is an old man with a white beard and a constant smell of herbs and chemical on his robes, tattered and pockmarked. Due to several cases of poisoning, he is also somewhat absent-minded.
The only sin is selfishness. So said the good Doctor.
- Iain M. Banks

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Re: Redrafts of the Specularum Series (long posts)

Post by Ville Lahde » Wed Sep 02, 2009 11:47 pm

Specularum Scenario Series, Part III:

"Stuffed heads and lethal weddings"

by Ville Lähde

This adventure was originally published in the Finnish RPG magazine “Claymore” in 1994. Even though it is the fourth part of the series, it can be easily moved around, as it has no thematic links to the others. It has also quite a loose structure, which requires that the GM be adaptive and creative when running the scenario. There are so many possibilities for the PCs to act anyway.

SETTING

Unlike the previous two scenarios, this one does not involve a large number of actors or cause widespread turmoil. It is closer to a small play of passion or a detective story. The events revolve around the Hunters’ Guild, a fairly new guild, which has a very different structure from the regular craft guilds. Rather than a guild it is actually an administrative body that regulates the use of ducal forests by allocating hunting permits and overseeing that the hunting quotas are not exceeded. It was formed by the Duke 20 years ago in order to make the exploitation of forests more effective and to keep game populations steady. In guild politics it is neutral, so factional politics do not affect this adventure (ref: Giampaolo Agosta’s article).

All forests around Specularum belong either to the Duke or to wealthy landowners (landed nobles). Some of them are reserved for the personal use of the nobility, like the Duke’s Park, but the rest of them are supervised by the guild and its subsidiary, the Rangers, which has strong links to the Elvenguard. These areas are divided into forest areas, each controlled by a Guild master who is allowed to hold hunting tests, grant licenses, buy the catch and sell it to merchants and craftsmen from his Guild Lodge. So in these forests, hunters licensed by Guild masters are allowed to hunt, but everything they catch must be sold through their respective guild masters. They must also wear the coat of arms of their master.

Black market trading is punished harshly: the perpetrator looses all hunting privileges and his gear, and must pay a hefty sum as compensation for the guild. Game meat and furs are luxuries, so the sums may well turn the person into an Indentured. The Master and license system is the primary way that the Guild controls hunting, but it also has an experiences cadre of Rangers who patrol the forests and report to the Central Master of the guild. The Rangers watch over the lesser masters so they don’t exceed their quotas.

The hunting license allows each hunter to hunt a certain number of beasts of certain species a year, and all of the catch must be notified to the master. The master then reports the bulk amount that his hunters have hunted to the Guild council. Thus they have to keep careful records of 1) the licensed quotas, 2) all the stuff that they have bought and 3) all the stuff they are sold. These records are cross-checked at least once a year, but sometimes surprise checks are made. The Masters of course make their living by taking a standard cut from each transaction. Their Lodges send a percentage of the money to the Central Guild, which again pays the Duke (and the local noble) for the use of the forests. It is a comfortable living for an individual Master, but it is very hard to get rich. Still, even though it is said that a small bribe can go a long way towards getting a license, the reputation of the guild is clean. There has been very little corruption and few transgressions. It may be that the Masters squeeze their hunters a bit too hard (which of course reflects in their loyalty), but this is not regulated that much, as they have no guild rights like regular journeymen. There are so many prospective hunters around that the hunters rarely complain.

In the forests further away from Specularum the guild has no influence, and many independent hunters and trappers make their living there, selling the meat and fur either to merchants or to local residents. Their biggest problem is the crown bailiffs who dislike mobile craftsmen, who are harder to tax. Some larger cities also have similar institutions, but they differ according to the local noble. Smaller settlements usually reserve hunting for the nobles alone. So the poorer people rarely see any game on the table.

The most common animals that are hunted in the areas controlled by the Specularum Guild are deer, moose, rabbit, squirrel, boar, fox and various bird species. Wolves and bears are very rare in the vicinity of Specularum. Most of the good meat, fur and hides go to the richer families or craftsmen or businessmen who refine them into fine meals or clothing et cetera. Bones are sold to people who make fertilizer, for example. Offal and poor quality meat is usually eaten by the Hunters themselves or bartered to their neighbours – this is technically illegal, but nobody cares.

Poaching by non-licensed hunters is naturally forbidden and it is punished severely, but it doesn't stop some starving peasants or city labourers from trying. After all, Robin Hood's career started like that...

BACKGROUND

Hunter Master Boris is a greedy man, and he thinks he deserves more than he is getting squeezed out of his hunters, so he has started a poaching and black market operation. By forging documents and cooking the books he manages to sell illegally hunted catch and keep all the money. To this end, his trusted follower Volodnja has hired a couple of peasants from the Marilenev Estate to help him. Disguised as licensed hunters they prowl the forests at night. The process is simple: The peasants hunt, Volodnja gets the catch in secret forest meetings and transfers it to the Hunting Lodge stores, stamping them with a fake guild seal. Boris forges the paperwork, unbeknownst to his secretary, and sells the catch to a select group of customers. They have no idea that the meat, skins, furs and bones are hot, with the exception of one customer (see later). Boris gets the furs, the hides, the skins, the best meat and the heads of large animals, and the peasants get the rest to feed their families. This is a tidy arrangement: Boris does not have to pay anything, as the meat is very valuable to the peasants (and they can sell some of it in secret), and he gets very valuable luxury items.

Note: Boris didn’t have the guts to forge the coat of arms of another hunter, so the poachers are operating under his banner, so to speak, and using only his forests. This was most likely a wise move, as he does not have to worry about anybody noticing them. He trusts Volodnja, a cruel man, to keep the licensed hunters in control and away from the poachers.

Boris’s customers are mainly leatherworkers, furriers, and cooks of fancy taverns or noble households – due to his operation he can also deliver according to order much better than any other master. The heads of large beasts he reserves to his friend Julian the Taxidermist. Julian’s craft isn't exactly what you would call a booming industry. If someone orders a stuffed boar's head, he must get it soon. So Julian sends requests to Boris, who sends Volodnja on the job. Julian pays Boris well, which does help to maintain their friendship. But it actually is a true friendship and is not easily broken.

Another guildmaster, Vlad, suspects that Boris is up to something, but he cannot prove anything yet. He only knows that for a couple of years Boris has been spending a little more than he should be earning, but he has no proof of any wrongdoing. He also sees this as an opportunity to gain more influence in the guild and expand his allotment. He wants to blackmail Boris into supporting his claim, even acceding to giving away some territory at the next Guild Council meeting. Vlad asks his right hand man Poros to find some “adventurers” and hire them to investigate Boris’s affairs. Poros is not aware of Vlad’s plans, and would not approve. But right now he believes that Vlad wants to find evidence in order to indict Boris.

Vlad has also other matters in his mind, so he is prepared to leave the investigators to work pretty independently, as long as they report to him and only him (not Poros). Vlad is getting married. By a trick of fate he has fallen in love with the daughter of Julian the Taxidermist, Mira. The union has been pre-arranger a couple of years ago, long before Boris's operation started, and Julian is very happy indeed. (And of course he has no idea at all that Vlad suspects foul play by Boris. Neither is Boris aware of Vlad’s suspicions.) The wedding will take place in a week in Vlad's house. Vlad contacts the Church of Traladara and asks for a priest – and a goblet of sanctified wedding wine...

PLOT POSSIBILITIES

At the beginning of the scenario the PCs are hired by Poros. His instructions are clear: they are to find proof that Boris is up to no good, but they should not let Boris know that he is being watched. Once they find out something conclusive, they are to come to Vlad immediately, but they should not disturb him with trivialities (wedding arrangements are taking all his time). If the PCs are inquisitive, they can easily learn about the coming wedding. They may also want to inquire about Hunters’ Guild policies from the Guild Hall or from the Merchants’ Guild (especially later on, if/when they try to figure out ways in which Boris might be skimming the profits).

Boris’s Lodge is located outside city walls, a few miles north of the Traders’ Corridor. It includes the residence/office where Boris, his servants, Volodnja and his secretary Vres live, a butchery, a storehouse, stables and a shooting range for holding hunting license trials. It is up to the PCs to devise ways to learn more. They may try to gain hunting licenses, infiltrate the servant staff, spy upon the house or any number of other things.

A lot depends on whether Boris and Volodnja learn about the surveillance. Boris will not hesitate to threaten the PCs, but he is not likely to use lethal force willingly. Volodnja has no such scruples and will kill an interloper without a second though, and not even tell about it to Boris, if it is not necessary.

If the PCs manage to get evidence for Vlad, be will try to blackmail Boris, which will surely get a response. Boris may demand that Julian threatens to break off the wedding if Vlad won’t back off. The thing is however that Julian has a lot at stake (the dowry and the happiness of his beloved daughter), so his loyalties are unsure, especially if he becomes anxious about the investigation. Boris can promise him a bigger share of the profits. Much of course depends on whether the PCs have learned about Julian’s role in the events – and whether they have mentioned this to Vlad. In the latter case Vlad might get there first and promise Julian that his part in all this will remain a secret. Then again, Boris might threaten to take Julian with him.

Mira is totally unaware of his father's shady dealings, although she has noticed the increased influx of funds to the Taxidermist's shop. If Mira finds out that she is being used as a pawn, she will be outraged and rebellious. She is a young woman of strong character, fiery temper and sharp mind. If Julian tries to call of the wedding, Mira is very likely to elope and seek sanctuary with his husband to be. A more dramatic possibility is that Boris orders Volodnja to kidnap Mira and use her as a hostage to blackmail Vlad or force Julian back in line.

Depending on how things go and how the situation escalates, Boris may become desperate and try to assassinate Vlad (if for example the adventurers have rescued Mira from his clutches). He sends Volodnja to poison the wedding wine. If Julian and Boris are still friends, a dose of antidote will be slipped in Mira's breakfast, otherwise she is in danger too. Thus the wedding will still go on, and Vlad's estate will be transferred to Mira, that is her father, after his death. It is also possible that Volodnja poisons the wine as a final act of revenge if Boris is indicted.

Poros is a wild card. He is a law-abiding person and will not remain loyal to Vlad if he learns about his plans to blackmail Boris. He can alert the Guild Rangers and escalate the situation. Another possibility for GMs who like high-fantasy flavour: Boris's operation is taking a toll on the people of the forest. The forestfolk near Specularum have hard time as it is, but this is too much. Perhaps the fey folk or an old druid decides to intervene... and Poros is a follower of the old cults.

Happy hunting. And keep your heads on your shoulders, so they don't end up on somebody's wall...

CAST

* Boris, F5, neutral, 36 years old.
Pockmarked face and raven-black hair. He is a strong and impressive man but by no means a charming one. He makes people obey him by sheer intimidation. Julian is actually his only real friend. Boris loves meat, especially spiced kidney, heart and liver. He despises the bureaucrats of the Guild and trusts only Volodnja.
General skills: Hunting, Bargaining, Intimidation, Forgery, Administration
- Boris's symbol is a yellow crossbow bolt in a green circle.

* Volodnja, T7, chaotic, 25 years old
Narrow face, high and pointed cheekbones, sharp jaw. Always unclean, with a bad shave and tangled and dirty hair. Volodnja is more a criminal thug than a hunter. He has a chequered past: smuggling, extortion, gambling, even contract killing. If the PCs use their street contacts, they can learn that Volodnja left the city long ago after some trouble. He never openly moves about within the city walls. Volodnja steals from Boris but is very unlikely to betray him in any other way. He will jump ship however, if it seems that Boris will be caught. He has a nasty, violent and vindictive temper. (If Volodnja survives, you can have him resurface later, for example as Davinos’s assassin in the next part of the series.)
General skills: Poisons, Streetwise, Torture, Hunting, Disguise

* Vlad, F5, neutral, 30 years old
Brown hair and moustache, tall and lean, very clean, always dresses in dark green. He is a much nicer man than he would like to admit. Even though he is capable of using blackmail to increase his own wealth, he would never hurt the guild itself, and he wouldn't break the Duke's laws the way Boris does. He treats his hunters very well, and he would be a tender and loving husband. He just likes money a little bit too much.
General skills: Trapping, Hunting, Tracking, Leadership, Administration

* Poros, F4, lawful, 23 years old
Slim, vigorous, long blond hair always tied to a topknot. He is a Guild Hunter to the core. He respects the hunting quotas and other regulations even more than his beloved master. Vlad knows this and keeps his own shady plans to himself. Otherwise Poros is very reliable. Poros hopes to be the godfather of the first child of Vlad and Mira. He isn't a follower of the Church of Traladara: he worships the spirits of the woods and the "totem" of the Deer. This was taught to him by an old druid who lived in his childhood village near Threshold. Poros knows very well that he is a rarity in a large city.
General skills: Bargaining, Hunting, Tracking, Stealth

* Julian the Taxidermist, NM, neutral, 45 years old
Slightly overweight, shuffles his feet, beams with pride when Mira is around. He is the archetypal craftsman who is extremely proud of the quality of his work. He took part in the criminal operation only to ensure a safe future for Mira and himself, and mostly out of friendship. Now he would actually like to leave the whole thing, even though he still thinks Boris is his friend. He is a shy, timid, man, who speaks with a hushed voice.
General skills: Skinning, Embalming, Taxidermy, Cooking (also the books)

* Bodom, Butcher of Boris’s Lodge, NM, neutral, 40 years
A hulk of a man who is extremely skilful with a cleaver. Any good hunter who brings untainted game to him and appreciates his work can gain his friendship. Bodom senses that something is wrong, but by default he thinks it is not his business.
General skills: Butcher, Storytelling, Awareness, Cooking

* Vres, Boris’s secretary, NM, 39 years
A meticulous worker and the consummate administrator, he keeps Boris’s records, but unfortunately he is not very good at his work, as he suspects nothing. Vres is the NPC who will cause problems for any infiltrating PCs by making advances on female PCs, keeping an eye on newcomers et cetera.
The only sin is selfishness. So said the good Doctor.
- Iain M. Banks

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Re: Redrafts of the Specularum Series (long posts)

Post by Ville Lahde » Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:40 pm

Specularum Scenario Series, Part IV:

Davinos’ Complaint, Revised Edition

by Ville Lähde

Unlike the previous parts of the series, this is a new scenario drawn up especially for this new series and adapted to the material in the main city book. This scenario is also deeply indebted to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos Gazetteer. It is a redraft of the scenario scheme “Davinos’ Complaint” (page 17–18), combined with elements of “the Sins of Valdo Tisza”. Out of respect for the product, I urge prospective GMs to look up details of the Open Court, Karameikan political system in general and several important factions in play from the original source, rather than repeat them here. The Gazetteer offers an engaging context for adventures both heroic and mundane. However, the original scheme for Davinos’ Complaint is somewhat linear and simplistic, and this is an attempt to flesh it out for a more creative and free form of play, so the GM doesn’t have to do all the work her/himself. It is not necessary to play the previous part of the series before, but I have written this scenario so that it takes advantage of the narrative resources created by the earlier parts (Sir Lucius, Stavros, Vladimir, perhaps Volodnja).

SETTING

This scenario introduces the political life and the system of politics of Specularum to the PCs. The most important elements involved are: 1) The Court and Government of Duke Stefan; 2) The important political factions; 3) The Veiled Society (part of the Radu faction of course; 4) Oderbry’s extremists; 5) Traladaran resistance movements

The Court and the Government

These are detailed in the Gazetteer. In this adventure it is useful to pay attention to the differing loyalties and influences, especially: A) Lord Zogrev Yarol, Minister of State, who is a key figure in the process of Open Court (see Gaz 1) and close ties to the Torenescu faction. B) Lord Valdo Tisza, Minister of Finance, to whose purview Davinos’ matter falls and who is a somewhat careless defender of the Traladaran cause. C) Baron Philip Vorloi, who is an influential figure and has many contacts and friends in the government (including Admiral Hyraksos). He is sure to oppose Davinos’ Complaint. D) And of course our indecisive Duke, who tries to walk the tightrope of national integration.

The political factions

The political scene of Specularum is dominated (in addition to the Duke’s court) by three powerful factions or interest groups, which focus on the Traladaran families of Radu, Torenescu and Vorloi. In this affair all three are on a collision course, although the Radu faction seems to stay on the sidelines. In truth, the Radus are the most active and are covered in the next section. Still, if Davinos’ Complaint succeeds, they would still gain something (just not enough, they think).

The Torenescus are weaker than they used to be due to the recent death of Christoph (see Part II for suggestions for handling this) and the unseen tension between Alexander and Boris. However, in this case Boris is content to watch and hope that the young upstart succeeds, since in the end (he hopes) that would add to his power. Alexander wants to protect Davinos from harm and help his cause. He has however decided to act through proxies, so as not to erode Davinos’ credibility, and he uses his important street contact Lord Dmitros.

The rich Thyatian merchants and landowners rally around Vorloi and oppose Davinos’ Complaint, since it would interfere with their business directly or indirectly. Some of them may see this also in the terms of Thyatian supremacy, but these motives are not that strong for them. As I mentioned previously, they have powerful friends in the court and the government – the scene is after all dominated by Thyatians.

The Veiled Society

Through their secret army the Radus intend to use this opportunity in two ways: first of all they want to force more concessions from Duke by manipulating public opinion, and secondly they want to incite unrest and direct it against their (mainly Thyatian) opponents in the Merchants’ Guild. Stavros’s cell is given this job, either because they succeeded so well in the previous plan (see Part II) or as a final opportunity to redeem themselves. In the latter case, failure would certainly mean that Stavros is made a public example himself.

Oderbry’s Extremists

Just like in Part II, Sir Lucius will be the public face of intolerance (unless you managed to get him killed) on the streets, but Alfric Oderbry will take a more active role in the events by making speeches and holding inflammatory sermons, especially as the false rumours about Davinos spread. The fact that Davinos complains about the actions of high-level Griffon knights fuels the aggro.

Traladaran resistance movements

This is another good opportunity to use Vladimir, the leader of the group “Spring Flood”, which will be central in the final part of this series, “The War Conceived”. Or the GM may wish to use Lady Magda or other figures from the Gazetteer. In any case, Davinos is the perfect tool for recruiting new members and raising awareness. Vladimir is not ready to put his plans in action, so he wants to keep everything fairly calm and mainly just show that radical action is needed, not working through the corrupt channels. He wants to enlist Davinos’ help for this. As the agents of Veiled Society are fomenting open revolt, this may sound like a better option for poor confused Davinos.

BACKGROUND

Like the Gazetteer tells us, Davinos is a man from Kelven who harbours some grievances about old injustices. His family used to be wealthy, but when he was a small child he witnessed the Karameikan overlords, in this case the Order of Griffon, seize their lands and turn them into an abbey. This happened to most of the Traladaran nobility and wealthy landowners, merchants and businessmen in the largest settlements of the country. The Traladaran elite of Specularum had of course been wrecked many decades earlier due to the original invasion, but until now the rest of the country had enjoyed relative peace from the Thyatians. So he has come to the capital to address the Duke in Open Court. Davinos has used all his money to come here and rent lodgings.

As the description of the process of Open Court states (Gaz 1, 30), Davinos has to endure a lot of red tape to get to address the Duke. Ministers Yarol and Tisza (latter in advisory capacity) finally set the date for is audience. But by this time the important parties (Torenescus, Vorlois, Radus) are well aware of what is coming. All lay out their plans. The adventure begins a few days before Davinos’ audience.

PLOTLINES

The PCs are contacted by Lord Dmitros, who wants to hire them to do a job for “his lord”. They get a good down payment and are promised a handsome wage if they succeed. Dmitros will not disclose the identity of his master. The job is simple: they are to introduce themselves to Davinos and protect him from any and all harm until his complaint is resolved. Dmitros does not know the exact details of the complaint, but he surmises that many Thyatians will not like it, and there has been a lot of trouble in the city in the recent months.

Davinos lives in a low-level inn “the Graceful Swan” in the northern part of Old Quarter, near Church Alley, west of the statue of Ban Bogdan Ivanovich [That is, if we use the proposed location I gave on the forum. The exact location is not important.] If the PCs propose that he change location, he is against it, as the officials must be able to reach him, if he is needed for additional interviews etc.

Things stay quiet until the day of the Open Court. Davinos makes his complaint in a very eloquent way, and the Duke announces that he will make his decision public in two weeks, in the next Open Court. If the PCs are inquisitive, they can notice that someone is keeping an eye on Davinos (a member of Stavros’s crew), and that there is a lot of whispering and muttering among the different factions. They may even learn something about the attitudes of different factions. Remember: the Radus act as if they support Davinos’ Complaint, but they keep away from an active stance, like the Torenecus. The Vorlois on the other hand are very vocal in their opposition.

In the next stage Stavros’s demagogues begin to spread false rumours about Davinos’ Complaint, as explained in the Gazetteer. They want to heighten the expectations of the Traladara and lay ground for open demands for radical economic reform. As the days go buy, these demands grow even more vocal, and some Thyatian merchants and businessmen are hassled. This evokes a reaction from Alfric Oderbry (see above) and especially from Sir Lucius. He gathers a few of his trusted followers and attacks Davinos and anyone protecting him. Remember: Sir Lucius does not want to kill Davinos, he only wants to teach him a lesson. But if things get tough, someone may well die. If it happens to be Davinos, this scenario must be adapted, but it is not a disaster for you. There is still a lot to work with. It is much better to make the players see that their actions, inaction, success and failure (and wild contingency) actually affect the outcome.

Note that the conservative actors in the Church of Karameikos are not likely to stay passive. Jowett may contact Nikelnyevich et cetera. But Oderbry will constantly work against them. Sir Lucius will continue the harassment if Davinos stays in the public eye, unless Lucius is publicly reprimanded.

It is possible that Minister Yarol will try to contact Davinos and inquire about the rumours. He wants to know if Davinos is responsible for spreading them.

As Davinos’ reputation grows (see the Gazetteer) and the agents of the Veiled Society manage to inflame the population, Vladimir will try to contact Davinos. He proposes a public rally that would on the other hand quell the sentiments of the people but also keep their eye on the ball – the cause of the downtrodden Traladara. Once again Vladimir wants to use the statue of Ban Bogdan Ivanovich (see Part II) as a rallying point. The Veiled Society will use this opportunity to try and assassinate Davinos. Note: the assassin will be a hired expert, not connected to Stavros (perhaps Volodnja from the previous scenario). There may be even a couple of decoys: hired Thyatian bullies who shout Oderbyite slogans. However, Stavros’ men will be there to take advantage of the public uproar – if Davinos is indeed killed – and cause attacks on Thyatian businesses. Vladimir will try to stop this. If the assassination fails, the Veiled Society will not try it again unless a very good opportunity arises, but they are bound to try to kill anyone who stood in their way (the PCs). Stavros is again given the job. Note: Even if Davinos refuses to join the rally, the assassin will strike at some other point.

If Davinos is killed, the agents of the Veiled Society will try to blame Sir Lucius, and many come to the same conclusion on their own. This is bound to cause more bloodshed. It is up to the PCs whether they can gather enough evidence to prove these rumours wrong and implicate the Veiled Society or anyway prove that Thyatians are not behind it.

ADDITION: VALDO TISZA’S LETTER

If the situation warrants a good reason, the GM can add this plotline to the events. Valdo Tisza has sent a servant to deliver a secret message to Alexander Torenescu, but Veiled Society agents try to intercept him. He manages to flee them and tries to reach the PCs (but only if their actions have made them known for people who can be trusted to defend the Traladara). Of course it is possible to have the PCs stumble on the scene, but this is clumsy, especially as the PCs have their hands full with Davinos. They are unlikely to be walking the streets.

It is ideal if the Veiled Society agents manage to kill the servant, but not necessary. If he stays alive, he is not prone to reveal the identity of his master, but this is certainly still possible. But he will of course reveal where the letter is going. If he is died, the PCs will have to find a cryptographer who can crack the code of the letter. The signature “V” and the greeting “Dear Alosha” are visible, however, so it is possible to guess the recipient (“Alosha” is a friendly version of “Alexander”). Certainty can only be reached by cracking the code, however. Meanwhile agents of Veiled Society will continue to harass the PCs, as they really want the letter.

The letter contains secret contingency plans for any public unrest in the case that the complaint will be refused. If the Radus get a hold of this, they will use it as a proof that the Duke is partial and cause even more unrest – possibly launching the contingency plan (temporary martial law) in the process. If the letter reaches Alexander Torenescu he can use it as leverage.

ENDGAME

Whether Davinos is alive or not, the Duke will announce his decision in time. The result should depend on the actions of the various parties. Widespread violence against Thyatians will of course work against the Complaint, whereas successfully quelling the unrest will work for it et cetera. It is also possible that Tisza’s letter ends up in Thyatian hands, in which case poor Valdo is in trouble and the Complaint is very unlikely to succeed. The success of the various factions will of course change the power balance of the city.
The only sin is selfishness. So said the good Doctor.
- Iain M. Banks

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