Sheesh...all of a sudden it's crowded in the Sylvan realm...I'm taking the next Rainbow Bridge to Thyatis...
Anyway, on with the adventure. This was delayed a bit because I had to brush up on my Minrothadian culture (and some health issues that keep me from sitting at the computer for extended lengths).
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Chapter 1 - Part 7: Life in Harbortown
Listed below are some general encounters to use on the PCs as they roam the streets of Harbortown.
The Splash and Grab:
A character is doused in a bucket of sewage from above. Unfortunately for the affected, it is less than accidental; a local thief (lvl 6) makes a quick attempt to clean the pockets of one of the characters (DC 7 + half the target’s level). The PC only notices if the thief misses the roll by 5 or more. The thief is a human male, about 30 years old. The upstairs accomplice is an apprentice thief.
A large, muscular, drunken fighter accosts a party member, thinking him or her to be a long-lost sibling.
A well-dressed gentleman offers to sell the party tokens (tickets) for an illegal gladiatorial blood match, explaining that he has been called to court. He gives a location in the dock area after the tokens are sold. If the party goes there, they find an empty warehouse. The event is, of course, a fraud.
If the PCs ask around about the Iron Ring, they get a very chilly reception. Although Harbortown regularly trades with the Iron Ring, its citizens are not keen on discussing the relationship. Thus, direct questions about the Iron Ring are met with hostility and silence.
However, the characters can gain information through more discreet approaches. If the locals are asked about “a ship with purple sails” or “recent ships from the mainland,” for example, the locals are more helpful. It is sufficient if the PCs can avoid mentioning the Iron Ring or their trade when asking questions. In response, the locals tell the characters that no ship of that description has landed here in the past few days. If the characters are astute enough to ask about favored haunts of the crews of these ships, they are directed to the Broken Rudder.
The Broken Rudder
The Broken Rudder is located in one of the worst waterfront districts of Harbortown. Owned secretly by the Iron Ring, it is run by a former adventurer named Carn. Carn is also the former owner; he had a few bad gambling debts that, unfortunately, came into the hands of the Iron Ring. When these were finally called in, it cost him ownership of the Broken Rudder. The new owners, not having an interest in tavern management, agreed to keep Carn on as proprietor. He has come to actually enjoy this arrangement, for they treat him well and now he is finally on the winning side of the crooked games run in the back room. In return, he overlooks the several Iron Ring agents based in the inn and their activities.
The clientele attracted to the Broken Rudder is generally lower class laborers with a sprinkling of bad-luck adventurers; most of them are ignorant of the inn’s true character. Guild Corser (the rulers of Harbortown) is aware that some pro-slavery individuals appear in the inn on a regular basis, but is not aware that the inn itself is essentially in Iron Ring hands. An agent of Guild Corser intermittently spends his evenings at the Broken Rudder, gathering information and generally keeping an ear to the ground. It is trying to find the best way to use the Iron Ring against Oran Meditor (ruler of the Minrothad Guilds) and/or Guild Elsan.
The following NPCs are in the employ of the Iron Ring and can be found at the inn:
is an elderly fighter who has seen one too many adventures. Now all he desires is a comfortable, exciting, but not physically dangerous life. Carn is aware of the operations going on in the inn but is well paid to remain in the background. If questioned, he refrains from talking, but may be swayed by arrangements that include him regaining ownership of the Broken Rudder without incurring the wrath of the Iron Ring.
a Minrothadian warlord, is the ringleader of the Iron Ring’s network in Harbortown. He is also the paymaster for the Master Magic Dealer of Guild Corser. His duties have given him the rank of Master among the Iron Ring. Pavel has a wicked sense of battle tactics and a muscular frame – and an ample amount of brilliance and cunning. He is intelligent, adaptable, and well-read. Thus, he is an extremely dangerous enemy.
He makes liberal use of tricks, deceptions, and traps, preferring to strike only when all the odds are in his favor. He almost always has a plan of operations and usually has several in case the first one goes awry. He will flee without shame. His only qualm about abandoning others is the loss of useful resources this may entail. As such, he is perfectly suited to the fraternity of the Iron Ring and has been quickly rising in their ranks.
is a male human wizard nearing late middle age. As a Iron Ring Reaver, his role within the organization is as Ragnar’s right hand man. He examines all reports for details otherwise missed and checks the truth of all statements. He is well known by the patrons as a spellcaster (he tends to go underground when any member of the Tutorial Guild shows up in town). At times he drinks too much; when drunk, he is given to showing off with minor spells.
When sober, he is an efficient if not overly brave combatant. He quite sensibly avoids combat and has a particular dislike of those using missile weapons. In an emergency, Hazzard will dimension door to his room for his spell books before setting up a linked portal to Crossbones to safety.
is a small-time thief, now a renegade from the official thieves’ guild. Although not particularly good or virtuous, his sense of propriety has been disturbed by the activities of the Iron Ring which he believes has the support of the Minrothad Thieves’ Guild. Removing himself from their association, he now makes a poor living practicing his skills in the area of the Broken Rudder. So far, the guild hasn’t bothered to push the issue other than paying the occasional visit to question him and rough him up a bit.
Fortunately, early in his career he gained a little local notoriety and popularity for stealing the brass knocker from the door of the city’s Council Hall, completing the audacious act by selling the knocker back to the council for a pretty penny. He avoided the “Death to Thieves” decree by having many non-guild contacts willing to give him shelter and assistance.
Knocker is aware of the Iron Ring operations at the inn, but knows any interference by him would be fatal. He has no love of the Iron Ring, considering them the most likely threat to his ambitions, and will secretly aid any well-reasoned effort to hurt them. As such, he may secretly pass on damaging information to the PCs (if they broadcast their goals) concerning the activities of Ragnar and Hazzard. He may also arrange for a safe house for the characters, through a third party. In the extreme case that the PCs get involved in a fight in the Broken Rudder, Knocker may join their side – but only if the characters stand a good chance of winning and he can act without discovery. Thus, he may throw a dagger from the shadows, trip up an attempted ambush, or even protect the rear of the PCs (without their seeing it). He will not fight under the orders of the characters and will not take prisoners.
In addition to these major characters at the Broken Rudder, there are assorted customers who come and go. Most of these, however, do not become involved in any events at the inn. As the center of the local Iron Ring network, there are always 1-4 reavers present.
Life at the Broken Rudder
There are two main events that can occur at the Broken Rudder, depending on how well informed the Iron Ring agents are about the PCs:
This encounter should be used if the Iron Ring agents know the identities and intentions of the PCs, either through the Mad One or the seaman aboard the Ewe.
When the PCs arrive at the Broken Rudder, Carn spots them and passes a signal to Hazzard who is sitting at a table near the rear exit. He, in turn, passes a secret signal to Ragnar, standing in the shadowy entrance to the kitchen. This series of signals (Perception DC 20 to detect) sets the plan in motion.
During the next half-hour, 10 Human Lackeys, reavers of the Iron Ring, enter the Broken Rudder and lounge around. They do all the things normal patrons would do, ignoring the PCs. They form groups of twos and threes, spread well apart from each other. They are stationed on all sides of the PCs.
After all have arrived, Carn slips a few drops of ground thassil root, a poisonous plant, in their drinks. This does not kill but acts as a muscle relaxant, slowing their reactions and physical control. It makes its first attack (+8 vs. Fortitude) 2d6 minutes after its victim consumes it.
Ten minutes after the drinks are served, the ambush is sprung. Hazzard slips into the shadowed doorway with Ragnar and gives the signal to attack. The Lackeys close calmly on the characters and then one group attacks. While the characters are fighting this group, the others try to strike from behind. If all succeeds, Ragnar and Hazzard won’t have to intervene. However, if things do not go well, Hazzard uses his spells from the darkness – starting with his most powerful spell that won’t burn down the inn, Spectral Ram. Only in extreme cases does Ragnar become involved. Although the goal is the destroy the PCs, the villains will not refuse the opportunity to take a prisoner should it present itself.
If the characters become suspicious of the Broken Rudder, they may decide upon a blatant frontal assault. In this case, Ragnar, Carn, and Hazzard are present along with 1-4 reavers (Human Lackeys). The reavers are unprepared, but fight back as best they can. Unless specifically identified by the PCs, however, Ragnar will not take part in the battle. He pretends to be an innocent bystander and flees the inn (like all the other innocent bystanders) at the first possible chance.
The Rewards of the Broken Rudder
Within the chambers of Ragnar and Hazzard are papers and documents recording the activities of the Iron Ring in the area. If either is able to reach his room, he gathers these documents, destroying some in the fireplace and taking the rest along as he escapes.
If they do not reach their rooms (for whatever reason) the documents remain hidden in secret places – under a floorboard, behind a sliding panel, in a false drawer, or wherever you decide.
Following is a list of the documents that can be found in each room and the information contained on each. If the NPC escaped, only those documents marked with an asterisk will be found, and these are in the fireplace and only partially intact.
: This is a sheaf of yellowing parchment (about 100 pages) bound with red ribbon. Each page is covered with columns of crabbed writing. The first column lists the item, the second the receiver of the payment, the third amounts paid out, and the fourth amounts paid in. Unfortunately, Ragnar used a system of simple shorthand and abbreviations, written in Mirothadian, for most entries.
Most deal with routine matters, but examining the ledgers carefully (several days of work) reveals that payments in exceed the combined total of payments out and the coins in the pay chest. Hidden elsewhere in Harbortown is a secret fund set up by Ragnar. If the characters decide to pursue this, decide the location of the cache. There are many members of the different guilds that would be interested in learning about the embezzled moneys. It is up to the DM to decide how to handle this as it is outside the scope of this adventure. (Although it may be a good seed for a future adventure.)
Message from the Slave Ship*:
This small, curled slip of paper state, “Received ms. Raiding good on gulf. Sailing direct to port – Capt. Joinville.” If partially burned, it states, “-rectly to port – Capt.”
Transcript of a Magical Communication*: Scrawled across several sheets of paper is the following: “Ms. From Bloodwort – Capt. Joinville. Rding in Hlg area. Voy. Good, profit expected. Losses light. Cargo inv. Human, 40, of station and breeding, quite ransomable; 3 boys, fit to stand on block; husband and wife, trained servants, suitable for special needs; 4 males, mid-20, no visible trade, suitable only for block; trained artisan, giving good treatment, suggest arranging patron; scholar and alchemist, special auctions required.”
If burned, it reads: “…Bloodwort…Hlg area…Cargo inv…fit to stand…and wife…trained artisan…alchemist, special auction…”
This message is written on white linen paper, edged with red gold: “Ragnar of Guild Corser, Greetings to Your Illustrious Self; Much warmed is my heart to harken to they recent successes. So much do the virtues of your spirt shine, my heart years to call thee to my side. Thou art the souce of my courage and the headwater of my desire to pursue the course which lies ahead of us. Patience is the counsel I give to thee. Our stars must be arranged before we can act. Alas, that the token I send can only dimly reflect the love that I feel.”
“I write to advise thee caution, my love! Send the aid that you must for us to succeed by the most circumspect route, for old Klim grows nervous. I must watch him carefully. For thyself, remember the traps of the others on the Coucil are many and convoluted. If thou art discovered now, then they life is lost! Edralve”
If burned, it reads: “…my heart to harken…shine, my heart…which lies ahead of us…Send the…old Klim…others…life is lost…”
Orders from Ragnar*:
A scrap of paper has orders to Hazzard from Ragnar. “Ship not stopping, continuing east instead. Cancel unloading plans. Let out that the masters are displeased with support here and considering diverting traffic. May require friendlier attitude from the locals to keep our trade. Make them nervous. Crossbones may become port of choice.”
If the burned scrap is found, all that remains is “Ship not stopping, continuing east…”
The second item found in Hazzard’s room is this daily journal, a collection of vellum scrolls. They are filled with careful handwriting, illustrations, and illuminations. It is clear he has spent much work and effort on these. Studying the scrolls carefully takes 2-4 days and must be done by someone trained in Arcana, since there are many references only understood by those in that trade.
The writings cover many mundane details, all of no interest to the characters. Many references are made to activities of the Iron Ring’s network in the area, but most are those of an insider. Thus crucial facts are left unexplained and people not identified.
However, characters can learn that Ragnar’s brother (unnamed) and his associates are part of the network. There are several references to “our hound in Halag.” It is also clear that Hazzard is an agent of one of the major masters, having direct (but secret) communications with this master, known only as the Servant of Orcus. Hazzard was hoping to advance himself though this arrangement, while the Servant of Orcus used Hazzard to watch Ragnar, whom he does not trust. The reason for this distrust are not explained, but several times Hazzard notes that he was exhorted to secrecy, not just from Ragnar but all those associated with the Iron Ring.
If the characters survive the Broken Rudder encounter but totally miss any possible clues or allies there (either through bad luck, inattentiveness, or stupidity), they can still get a lead. Sometime after leaving the inn, a merchant offers to sell them some goods they obviously do not want. Once rejected, he offers them slaves, or at least information about where they can pick some up. He reveals nothing if threatened, and if not, he demands the most exorbitant price the PCs looks to be able to afford. He accepts both money and goods in trade although he is not too keen on magical items as the buying and selling of such items are highly regulated in Minrothad. Since you are giving the PCs such an obvious clue, you should make them pay dearly for their previous failures.