Glendal goes Urban.I can't keep away from Scarlet Heroes by Sine Nomine Publishing.
* * * * *
Glendal Lorg, adventuring Elf Thief, has returned triumphant from the Fort of the Unholy Mound, pockets bulging with his blood-won spoils.
He has been back in his adopted city of Sorcerer Crest for some days now, adroitly avoiding his former "friends" at the Phantom Cabal -- those thieves -- and spending his gold on dancing girls and fine drink.
The city of Sorcerer Crest -- for it truly could be considered a city, though a small one -- was, like so many cities where too many Humans lived, crowded and unkempt, especially to an Elf's delicate sensibilities. It was ruled as an oligarchy, although the Elf didn't really know for sure, primarily because he didn't care as he tended to do what he wanted anyhow. He thought there to be maybe as many as 25 co-equal leaders, but he wouldn't swear to the number.
Glendal had lived there for many, many years and still found much to smile about in regard to the city's inhabitants. For instance, he was highly amused by their reaction to outsiders: they were generally irritated by them, considering them to be boring boors who couldn't find their way down Astrologers Stone Street to Tawney Lane without hand-holding directions. Never mind the fact that the streets and lanes of Sorcerer Crest were winding, narrow, dirty and unevenly paved; the outsiders were still barely tolerated.
Fortunately, the city was reasonably prosperous, with generally low taxes as well as low prices, but ever with the threat of inflation. The worst part about living in Sorcerer Crest was the poor waste disposal system: streets often overflowed with refuse and sewer runoff, a legacy to the fact that the city was built up over decades, never with a plan but simply haphazardly. This more often than was liked led to disease sweeping through the population, and the occasional fire wreaking havoc especially in the poorer districts.
And if those weren't enough problems, there was also the ever-present nearby threat of rampaging hobgoblins.
Despite Glendal having lived in Sorcerer Crest a very long time, and despite the fact that he being an Elf was clearly superior to any short-lived Human, he was still sometimes greeted with racial intolerance. As well, his noble profession of Adventurer Thief (emphasis on Adventurer, thank-you-very-much) was often the source of look-down-your-nose attitudes as well. In particular, the city fathers tended to frown upon the Pilfering Arts, and this in spite of the fact that the Phantom Cabal lined those city fathers' pockets quite well to look the other way. That there were 25 sets of pockets to line should tell you just how prevalent and prosperous the Phantom Cabal was.
Glendal wasn't entirely sure if the Phantom Cabal knew he had left their employ prior to his lark in the Fort of the Unholy Mound. He didn't really have any intention of going back to them, but at the same time he hated to burn any bridge that didn't need burning. So he felt he would wait and see what they thought of it first.
Glendal had been splitting his gold and his time between three taverns: the 'Filthy Ogre,' the 'Acolyte's Pick,' and the 'Captain & Brigand.' Each offered something the others did not. The Filthy Ogre was the the place to go to drink when you didn't care who saw you there or what you were going to drink, although they did have an excellent selection of wines. The Acolyte's Pick was the place Glendal went when he was in the mood for slender, nubile (primarily Elven) dancing girls. And the Captain & Brigand was known for its exotic weapons mounted over the hearth, and for the fact that it catered to more upscale customers.
It was shortly after his return to Sorcerer Crest -- after he had carefully disposed of much of his money, and turned the non-spendable gems into hard cash -- that Glendal heard the rumors. Even though he was staying away from the Phantom Cabal, they still had a way of insinuating themselves into his life.
One night, while drinking at the Filthy Ogre, the Elf was enjoying a languorous mood, having imbibed more cheap wine than was necessary, when his attentive ears overheard a whispered conversation. The room, as always, was dark, and Glendal was in his favorite corner with his back to the wall. However, there was a table near him to his left, partially in a niche where its inhabitants no doubt thought themselves safe from prying eyes and ears. Nevertheless, with only the slightly movement, Glendal was able to listen.
Two ne'er-do-wells, both of whom Glendal knew from the Phantom Cabal, were discussing the upcoming theft of ... something ... from ... somebody .... They were very careful, the Elf had to admit to himself, to not give too much information away. But what had caught his attention was the mention of the name Dassadal Ul. Dassadal Ul the Vainglorious Coachman from the Primordial Road to be more specific. Glendal knew Dassadal from their time together in the Phantom Cabal. But whereas Glendal considered himself (rightly, mind you!) a cultured and principled Thief, Dassadal was no more than a cretinous Underworld street thug. Glendal, being an Elf, was old by Human standards (but young by Elf standards) while Dassadal was uncommonly old for his position. That he was this old and still no more than a common thief only added to his bitterness.
Glendal knew a few more things about Dassadal: that he was uncomfortably wed with marital strife; that his bitterness often caused him to strike out with swift wrath; and that great physical strength propelled that violence. Some said he was only inspired by the excitement and thrill of new experiences, but Glendal knew it was more about how he could self-promote: the term "Vainglorious" was not added haphazardly, after all. Even though Dassadal was missing an eye from some long-past fight, he still found ways to show off: his eye-patch was encrusted with glittering gems!
Glendal and Dassadal were not friends, to be sure, yet they were not strictly speaking enemies, either. They were rivals: of about the same "rank" in the Phantom Cabal, and of much the same experience. And while the Elf was mostly willing to leave the Cabal to its own devices in exchange for being left alone, he still couldn't resist the temptation of poking a finger into the eye of Dassadal, especially if it would be amusing at the same time.
So Dassadal was planning to steal something from someone, was he? It came into Glendal's mind that he would either steal it first, himself, or perhaps prevent it from being stolen, depending on what it was.
He made his plans rapidly, sobering up almost instantly at the thought of the thrill of the chase. The first thing to do would be to find out the who and the what of it all.
The Human lowlife who had been doing all the talking, Glendal knew as well. His name was Essem Meem, known as the Orphan Scout from the Unseen Castle. He was regarded as a mule, a person to whom things could be given and they would then be carried to someone else. He didn't generally work much, though, because he was lazy. The main thing that motivated him was trying to impress the boss, and the man who used Essem's services the most was Dassadal Ul.
Essem and his companion finished their drinks and their conversation. The con artist wrapped a ragged scarf around his face on his way out the door, half-heartedly attempting to disguise himself. Glendal dropped a few coins on the table and followed Meem at a safe distance. He would trail Essem, accost him in some dark alley, and force him to tell all he knew about Dassadal's plans.
* * * * *
The city, taverns and environs have been formed by using the Ultimate Toolbox by AEG, the d30 Sandbox Companion by New Big Dragon Games, and City Street Names by sorry-I-don't-know-who.
I'm using the Scarlet Heroes rule set, and playing an Urban encounter series. I've never played the urban adventures before, so I'm feeling my way. I wanted to establish Glendal's home base before I dove into the actual adventure: I need to know the lay of the land before starting, after all.
Threat Level = 1
Heat = 0
Victory Points: Glendal = 0; Enemy = 0
Clues = 0
Urban Adventure Plots and Crimes
I rolled 1d8 = 2 : "An Antagonist seeks to steal something precious to a Target."
"Draw or choose either the Antagonist or the Target, whichever your hero is most likely to care about. Draw the unknown actor only after a successful Investigation scene spent discovering their identity. The object being stolen is the Target’s most precious
possession or something important to the Antagonist that the Target possesses. Scenes revolve around finding the thieves, guarding the object, and snatching it back if it is stolen."
I decided to choose the Antagonist (and create him/her) and let the game create the Target. I opted to do this because I have no other back-story NPCs to associate with Glendal (at least, none that wouldn't feel contrived to use). I figure the only reason Glendal will be interested in this potential theft is not that it occurs to someone he knows (unlikely), but that the person attempting to do the theft is known to him (and he will probably want to stop him).
Using the Scarlet Heroes rules, I rolled on multiple tables: "Actor Relationships," "Actors, Relationships & Reactions," "Quick NPC Creation," and got the following:
The Antagonist is a Society Fellow (meaning my society), an Underworld Cretinous Street Thug, (likely a former Thief from the Phantom Cabal). He is uncommonly old for his position; is wed uncomfortably with marital strife; has great personal strength or potential for violence; is wrathful and swift to strike out at all which affronts him; his most powerful motivation is excitement and the thrill of some new experience or lore; and he is missing a limb or eye to accident or battle-wound.
Using the Wampus Country Name Generator I christened him Dassadal Ul, the Vainglorious Coachman from the Primordial Road, who is wanting to steal/has stolen something.
I then had to decide Who is the Target?
Scene 1: Investigation: 1d10 = 6 "Ambush a dangerous Actor who holds a Clue. Face a Fight instead of a check."
I rolled on the "Crime Details" table, with the following result:
Location = Business; Witness = Culprit's minion; Why no Action? = Evidence stolen.
I decide to ambush this minion to find out the Who, What, When, Where, How & Why.
First I must create him. Again, I rolled on "Actors, Relationships & Reactions," and because I didn't feel he needed quite as much depth, I simply used, "Memorable Traits," "Ruling Temperament," and Immediate Desires." These produced the following:
Always Carries Things; Lazy; and Wants to Impress the boss.
However, the Investigation Scene description says that this is an ambush and I must fight.
Who, exactly, and where? I rolled on "Potential Foes," and "Urban (Slum) Locations."
The minion is a Pit Fighter(!), a Human, and I corner him in a Tattered Market.
Finally, I use the Wampus Country Name Generator to give him his identity.
He is Essem Meem, the Orphan Scout from the Unseen Castle.
* * * * *
Scene 1: Investigation: "Ambush a dangerous Actor who holds a Clue. Face a fight instead of a check."Glendal tailed the thug through several back streets and alleys. He awaited the appropriate opportunity to corner Essem without interruption. The second scumbag went his separate way after a while, and Glendal continued to follow the mule.
They wended their way through the warrens into an even seedier part of town. Finally, Essem appeared to reach his destination, a place in the slums called the Tattered Market. Once, it had been a thriving marketplace but now it was mainly a disused covered set of stalls, even somewhat maze-like.
Once Glendal was certain the thug was inside, he stepped to the door, knocked, then stepped five paces backwards. Essem opened the door, carefully looking around. When he saw the Elf, he scowled.
"Hello, Glendal," he said. "What do you want?"
"Essem," the Elf acknowledged with a nod. "I want you to tell me about the little job Dassadal is planning." He put one hand on his coin purse and the other on his sword hilt. "I can make it worth your time, in more ways than one."
Essem looked startled at first, not understanding how Glendal could know about the job. Gathering his wits, he stepped out of the shanty, flexing his muscles and cracking his knuckles. Glendal suddenly recalled, a bit late, that Essem had once been a pit fighter and retained much of that physique. (He blamed the cheap wine for that particular lack of memory.)
"I'm not really in the mood for talking," Essem growled.
No matter, the Elf decided. He could still deal with the thug.
And then four more toughs shuffled out the door into the shadows and sunlight slanting between the stalls. They were no pit fighters, but certainly dangerous street rabble.
Glendal waited until they stopped moving before speaking. "The option is still open, Essem. It's yours to choose but be warned: I will have my information."
Essem's response was to spit on the ground. "Bring it, Elf."
Not wanting to kill the Orphan Scout from the Unseen Castle, the Thief slashed with his sword, deliberately so that Essem would dodge. He did, right in to the pommel of the Elf's dagger. The blow connected and Essem dropped unconscious to the ground.
That left just enough of an opening for one of the street rabble to score a strike on Glendal, drawing blood. The Elf twitched away and the other three attackers missed.
Glendal had been willing to let the villains go, but once his blood was spilled he tended to be much less forgiving. With a slick flourish, he used the same maneuver to distract the rabble who had dared to stab him, and skewered him with his dagger.
The second thug also was able to hit the Elf, drawing another red line of blood. Glendal promptly split him in half in payment. With a backhand motion, he sunk his knife hilt-deep in the third tough's neck.
Pausing only for a moment, Glendal locked eyes with the last thug, giving him his chance to escape. Instead, the fool taunted him. Glendal speared him with his sword, felling him.
He wiped his weapons on the dead men's clothing before catching Essem by the collar. The pit fighter's head lolled limply. Glendal sprinkled some water from his canteen on Essem's bruised face and slapped his cheeks lightly to bring him around. Moaning, Essem opened his eyes. Now the Elf would have his answers.
* * * * *
The Fight Difficulty level is d8 + 1/2 the Threat level (rounded down) = d8 + 0 = 2.
However, the description said he is a "dangerous" Actor, and he is a Pit Fighter, so 2 didn't work for me. I chose "4" = 1d4 + T Rabble + 1 Veteran (which I changed to Thug). I ended with 4 Rabble and 1 Thug (Essem).
I purposefully noted on my sheet that I was attacking to subdue Essem, not to kill him.
My Fray die did the job, and I took 2 wounds from the Rabble before I killed them all. I allowed 2 separate Morale roll chances for them to escape, but apparently they wanted to die.
I won the Scene. +1 VP, +1 Clue. I used violence, but in a socially-acceptable location and against socially acceptable targets, so no automatic Heat increase. I rolled 1d10 vs the total number of Investigation + Action scenes  = 7, so no Heat increase. Heat = 0.
Threat Level = 1
Heat = 0
Victory Points: Glendal = 1; Enemy = 0
Clues = 1
* * * * *
Essem lay on the ground, Glendal kneeling straddled over him, one hand on the thug's throat, the other holding his dagger.
"You like working for Dassadal that much?" Glendal asked. "I can make you look like him too," and he gently waved the glinting dagger close to Essem's eye. "Now I'll ask you again: What is Dassadal after, and why?"
Essem's eyes crossed as they focused on the point of the knife. He gulped, and then stammered, "It's a statuette, nothing special, not even worth all that much, just a couple hundred, it's just a statuette."
"Keep going," Glendal urged with a shake of his hand. "What's it look like? Who does it belong to?"
Essem squeezed his eyes shut tight. "Uh, uh, it's made of inlaid wood, plated with pewter. I think it shows a person, maybe a victim? I'm not sure. It's a marriage statuette, it's for a wife to give her husband--"
"I know what a marriage statuette is, dullard. Who is it for?"
"Immuth Nex, the Scribe from the Fallen Castle."
Glendal paused. Something about that name or the title sounded familiar. He thought hard for a few moments while Essem sweated. Then it came to him.
"Immuth Nex, that's her married name. What was her maiden name?" he demanded.
"Uh, uh, Raglia Bazh, I think. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what Dassadal said."
Glendal almost laughed aloud. Ahhh, what odd games did the Fates play with mortals. Fargle Nex was a Cleric of Cernunnos, god of virility, whom Glendal had only just met during his exploration of the Fort of the Unholy Mound. They had aided each other briefly, and had parted on friendly terms. The Polygamist from the Accursed Island had been searching for a cure for his lady love, Raglia Bazh, the Scribe from the Fallen Castle (but more a minor politician or functionary for one of the Twenty-Five) and Glendal had helped him procure it.
Apparently the cure had worked and Fargle and Raglia had wed. It was common practice in Sorcerer Crest for the married woman to change her name, both her first and last, thus signifying her new life. Another strange custom particular to Sorcerer Crest and it's immediate surroundings was the giving of a marriage statue by the bride (or bride's family) to the groom, again to show the full "ownership" of the woman by the man. In this case it would seem the statue displayed a representative sacrifice, of the "victim" bride to her husband's care. Glendal did not put much stock into these token displays; he had seen too many marriages end far too soon in spite of these customs. No, fidelity to one's mate was far more important than some pathetic statuette or meaningless name change. Given Fargle's chosen career, Glendal wondered if the man knew what he was doing.
Breaking from his reverie, Glendal gave Essem one last shake. "Why? Why does Dassadal want this marriage statuette? What is it to him?"
The pit fighter shook his head. "I don't know, I swear! All I know is Dassadal wants it."
"Does he have it yet? Has he already stolen it?"
"No, not yet," Essem replied. "I'm not sure when he plans to make his move, but he hasn't yet."
Glendal stood, then helped Essem to his feet as well. Giving the henchman a gentle dusting, he then gave him a gentle warning. "Don't tell Dassadal. If I find out...." and he let the word hang in the air, before turning on his heel and striding out of the Tattered Market.
* * * * *
I had won the Scene, so Essem told me...what?
For the Who I rolled on Actors, Relationships, and Reactions, getting the results of:
Elite and Noble, "Famed Courtesan." For Race, I rolled Shou-blooded (which is Orc) but I didn't see how that fit, so I changed it to Half-Elf.
Next I rolled, as usual, on the Wampus Country Name Generator. Now keep in mind, this table has 100 entries for all five columns. Here's the amazing part: I rolled Nex with a legitimate first roll for the surname. So obviously this was related to Fargle Nex from the first adventure.
I only assumed I didn't have any NPCs for the Target when I started the game. And how can it be contrived when the dice themselves tell me what to do!
What was the object? I gave 50/50 odds to Object or Jewelry. I got Object. I rolled between Costly/Precious/Priceless and it became a Costly Statuette of Inlaid Wood, plated with Pewter.
The Tome of Adventure Design by Frog God Games gave me the specifics: a statue of a "Person (Victim)," "Conferring Ownership."
I asked the Oracle if it had been stolen yet, with 50/50 odds. 1d20 = 5 = No.
I asked the Oracle if Essem knew why Dassadal wanted to steal it. I gave it Unlikely odds. 1d20 = 9 = No.
Now I know Who the Antagonist is, Who the Target is, and What is to be stolen. I still don't know When, Where, How and Why.
Glendal has some work to do.
Please check in again soon (hopefully) to see what I find out.
Thanks for reading!