Beverage Being Poured
Laughing Tavern Patrons
by Stephen Yeardley & Jonathan Nelson
Table of Contents
- Adventure Background
- Adventure Hook
- Adventure Synopsis
- The Black Bear Company (stats)
- Other Characters (stats)
- Adventure Introduction (Synopsis Entry 2)
- The next morning and another job (Synopsis Entry 3)
- Return of Tooval (Synopsis Entry 4)
- (Synopsis Entry 5)
- (Synopsis Entry 6)
- Later that day (Synopsis Entry 7, Part B)
- The next morning(Synopsis Entry 8, Part A)
- Later that day during the afternoon (Synopsis Entry 8, Part B)
- The evening of the robbery (Synopsis Entries 10 and 11)
- A6 - Experience Awards
Rybalka has always been hard pressed for extra help in the department of mercenaries and adventurers. Living deep in the wilderness makes for a rough-and-ready lifestyle and survival-of-the-fittest mentality, which has led to a steady turnover of people trying their hand at responding to King Tokolvor’s original letter of invitation to adventurers to assist the frontier settlement. The authorities want the village to succeed as a symbol of victory over the Vikmordere.
Over the past few months, a range of mercenary groups has come and gone from Rybalka, most without too much success, but one band called the Black Bear Company has subsisted on a steady diet of hired jobs and quests for the village and its people. The Black Bear Company is comprised of young yet seasoned veterans of the Klavekian Military who assisted in taking Rybalka from the hands of the Vikmordere before returning to the capital. They are uncouth, fearless types who until recently were the only truly trusted force available for hire on the Rybalkan Peninsula. The group’s involvement in the original battle for Rybalka held great sway over the locals, as did the fact that they were one of the first groups to return.
What nobody knows is that the Black Bears didn’t immediately come back to Rybalka; the group worked its way along the Serpent Lake coast, stopping at each village the transport ship called in at and staying just long enough to aggravate everyone without actually resorting to anything illegal, just sailing close to the wind. At each halt they were eventually asked to move on once the true nature of the group was known.
Since the PCs arrived in town, the valuable jobs available to the Black Bear Company have been fewer and farther between. Mayor Igor Leonid of Rybalka has been grudgingly pleased with the PCs work; it has maintained a "status quo" and thus Leonid continues to hire them for any large jobs that turn up. The Black Bear Company’s golden goose is slipping away from it and the group is none too pleased. The members still do the jobs they are given well and have some standing amongst the villagers. Indeed the Company often performs to a higher standard than when they first arrived in an effort to get more work. However, there is a clear line between the Black Bears and the PCs, a growing division in fact.
Black Bears Background
The Black Bear Company is comprised of a mixed set of adventurers, veterans of the wars and comfortable with each other’s ways. They are confident in their own abilities but consider those who either didn't fight in the war or who need help from others to be beneath them. The Company appreciates that it needs work since the end of the war and that those requesting its help provide its income, but some members find it difficult to keep their contempt for “weaklings and incompetents” completely in check once a mug of ale too many has been taken at the Thirsty Serpent tavern. Fin tolerates them, not wishing to find himself on the wrong side of the group one dark night, but he has spoken with the group’s real leader, Rial, on a handful of occasions now. Fin does not intend to expose Rial, but is no fool and went straight to her at the first sign of trouble. Rial was angry inside that her cover had been blown but remained calm. On the last two occasions that there have been grumblings from the other patrons, Ieart has simply bought a round of drinks for everyone.
A while ago, a gang of ogres led by a permanently enlarged Dvergr came to the Black Bears with a straight request; the Dvergr required the magnificent Maul it had discovered the mayor of Rybalka owns, not for itself but as tribute to its clan leader to make amends for various indiscretions. At first, the Black Bears simply refused; Rial knows that the PCs present a viable alternative and did not want to rock the boat in the village any further and jeopardise the chances of work. However, being the types they are, they decided not to warn the mayor about the Dvergr but to just wait and see how the PCs got on with the locals as work continued to be quiet. Rial reasoned that if things didn’t go their way, they could always go back to the Dvergr and accept the job, set the PCs up and re-establish the Black Bear Company as the adventurers of choice. If the PCs were unsuccessful and either had a hard time of surviving or indeed just left, they could reveal the Dvergr’s plan and be the heroes once again.
But the Dvergr is double-dealing in his own right and as cunning with his plans as Rial is with hers. Guessing that the Black Bear Company would think to wait and try to gain an advantage, he decides to have his ogres capture the Company’s animal companion and mascot, "Droden" (a fully grown black bear), after three weeks and threatens to kill him if the Company would not bring him the Maul within another seven days. The Black Bears agree to retrieve the Maul from the mayor at this point, Droden having been an important part of a number of their activities in the wilderness and a great guard for their hideout.
Not wishing to tarnish their good name (being heroes of the Rybalkan War and all) they ask a stealthy young lad named Mouse to help them steal the Maul from the mayor. Rial has spotted Mouse out and about and sees something of her in him. Mouse, who lives with his grandmother on the edge of the village, agrees, as there is no great love for the mayor or the authorities he represents. Neither Mouse nor his grandmother seems to get a fair deal from the government in this frontier town, hence Mouse turning to a profession of “semi-permanently borrowing”.
Despite accepting a bribe from the Black Bears to steal the Maul, Mouse soon has second thoughts, which leaves the Black Bear Company members with a dilemma. They don’t want to lose Droden but equally don’t want to put themselves in a position where they have to move on again. Rybalka is the edge of the Klavek world now and there is nowhere else to go. The group retires to its hideout and hastily put a plan together before the worst befalls it.
Although this adventure is set in the village of Rybalka in the Klavek borderlands, it can be placed in any world where the PCs have a base of operations and have established themselves as one of a small number of adventuring bands which take on general tasks for the villagers and their mayor when something needs to be done effectively and efficiently. The PCs should be aware of these other adventuring groups but not be too familiar or friendly with them. If a rivalry exists, so much the better; change the Black Bear Company to the rival group and go from there.
If the PCs have played through any other of the Adventure a Week modules, you can make it clear that their own group and the Black Bear Company are now the only two remain adventuring groups in town. They have been the most successful to date and others have moved back along the shore of the Serpent Lake to look for better opportunities. In fact the two remaining groups have been so successful that work is beginning to dry up.
As a final point for GMs, one of the issues that comes up when discussing the way players run their PCs is that some groups like to take an "evil approach" to their dealings with the world and that there are few adventures written for such groups. This module offers two paths throughout, one for Good aligned parties and one for those who are Evilly aligned. Use which you feel is most appropriate for your players' style.
After a quiet period with little work and funds beginning to get low, the PCs have a run-in with the Black Bear Company at the Thirsty Serpent Tavern. The next morning the mayor hires the PCs to find a missing man, but the Black Bears get there first. When the two groups meet back in town, the leader of the Black Bear Company offers an apology for the previous fight but points out they are the best of the best and the PCs are in their shadow. The mayor instantly offers the Company another job, which the Black Bears solve even more quickly, along with some words of scorn for the PCs. How did they beat the PCs to the find in the first place and what are they using to solve these problems?
1. As in the background, the Dvergr approaches the Black Bear Company with the job, and then takes Droden when the group hesitates. The Company then approaches Mouse, who at first agrees but then has second thoughts. The Company has a rethink of what to do.
The action starts a week after the Dvergr first approaches the Company and two weeks before it takes Droden hostage.
2. The PCs have a run-in with the Black Bear Company in the Thirsty Serpent tavern. Fin tries to intervene but the brawl escalates and others are drawn in. Rial tries to plant a personal item on one of the PCs and claims she thought she felt that person take it if successful. The Company’s plan is off and running. Eventually the Rybalkan Village Guard breaks up the ensuing fight.
3. Despite the fight and claims of pick-pocketing, the next morning the mayor hires the PCs to find a missing man because of their past successes.
4. The Black Bears return to town with the missing man before the PCs have the chance to begin their search. Unknown to the PCs, the Black Bear Company decided to set up a problem in Rybalka and solve it just as fast. The "lost man" was paid off by the Black Bears.
5. After solving the job the PCs were hired to do, the Black Bears are immediately given another role involving the mayor, who spurns the PCs. The Black Bears quickly solve this too.
6. The mayor of Rybalka hires the Black Bears to take the PCs' place and begins to discuss new tasks with the Company, further belittling the PCs.
7. Very late one afternoon , the PCs are approached by the Dvergr to steal the Maul from the mayor. This is a ruse, part of the overall plan to discredit the PCs. The Dvergr still expects the Black Bears to do the job for him; they are closer to his heart and the bear-nap earlier that day is just leverage.
At this point the adventure can go two different ways. If the PCs are generally Good-minded, they may well attempt to warn the mayor and get back on his side. If the PCs are generally Evil-minded, they may well go ahead with the robbery. Suggestions for both paths are given in the module for GMs to use as they see fit to do so.
8. The Black Bears, sensing Mouse’s reluctance, go to kidnap his grandmother to put pressure on him. But Grandmother has a past of her own as a secretive mage, a wily old bird and a former seller of dodgy charms and potions. Knowing the Black Bears don’t count a wizard as one of their number, she suggests she goes willingly, helps them and then they return her whilst she claims she was kidnapped by the PCs. She’s not keen on the PCs' mage getting acclaim for using magic after all these years of her having to keep it hidden.
9. The Black Bears store Grandmother in their hideout a little way into the Dark Wood and re-approach Mouse to do the job. They have evidence of holding onto Grandmother, “just for safe-keeping.”
10. Mouse goes ahead with the job, not knowing about Grandmother’s duplicity. The Black Bears plant plans in the PCs' room as soon as they are away and then, with the help of Grandmother’s magic, are seen acting furtively around the mayor's house and office as the theft is taking place, LOOKING LIKE THE PCs! (Illusions).
11. Mouse gets the Maul first (as he has started way before the PCs) and the Black Bear Company spirits him away.
12. The Black Bears take the Maul and a blindfolded-and-tied up Mouse back to their hideout.
13. The Black Bears return with Grandmother, who claims "Some gang like the PCs..., but I'm old and my eyes are dim so maybe not them…" kidnapped her and the Company found her. The plans are found in the PCs room or rooms.
14. Mouse escapes, presents himself to the Mayor and tries to explain but is arrested. He tells the PCs of the Company’s plans as far as he knows them.
15. In town, Mouse vows to stay and clear his name, but sends the PCs off in the general direction of the hideout. He tells the PCs that the only way to clear their names is to see the Black Bear Company in court, as anything else will look like they are just "killing and blaming" its members.
16. Back near to the hideout, the Dvergr and ogres grow impatient and decide to change the rules. They raid the place and capture the Black Bears for food.
The PCs track down the Black Bears, Dvergr and ogres to the hideout. The Black Bears are bound and gagged, one being set up to be roasted over a fire. Other ogres prepare to eat while the Dvergr tortures one of the Black Bears for information about the mayor's Maul.
17. The PCs storm the hideout - which the Dvergr has re-enforced with basic traps - and kill ogres in a pitched battle but fail to get the Dvergr, who escapes. They subdue the Black Bear Company as required and get them back to the village. The Black Bears explain all along the way.
18. The Black Bears are found guilty whilst Mouse and the PCs are found not guilty to varying degrees. Raven, the Black Bear druid, escapes by flying off!
19. The Maul is returned and the Dvergr makes one final attempt to steal it, which the PCs deal with; most of what has happened is forgiven. Grandmother disappears for however long is appropriate. Mouse goes after her.
Adventure Introduction (Synopsis Entry 2)
The adventure begins with the PCs huddled around a table at the Thirsty Serpent tavern.
The Thirsty Serpent tavern is a large establishment, decorated with adventuring trophies gathered by the owner – Fin Starling. The head of a grizzly bear hangs over the large wooden entry doors. A wooden bar fashioned from a huge old cedar tree is the main focal point of the place. Its stools are always filled with Rybalkans drinking ale and gossiping over day-to-day affairs.
You may answer any questions the PCs may have before continuing. There is a group around a table close by and 15 other drinkers in the bar, all village workers. Read the following as required, but feel free to add details you think appropriate to add to the atmosphere.
You are enjoying a well-earned respite, in part brought on because the village is fairly quiet and there hasn’t been much to occupy you. You sit around a large round table filled with half empty flagons of ale, discussing the current lack of work. Nearby sits another group at a table; a man with short cropped black hair, moustache and goatee, sporting an eye patch; a petite young woman wearing tight black leather and knee high boots; a man in black robes with his hair cut in a tonsure and a holy symbol hanging around his neck; next to him is another young woman, also dressed all in black, with a hungry look about her, long black hair shining in the candle-and-firelight. Her face is as white as the snow. At the very back is an over-muscled hulk of a man, a sour look on his face.
A serving boy brings steaming plates of food out to your group. On his way over to where you sit a voice calls out from the group of patrons at a nearby table. The men at the table all stand up, knocking their chairs to the floor. The men are all dressed in black and heavily armed. The man nearest the boy grabs him by the scruff of his neck. “Where d'ya think you’re going, worm?”
The burliest of the other group grabs the boy and drags him towards his table, spilling food and drink over you and himself in the process. The man with the eye-patch barks, “Grunt, no!” but it is too late. The others clench their fists and move towards you!
The others are a local company called the “Black Bear Company”. Since the PCs' arrival, jobs have been fewer and farther between and the Black Bears have been scheming away, waiting for the right moment to kick-start a plan which will discredit the PCs. This isn’t the first step of their nefarious plot, but the Company’s leader will use it to the group’s advantage.
The man who starts the fight is called Grunt. Grunt is a meat-head who has simply become fed up with the PCs taking first place over his friends, with The Black Bears ordering before the PCs yet being served after them being the final straw. His boss and leader of the Black Bears told him to say nothing to anyone about the situation, particularly as they have a plan coming together to put the PCs in their place, but tonight is just too much for him. (The Black Bears are attempting to establish separation between themselves and the PCs in order to facilitate their future plans. At the same time they are trying to draw the PCs into a conflict with their group.)
The Black Bears move towards the PCs and will start a fight no matter what. Fin Starling insists on all weapons being left behind the bar or not brought in at all, so the fight is initially unarmed but can soon include anything that comes to hand; chairs, flagons, bottles and other patrons. Fin tries to intervene but the brawl escalates and others are drawn in. When the PCs join in they find the villagers are pretty evenly split between who they support and fight among themselves, leaving the PCs to concentrate their efforts on the Black Bears.
The Rybalkan village guard arrives in four rounds and they will order the fight broken up. If anyone resists the guards’ order to drop whatever they are holding, they will attack everyone involved until subdued. The rest of the Black Bears begin to step back but Grunt is in a full rage. If the two groups continue to argue or put up any kind of dispute the guards will then haul the lot of the combatants off to confinement in the dungeon jail at the Rybalka City Hall. However, Fin Starling will confirm who threw the first punch.
If any of the PCs tell the guards that the Black Bears started the fight or are responsible for the damage the Black Bears will all turn to face the tattle-tale. The leader of the Black Bears, Ieart, stares the loudmouth down with his lone eye and a look that could curdle goats' milk. If Rial managed to plant the comb on the PCs she accuses them of theft and insists the village guards search them. However, the leader of the guards orders them home and responds with:
“We’re here to keep the peace, not hold court. If you have a problem, speak to the mayor tomorrow. Everyone break it up and get home. This is the last time we’re going to tell you, and then it’s off to jail with all of ya!”
The Black Bears gather their things and depart once Grunt calms down, with Ieart hissing, “Tomorrow, the mayor’s office; be there sharp or we’ll come looking for you!”
If the PCs attempt to follow the Black Bears the Rybalkan village guard will take notice and come after them. They are ordered to return to their inn or face charges of instigating criminal mischief.
The next morning and another job (Synopsis Entry 3)
“Right, all of you! Enough of this! As if the trouble you caused last night wasn’t enough, you disturb my breakfast with this childish bickering and cause me indigestion! Start anything in this office and it’s jail for the lot of you! So, Ieart, tell me your side of events. And you lot,” – he points at the PCs – “Shut it. Nothing until it’s your turn.”
Ieart describes what happened, focussing on the food orders being sent out at the wrong time and that the PCs didn’t try to rectify the problem. Rial will whisper into his ear, as Listen roll picking up the words “Stole my comb!” Ieart states, “And there is the small matter of Rial’s property.”
The PCs then have a chance to say what they want to.
If Rial successfully planted it and they found it, good-minded PCs have an opportunity to present the comb, apologise whilst saying they have no real idea how it got there and reaffirm the respect the mayor has for them through their honesty. The Black Bears want to use the situation in a number of ways; they want to show the mayor that they were “telling the truth”, be magnanimous and show there are no hard feelings and to make a positive impression with the mayor. The Company has set this entire set of events up anyway, so are happy to be seen to be grudgingly forgiving.
Any Diplomacy or similar role the PCs make will seem to be effective on the Black Bear Company. A Sense Motive role may reveal the act, however.
If Rial successfully planted it and they found it, evilly-minded characters may simply carry on the charade and state that they neither took nor found anything and the Black Bears are lying, although they do need to convince the mayor of this. The mayor will insist they turn out their pockets, which of course will reveal nothing. The mayor will think no more or less of either group and state the item must’ve fallen out somewhere during the fight. The Black Bears will use this situation to call the PCs various names and confirm to themselves that the PCs are as devious a bunch as they are.
Once the tumult has subsided, Mayor Igor Leonid will call out,
“That’s it; I’m finished with all of you. I’ve heard all I’m prepared to on this matter. You have all served the village well over the last few weeks and months, which is why I’m prepared to let this first incident of disorder stay out of the court. Each of you will pay a 50gp fine which will be used for the repair of the Thirsty Serpent. I’ll think more of all of you if you actually go and help with the work as well, seeing as you are responsible for the destruction taking place.”
“You lot,” he continues, facing the Black Bear Company. “Get out. I don’t want to see you in here again on a matter like this.” He turns to face the PCs. “As for you, I’d like a word with you all please.”
As the Black Bears leave, the PCs may spot a slight grin on Rial’s face.
“I have a job for you, please be discrete about it. A man named Tooval Gjere, a local carpenter has gone missing. Tooval is 5’4″, has a scar on his right cheek, has brown hair and a moustache and generally wears light brown overalls. He was last seen having a drink at the Thirsty Serpent tavern the three nights ago. The guards have not been able to turn up any evidence and your assistance is welcome. Because of past incidents where people have gone missing in the woods, I’d like you to go about this quietly if possible please. Tooval occasionally has a day to himself, as we all like to, but he’s not been missed for two in a row before. A reliable man, very honest and hard working. Call this a favour if you like, to make up for your actions spoiling my breakfast.”
He taps the platter of bread pudding.
The mayor suggests questioning Fin Starling, owner of the Thirsty Serpent tavern as well as any other patrons that were there on the night Tooval was last seen.
If the PCs return to the Thirsty Serpent tavern they will find Sulwotik sitting at the bar enjoying a plate of steaming venison served with potatoes and root vegetables. Sulwotik tells them that he was hosting a group of soldiers at his place on the relevant night and they drank into the wee hours. As he sent the drunken soldiers on their way he remembers seeing a group of people heading out of town. It was dark though and the moonlight wasn’t enough to make out any features. He guesses the group could have numbered between 3-5 people but it was hard to tell by the moonlight.
Fin Starling will emerge from the back, carrying plate a plate for the only other patron in the tavern. The place is looking rather ramshackle as a result of the fight, but business is being done. Whilst not angry with the PCs for the events of the previous night, Fin isn’t their best friend right now. He goes in “Barkeep” mode, offering fresh venison to the PCs, “It’s a bit early for lunch but perhaps you’d like to try some.” When questioned about Tooval Gjere, Fin will mention that he escorted him to the door that night when he was locking up. After bidding Tooval goodnight, Fin locked up the Thirsty Serpent tavern.
Return of Tooval (Synopsis Entry 4)
As the PCs prepare to leave town to search for Tooval, the Black Bears are just returning with him. Tooval and the Black Bears have a deal worked out. As soon as the Black Bears return to work for the mayor, Tooval will receive a 5% commission from each job they complete for three months.
Read the following as the PCs prepare to leave town:
GM TO READ OUT
The snow begins to fall in huge fluffy flakes making visibility limited. As you head down the snow covered dirt road you spy six figures heading into town from the north. As they approach you immediately spot and recognise the large muscle-covered brute Grunt even though he is towards the back of the group. He is accompanied by the rest of Black Bear Company! Ieart leads them, a fine looking bastard sword at his side, short cropped black hair, moustache and goatee looking neat and clean. The petite young woman wearing tight black leather knee high boots is armed with a sling and bags of ammunition. The man in black robes with his hair cut in a tonsure and a holy symbol hanging around his neck follows close behind and smiles at your group as you approach. Next to him is Rial, also dressed all in black with a rapier at her side, her long black hair glistening in the sun. Her face is as white as the snow and that she may be from distant lands is clear. The group leads a man wrapped in warm furs with a giant smile on his face. He fits the description of Tooval Gjere!
The PCs may attempt to parlay with the group. Grunt pushes his way through, managing to slap his greatclub against one hand with other and answers with:
“Mind your own business, scum!” Ieart holds his hand out to quiet the muscle-bound thug and turns to face you. He speaks in a deliberately uncultured thick accent. “Hail friends! I regret that we did not start the day on a better footing. Let me properly introduce our group: the young man, quick to the punch, whom you already know is Grunt. Raven is our wilderness expert,” he waves to the petite young lady with the knee high boots, “Lore is our healer, we allow him to travel with us because if we killed him there’d be no one to heal the injured.” A couple members of the group chuckle but the leader continues without cracking a smile. He seems quite serious. “Rial is the dark haired, light skinned beauty from afar who graces us with her charm and knowledge. I am Ieart Bear, leader of Black Bear Company - all veterans of the Rybalkan War which freed this village from Vikmordere rule and placed both the village and mine in the blessed Klavek Monarchy’s hands. If you stand against us, you stand against the monarchy. Last night’s fight was a mistake, our frustration came through in an unfortunate way, but I think the natural order has been restored and, as is right, the cream has risen to the top.”
“Now who did you say you were?”
Ieart asks this last question as the Company passes the PCs. He doesn’t intend to stay to speak with the PCs and will start heading back to town to return Tooval back home, laughing heartily and slapping Grunt on the back, which causes a ripple of sneers and sniggers at the PCs expense.
After Tooval returns home, he goes to pay the mayor a visit. Tooval explains how he became disoriented and wandered out of town three nights ago, rather drunk but thinking he could make it to his favourite hunting spot for an early start. He collapsed some way from the village in the snow and would have died if not for the alcohol in his system initially saving him and then the Black Bears finding him just an hour or so ago, a shivering near-corpse. The Black Bears who were headed out of town instead turned around and brought Tooval back. Tooval asks if the mayor can possibly repay them for their inconvenience, particularly as the man named Lore healed him and removed all the damage he’d taken from the cold.
The mayor visits the Black Bears who are staying temporarily at Bugg’s Inn. He thanks them and rewards them by returning their fine and thanking them for their assistance in this matter. It takes just hours for both Tooval’s tale and the mayor’s thanks to be the talk of the village. After a night celebrating with the Company, Tooval states he is off hunting properly this time and leaves the village.
Yet another job offer, but from a strange source (Synopsis Entry 7, Part A)
Whatever the players’ choice, make much of the boredom and embarrassment that they have experienced in the short time between not getting to Tooval first and now.
Much earlier that morning, before dawn and the sun is up, the Dvergr Nalcu Granitheart and his ogres - who had grabbed Droden, the real black bear animal companion of Raven, from near the Black Bear Company’s hide-out (Nalcu had tracked Droden down rather than the gang members and drugged the bear with a dose of Drow knockout poison) - had left a message for the Company that they better get the mayor’s Maul quickly or the bear will be disposed of. Raven is distraught and the other members are none too pleased. They are currently considering their options.
Meanwhile, Nalcu approaches the village, looks for the PCs as they head towards the Thirsty Serpent tavern or similar for breakfast, changes into Reduced form and approached them. He only has twelve minutes to get to the PCs, make his pitch, hear their answer and get away again; he won’t be wasting time. Play up the urgency in his voice, have him cast glances around the village as he talks with the PCs and if the end of the twelve minutes is close, have him dash back into the forest. If the PCs try to follow him, the gang of ogres activate traps from in the thick trees, releasing swinging log traps and luring others into a pit before disappearing at top speed. The ogres can easily outrun most if not all PCs, as can Nalcu once in enlarged form.
It’s the beginning of another day, before the sun is risen, and you’ve had no news of any work. Not a single villager has offered you a job in the last week, yet the Black Bears seem constantly busy. It’s a real change of fortunes and you can’t help feeling Mayor Igor Leonid’s attitude hasn’t helped. He barely gives you the time of day now and you could’ve sworn he crossed the street yesterday to avoid you. And the snow has changed to persistent rain, just to add to the joy of the day. How did it come to this?
As you approach your first destination of the day, there is a low call from the edge of woods a little way from you. A scruffy dwarf in studded leather armour is beckoning you towards him. He looks back and forth, waves to you again calling, “You! Yes, you lot, come here quickly. I have a work offer, but want to keep it to ourselves!”
As you move towards the dwarf he steps deeper into the trees, away from the open half-light fo the village, carefully avoiding anything that might give him away such as snapping twigs or tripping over a raised root. He clearly knows his way around the forest's paths.
“I’m glad I’ve found you,” he continues, once the village is mostly hidden from view by the woods. “I’ve been hoping to catch you. I have a delicate job offer for you and whilst I know you might not want to hear what I’m going to tell you anyway; please attend to my story.”
Moving in towards you a little, even though there is no one around, the dwarf speaks again. “I’m Nalcu, a ranger from north of the lake. I know us dwarves are a children’s tale to most of the folks around here, rarer than Vikmordere mercy and all that, but you look more sensible than most. I’m desperate, desperate enough to risk getting caught. That mayor has got something that belongs to my clan from long, long ago. He doesn’t know it because he got it from someone who got it from someone who got it from someone else, so I don’t blame him. But I can’t go straight up and ask him, he’ll just laugh in my face and worse! You know what he’s like!”
Nalcu pauses and looks at you, judging whether he should go on. He decides to with a soft sound.
“He has a Maul in his office, a Maul that I know my Clan Chieftain will accept with open arms if I can show him I’ve got it. Now I’m just one dwarf in the world of men and wouldn’t be able to convince him to give it to me. I’ve nothing to offer him that he’d want, but am desperate as I say. I’m wondering if you might get it for me… Oh, I know, it’s not your way of working…” He looks at you again to gauge your reaction.
The PCs may wish to try to detect if Nalcu is being honest. The devious duergar is effectively telling the truth as he sees it; that giving the Maul to his Chieftain will get him back into the Clan.
If they are good-minded they may be horrified at the suggestion they become outright thieves. They may tell Nalcu to stop because they can’t help him or ask him to continue so they have full knowledge of what he intends to do and warn the mayor.
If they are evilly-minded they might ask him to carry on in order to take the job on. In this case Nalcu says that if they can bring the Maul to him in three day’s time, not before or after, to a place that he will tell the about in two day’s time. If they are successful he will give the PCs 500gp each and one of the two kukris he carries.
At this point, Nalcu makes a dash for the woods as the ogres close in. Naturally he was expecting the ogres to appear as part of the plan. He darts into thick undergrowth, dismisses the Reduce Person and runs. After a round where the ogres hinder the PCs, they too run, seemingly after Nalcu but away from the PCs, who they know could get the better of them. With their base movement being more than most PCs, they should easily outrun humans, but just in case, they have set up a series of traps along the way. Nalcu’s stats are at the start and end of the module.
The chase then starts, with the traps to overcome.
Further along the path there is a final trap.
If the PCs simply let Nalcu finish his offer and leave, the ogres don’t appear. If they then decide to follow Nalcu along the path at walking pace they can discover the traps normally. Nalcu returns to his large form and disappears into the woods at pace. After a mile of taking a winding path he meets up with the ogres and they sweep away evidence of the route they take.
If the party decide to try and track Nalcu through the forest, the chance of doing so is listed below. Nalcu uses his ranger training to hide his tracks very well once he and the ogres take the time to do so. A check needs to be made every quarter of a mile.
Once Nalcu and the ogres take the time to hide the trail after a mile, the check becomes DC 26 for the next two and DC 27 once they split up. This should become a wild goose chase until a check fails, at which point the PCs should realise that Nalcu is taking great care to get away.
Because Nalcu is familiar with the way humans think and act due to his Favoured Enemy category, all checks have a +2 DC modifier if the person leading the tracking is human in this instance. He’s playing a delicate game against the PCs, the Black Bears and the mayor and isn’t taking chances at this stage.
Later that day (Synopsis Entry 7, Part B)
As for the PCs, they may have gone in one of two directions at this point; the adventure notes will offer suggestions for both paths from now on in more detail than the entries that have come beforehand.
If the PCs are generally good-minded, after their run-in with Nalcu they may well head back into town and try to meet with the mayor. Unfortunately he’s out hunting for the day and they are met by a guard who wants nothing to do with them other than to tell them to come back later. Dealing with the kind of matter the PCs are talking about is outside of his duties and anyway, it makes it sound as if they have no faith in the ability in him and his fellow village guards to do their duty. The PCs will be left kicking their heels at this point and will perhaps want to plan their own protection of Rybalka City Hall.
If the PCs are generally evilly-minded, they may want to start to make theirs plans for the robbery, perhaps by casing Rybalka City Hall or by monitoring the beat pattern of the village guards. Whatever they do, they should find themselves watched; they aren’t at the top of anyone’s list of friends right now and whilst there’s no outright hostility, they don’t find themselves being welcomed anywhere or even being spoken to in more that polite but non-friendly terms.
Whichever path the PCs are taking, they get the feeling they aren’t welcome in the village in the way they have been. Perhaps it’s a case of being part of the village whilst they have the means to do so. If the PCs go to talk with anyone they know or ask to visit any shops there may be in Rybalka they can do so, but it only seems to confirm what they feel is true; people just aren’t interested in them any more. Even Fin Starling in the Thirsty Serpent tavern doesn’t make much of a show of friendship now the repairs have been completed. Retiring to bed that evening seems the easiest way of getting out of the way…
TWO DAYS TO GO…
The next morning(Synopsis Entry 8, Part A)
”You lot again; you’re like a full set of badly minted Imperial Coins that won’t be accepted even in a drunken landlord’s tavern. What is it now; more tales of woe for me to suffer?”
The mayor is eating a large sandwich that could feed two people. After your recent quiet times, so much food might even satisfy all your hungers.
“I’ve not got much time, so get on with whatever it is you’ve come to drone on about now and leave me to the important tasks of the day.”
It’s a cutting remark and an unexpected one. You’re tempted to leave, but feel you have a duty to the village even if not the mayor.
If you beat DC 35 the mayor relents a little and says;
“All right, tell me the full story, but peel the tale to the core and spare me the waste. You were a success in this village once and you may be again; what do you think you know?”
Once the PCs have revealed all they wish to the mayor mulls over the information for too little time in your opinion before he replies,
“Enough, I’m not so dull-witted to not hear what you’re saying. I thank you. Be assured I will get the Black Bears in to protect me as I need protecting. Now good day to you, I must get on.
Meanwhile, if the PCs are evilly-minded, they may well still be putting together their plan to steal the Maul. If they are and they spend any time out and about in the village they may become aware that they are being followed.
“So, you lot are up to something… oh, don’t deny it, but don’t say anything else either right now. I’ve been watching you, more closely than you know; something is going on, and by the look of the way you’ve been acting, I might just want to be…part of it.”
Alex looks along all of your faces, neither accusingly, nor with contempt nor with amusement; just a no nonsense, straightforward look of understanding.
AS GM, you will need to tailor Alex’s speech to match the PCs actions from the previous days. A suggested speech is below.
“I’ve seen you watching the guards, including me, as well as judging the state of City Hall. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’ve taken an interest in the contents; archaeologists and historians are you?”
Bladetooth is chuckling at his own comment almost before he’s finished it. The PCs can respond as they wish.
Depending on the exact direction of the conversation, Alex offers to explain the village guard rota for the next two evenings, “for a small consideration – and equal share of whatever you earn for whatever you’re going to do.”
The PCs can either accept Bladetooth’s help, or can dismiss his words and state he has got it wrong about them or can make moves to fight/disarm/disable him. If it is the latter he steps back and says,
“Whoa there, take it easy gang! Fin Starling is expecting me back in the Thirsty Serpent in just a couple minutes. I told him I was just going to help someone to move some heavy items and if I wasn’t back in 20 minutes to send a member of his staff over to their place because we’d need help. He’ll do it because I’ve left coin with him to do so and the route of that person will come right by this building. In fact, I think I can hear them coming now. Fin always was quick off the mark.”
Later that day during the afternoon (Synopsis Entry 8, Part B)
ONE DAY TO GO…
The next morning (Synopsis Entry 9)
With Grandmother safely secured in their hideout, the Black Bears reapproach Mouse to get him to do the job for them. He’s now petrified of the Company and readily agrees to anything it says. Rial explains that she is going to give Mouse a very special piece of equipment, her ring, and explains to him how to use it. This will allow Mouse to carry the Maul out and get away with it once Gaseous Form has been put into it.
Meanwhile, the PCs who are good-minded may get up to a number of things; they may hatch a plan to be in the Rybalka City Hall when they think the robbery will take place, although the mayor still isn’t interested in what they have to say; they may devise a plan to protect the outside of the City Hall; they may try to convince people they trust in the village. Whatever they get up to, they get a series of disinterested people giving them conflicting messages that lead them nowhere fast.
Whilst they are out and about, the PCs may note that they cross paths more frequently with individual members of the Black Bears, much more frequently than they usually do. Each time they meet, the Black Bear concerned stares at them, crosses the street and keeps out the way.
Meanwhile, if the PCs are evilly-minded, they may well still be finalising their plan to steal the Maul. If they are and they spend any time out and about in the village they may realise that they cross paths more frequently with individual members of the Black Bears, much more frequently than they usually do. Each time they do, the Black Bear concerned stares at them, crosses the street and keeps out the way.
If the PCs decide to follow a Black Bear, they find that they head towards the Rybalka City Hall, greet the guard and enter. It means nothing.
If the PCs are going to steal the Maul for Nalcu, then this final action takes place:
At the end of the day, when you return home, there is a message for you stating where to leave the Maul after you have stolen it. The directions lead you out of town, into the woods and state there will be further instructions there.
THE DAY OF THE ROBBERY
Meanwhile, the PCs who are good-minded are approached by Mouse after his meeting with the Black Bears and are told by him that his Grandmother didn’t return from an herb-gathering trip the previous evening and he wonders if they might go and look for her.
As you tell the mayor what Mouse has told you, you see a surprising look of worry cross his face, something you certainly weren’t expecting to happen; the mayor sounds concerned as he speaks.
“Look, we’ve had our differences, maybe I was harsh. But I want you to go and look for Grandmother. For me as well as Mouse. When I first arrived in Rybalka it was Grandmother who supported me and showed me how to win some of the local residents over. She even “helped” me on occasions. But I took advantage of her and didn’t support her when she needed me; I couldn’t be seen to permit magic and allowed the people to shun, belittle and mistreat her. Please, make sure nothing is wrong with her no matter where she is or whatever she is doing. I owe her that. This is your chance to show me I’ve made a mistake in not using you. I’ll reward you well, I promise you.
The evening of the robbery (Synopsis Entries 10 and 11)
Mouse has gone ahead with the plan the Black Bears had in place and goes along with it. He climbs onto the roof of the Rybalka City Hall and makes his way down the chimney, carefully adjusting the flue using a special tool so he can climb down. Mouse then snuck past one sleeping guard and another who was busy drinking and looking over paperwork. He crept into the mayor’s personal chambers, stole the Maul from its rack on the wall and made his way back out. Mouse used Rial's Minor Ring of Spell Storing to cast Gaseous Form when he has hold of the Maul. Once in Gaseous Form, Mouse had no need to move the flue again.
Rial breaks into the PCs' room and plants false evidence of them making plans to steal the Maul and an agreement with each of them signing and promising to support the others – the autographs signed by the PCs a few weeks ago are used here if they were given to Sequi. If not, they are good forgeries.
The Black Bears meet Mouse at an agreed point and take him out of the village.
The PCs who are good-minded return from the woods without Grandmother and are soon approached by the Watch, who have received word from a number of people that the PCs have been seen acting furtively outside of City Hall.
PCs that are evilly-minded should be able to evade the guard inside City Hall as they look to make their escape, but on leaving the building they may hear someone warning an outside patrol that they have been seen acting furtively outside of City Hall.
Soon after the robbery (Synopsis Entry 12)
After meeting up with Mouse and getting him out of the village, the Black Bears take him and the Maul to their hideout, after carefully blindfolding and binding the young man.
Not long after they get back into Rybalka, good-minded PCs are approached by most of the village guard and asked to accompany them to City Hall. The mayor appears soon after the PCs start to be taken off to City Hall. He’s in a foul mood from appearances. After several tip offs, the guards searched the PCs rooms, found the plans and have linked these with the many sightings. The PCs are arrested and placed in jail for the time being.
Almost immediately after leaving City Hall, the PCs are surrounded by the village guard including the mayor. They are arrested on the spot and escorted back to the City Hall where they are thrown in jail. Everybody is in the grimmest of moods, the mayor in particular. It doesn’t look good.
Back at City Hall, Mayor Igor Leonid turns to the village guard; “Take them down to the jail!” The guards start down the flight of stone stairs into the cold underbelly of the Rybalka City Hall with you. You are each shoved into small individual cells with nothing more to it than a hole for relieving yourself.
The guards have instructions to make certain you are fully unconscious before they leave you; Wvolf and Nolan do an efficient job together of ensuring each of you blacks out for the night.
The morning after the robbery(Synopsis Entry 13)
Each of you is a mass of bruises, cuts and scrapes; it doesn’t feel as if anything is broken. Of course, you are weapon- and armour-less, but your pockets haven’t been emptied yet.
The mayor is angry, very angry in fact. He paces back and forth, his face white with rage and shouts “SIT DOWN!”
“I trusted you, gave you important tasks to do, yet now I see that it was all a ruse, a plan to belittle me, the village and people that matter. But there is worse, much worse. You’ve stolen from me. Last night while I slept, you had the audacity to sneak into the City Hall, then to my chambers and steal our Maul from its rack. It is very dear to us all .Of course I know the Rybalka Maul is valuable in money terms, but it is worth much more in the protection of the village. You know we are vulnerable yet you chose to take this vital defensive item from us. How do I know? Landore, say your piece, and be sharp about it!”
Landore Bugg, bundled in scraps of clothing and smelling strongly of body odour, is almost completely hidden by the irate mayor. He steps to one side, gives the pieces of parchment to the mayor and fearfully says, in a barely audible voice,
“Sir, I found dis agreem'nt in der room at the inn. Dey was just astuck dere unda da bed. Dey’re signed an’ evrifin’, Wiv a…a…devil!”
The mayor’s face, already white with anger, then turns red in further rage. “There is more! I cannot believe that those I entrusted with quests for the Klavek Monarchy and our honourable Kingdom would sink to such a low as to kidnap an old woman, the very person I asked you to go and find! Grandmother has thankfully been returned to us by the Black Bear Company! And as if all this wasn’t enough, I have spoken with Sequi Dondall the serving boy at the Thirsty Serpent tavern. He came to me crying with a guilty conscious - bless the poor boy. He told me how you convinced him to help him, told him that you were doing me a favour - that the Maul was cursed by the Dark Wood Devils who would come to pluck out his eyes if he didn’t do as you asked. He gave me the gold that you paid him!”
The mayor throws a handful of gold coins to the ground and stomps so hard that the stone floor beneath you seems to shudder. He calls upstairs to the village guards who have been waiting for him to finish. If the PCs attempt to say anything else, the mayor spits.
“SILENCE! You further incriminate yourself the more you work your devil tongues. THEY ARE DONE! THEY ARE UNDER ARREST FOR THE THEFT OF KLAVEK GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL PROPERTY AND THE KIDNAPPING OF ONE OF HER CITIZENS!”
This roar seems to be as much of an intimidating tactic as it to let the guards know the situation. It has its effect, whatever the intent.
“I do not want to see your faces ever again; I will have this matter passed on to a higher authority. In the mean time, you can rot here for all I care! Your names must now live on in shame in our village. Strip them down, chain them up! ”
At this point, as the mayor climbs the stairs and the guards wait their turn, the PCs have three rounds to hide items they might find useful. The waste hole is three inches in diameter and slopes down at 45 degrees. The outer walls to the cells are stone, the side and front wall metal bars. Rings for chains and manacles are embedded in the wall and are also metal. There are two locks in each cell door.
The guards enter the cells one at a time and make each of you change into dark brown outfits, the material of which feels as rough as burlap, which is what it is. After this you are treated with some kind of alchemical powder that makes you sneeze and feel nauseated; it smells wretched. You can’t help but notice one of these cells holds a human skeleton still chained to the wall even though death visited him or her long ago.
The guards return to the surface and secure both doors as they go. You are left in total darkness. It is as cold as the bleak snow covered plains down here; you fear you may freeze to death.
A little later (Synopsis Entries 14 and 15)
No matter what their previous actions, good- or evilly-minded, the PCs are in deep trouble. But there is more to come. After little more than 20 minutes, the doors to the City Hall open and two guards come down dragging a smallish man; it’s Mouse! His dexterity with ropes allowed him to escape the clutches of the Black Bear Company and make his way back to the village. No sooner had the mayor finished with you than Mouse burst in and began to tell his tale, explaining how the Company was to blame. Unfortunately the mayor was in the process of writing a letter of thanks to Ieart for returning Grandmother and Mouse’s tale was rather the wrong thing to be saying. All that the mayor really heard was Mouse admitting he’d been part of the robbery, so guards were called and Mouse thrown in his own cell.
If the PCs make any attempt to speak with Mouse, he will tell them all that has happened to him over the last few weeks and especially days. Feel free to take as much or little information as you would like from Mouse’s part of the adventure, but make sure to include the following:
The Black Bear Company first asked Mouse to do the job.
He said “Yes,” but then had second thoughts and said “No.”
The Black Bears kidnapped his grandmother and threatened him in to doing the job.
He did the job, handed the Maul over, but the Black Bears bound, gagged and blindfolded him and took him away to their hideout.
He managed to escape and return home, but is still afraid for his grandmother.
The PCs may ask specific questions outside of the above; if they do, make them roll.
At this point the PCs must feel as if they have hit rock bottom with no way out. If they have any good ideas let them go ahead and try them. Escaping will possibly be the only way to clear their names although if they are caught it will certainly make things worse as now they will be fugitives of the law and will never be able to prove their innocence. As a GM you may wish to mention this fact if they start planning a jailbreak. Plus, breaking out should surely prove difficult, shouldn’t it? But they have the items they may have been able to secret away plus Mouse wasn’t checked when thrown in his cell and he has a basic lock-pick on him. If they escape the locked chains around their wrists and legs each of them still must unlock the door to their cell, the door at the top of the stairs, and the double doors that lead into the City Hall. After that they would have to negotiate all of the guards and escape the city and anyone in the village that would choose to pursue them. Escape is nearly impossible without powerful magic or all out combat against the guards and villagers.
But if the PCs are good-minded, they will surely have thoughts of righteous vengeance and clearing their names on their minds.
But if the PCs are evilly-minded, they will surely have thoughts of character-saving vengeance as well as a desire to clear their names on their minds.
If they have any good ideas let them go ahead and try them. As it happens, Rybalka is more used to drunken arguments than lying, thieving, kidnapping ne’er-do-wells. Perhaps they can get out after all.
Have the happy situation where Mouse is positioned next to the party’s rogue so he can release one arm shackle, at the second attempt of course, and then let the PCs get on with it. Mouse’s lock-pick is very basic, designed more for the windows and doors of village homes, and this can affect the Skill Check.
The PCs then have a choice; they can either go upstairs and attempt to find all their items, which will involve facing several of the guards and possibly the mayor OR Mouse will tell them that there is a secret door out of the jail. During the Vikmordere war, prisoners were sometimes brought down here for questioning and didn’t come back out. Mouse doesn’t know where the door is or where it leads to, but he knows it exists.
(Synopsis Entries 16 and 17)
The Black Bears are dotted along the bottom of the main cavern, about every 20 feet or so.
Ieart (A4) is tied between the two posts roughly in the middle of the cavern, slowly being tortured by Nalcu (A5).
Lore (A1) and Raven (A3) are at the left-hand end, being watched over by two ogres (A2) whilst the unconscious Grunt (A6) and the fire with Rial on a spit over it (A8) are at the right-hand end being watched over by two more ogres (A7). Most of the floor of the cavern is uneven but the Black Bears had cleared a 10 feet wide strip along the length of it which can be walked and run along normally.
Nalcu’s stats are at the start and the end of the module
How the PCs get a large, scared, angry bear out of the hideout is up to them, but Raven’s gratitude is at this stage boundless.
If the PCs are good-minded, they may see that the Black Bears have been put in a difficult situation and may agree to speak a little on their behalf back in the village.
If the PCs are evilly-minded, they probably won’t care and will just hand them over no matter what. Do remind them that live Black Bear Company members in court are worth a hundred times more than a body.
If Nalcu gets away and the Maul is returned, he can make one last attempt to get to it if you think the adventure needs it or the PCs are disappointed he got away. As the PCs leave court free people, Nalcu bursts into view in his reduced form, dismissing this just before charging towards City hall and its court house. The PCs should have few problems dealing with him, but it does sew up a loose end.
A6 - Experience Awards
- 300 each - Returning the maul
- 50 each - For each Black Bear returned to face trial
- 100 each - Clearing your names
- 50 each - Exposing the Dvergr if it isn't killed
- 200 each - Support Roles: Cartographer (map-maker), Treasure Keeper, Adventure Log, Time Keeper/Initiative Tracker, kept the other players "moving forward" so the GM doesn't appear to be an ogre, any other in-house role
- 100-300 each - Role-Playing experience which varies depending on if player got into their role & changed their voice, was genuinely diplomatic or intimidating, described their actions expressively, actively encouraged and helped others to do the same, clearly didn't meta-game
- Any additional awards you feel are appropriate as well as combat XP.