He has a proposition for the party –he is taking part in a tournament in front of the great and the good of the city and needs some easy opponents to beat to make himself look good. He is willing to subsidise any cure spells or other such magic that the party might require after the fighting and will split any purses he wins between himself and those he beats. He is not concerned with the money, merely the prestige and fame.
Paladin – two paladins have come to the city on an important mission for their church but there is a problem. The elder paladin is mentoring the younger, who has recently converted after being a member of an evil cult for quite some time. Having seen the light, he views his mission as one of both atonement and purification of the realm from evil; he is a good deal more militant and zealous than he might need to be. The elder paladin is perhaps a little resentful of the job of mentor that he has been handed. He would rather be out there using the force of good to bring light to the dark places and slaying evil. In truth, his church has given him this role because they feel he needs to develop himself and a life of slaying was not doing that. As well as resentment, he is also keeping a very watchful eye on his young protégé as he is suspicious of backsliding and at the back of his mind, he thinks “once evil, always evil.” So the seeds are there for some very un-paladin behaviour. Add to this combo the presence in the city of some members of the cult that the young paladin once served, who would love to bring him back to the dark side and the stage is set for some very interesting machinations.
Paladin 2 – a young knight comes to the party with a request. He is the last in a long line of knight, the title of which has been handed down father to son and his father, recently died, has entrusted him with a mission. One of their ancestors is a restless spirit because his death was by decapitation and the body was buried without the head. The family has always made it a personal quest to try and find the head, which they have finally done, although it caused the death of his father. Now he has the head, it is his duty to reunite it with the body and settle the unquiet spirit. All he knows is that the body is buried in a catacomb somewhere under the city; he has a few clues but apart from that, nothing.
All, alas for the party, is not as represented. The knight is in fact hungry for power and the head is the final piece of a skeleton that he is sure, once it is reassembled and blood poured over it – the blood of the party, of course – will regenerate into a powerful demonic entity that will surely reward he who has brought it back to life. He genuinely does not know where the rest of the bones are kept.
He will feign charity, kindness and gallantry – after all, the only thing that matters for him is finding the tomb. If it helps, he can have a medallion or amulet that projects a false reading for Know Alignment spells.
Paladin 3 – a young apprentice paladin, who is not yet qualified, comes to the party to seek their aid. His master has vanished in the city several weeks ago after coming there to find a particular character and the apprentice is getting very worried.
In truth, the paladin in question has been captured by a vicious gangster who had recognised the worth of his captive, and has treated him horribly, removing both his legs and one arm and blinding him as all he wants is to use the lay on hands and cure disease abilities that the paladin has. This horrific state of affairs will run and run until the party manage to track him down and rescue him.
Passers-by and street happenings
1. A random passer-by will stop and ask for directions – if the party can provide them, he blesses them in a foreign language. For the rest of the day, their die rolls are improved by one.
2. Three men are struggling to unload a huge earthenware jar from a cart before carrying it into a house. As they do so, one slips on a patch of mud and the jar drops to the ground and smashes. What’s inside? Something dangerous or something interesting?
3. A woman screams from a loft window of a house overlooking the street, then climbs onto the windowsill and jumps. Halfway to the street, she vanishes. A sinister looking man peers out of the window and makes a gesture of frustration, then darts back in again
4. A passer-by will drop something and carry on up the street as if he had not noticed
5. A passer-by will stop at a shop window and peer in. As he does so, a scaly tentacle will slither up out of the collar of his tunic, look around and then slither back again. No-one else seems to notice.
6. One of the party is tapped on the shoulder by a very shifty looking man who holds out the member’s purse and says “You dropped this, sir”. If the party member checks the purse, it’s all there.
7. As the party turns a corner into a wide street, there is a huge roar of an excited crowd and a surging mass of people comes hurtling towards them, kicking some sort of inflated pig’s bladder from one person to another. Each pass is greeted by hoarse-throated approval from the crowd - then the bladder lands at the feet of one of the party.
8. A passer-by, caught out of the corner of the eye, resembles very much someone that one of the party members wants to see. By the time they realise, the passer-by is rounding a corner and will no longer be there. The party member will catch sight of them again, peripherally and briefly, several times over the next few days. What’s going on?
9. A heavy cart with iron sides and bars at the window is waiting outside a house. The driver is getting edgy and glancing round. Suddenly, two very muscular men come out of the house with a beautiful woman wrapped in chains. As she is being loaded into the cart and the doors locked, she calls out to one of the party by name, pleading for help.
10. A white horse appears from a side street and begins to follow the party. It has a saddle and bridle but no rider. If the party take rooms at a tavern, it will wait in the stables. No-one seems able to mount it as it becomes violent if anyone tries.
11. In a crowded street, a man comes running past the party, fear on his sweat-covered face. As he passes them, further down the way he has come, passers-by begin to burst into flames and die horribly.
12. Livestock stampede as animals escape from a market pen.
Peddler – he has sold what appeared to be a minor trinket to someone who was robbed – the trinket found its way into the hands of a master thief whose fence recognised it as very valuable indeed. They now need to find the peddler and work out where he got it from. Did he steal it or did he acquire it honestly and if so, from where?
Pilgrim – a group of pilgrims has received a vision that their god or spirit has manifested itself within a living person and that person happens to be one of the party. For a while, they will be besieged by adoring worshippers who are only too eager to do anything for their new idol. However, what the party does not know is that part of their religion is that the god’s holy blood must be shed in the correct way to ensure that the earth is made fertile again. And they’ll get very cross if anyone tries to stop them
Pilgrim 2 – a street corner marked by a simple bloodstain is now the focus of pilgrimage by two rival groups of religious devotees. They have fanaticism and weaponry and both are feuding over access to the site, interpretations of the martyr who died there and how best to honour his memory. There’ll be more blood before this is all over. The city authorities are trying to keep a lid on it but repressing it could stoke ethnic tensions.
Press Gang – they’ve shanghaied a group of wastrels amongst whom is someone whose father or guardian is very powerful and has enlisted supernatural aid to recover said person. The press gang are very nervous now as they are caught between this hunter and their own employer (probably a very tough gang boss) and they have worked out that they need to get rid of one of their captives but don’t know which one (they daren't let them all go)
Rake – this young city buck has debauched himself so much that he has come under the influence of a demon or devil who has allowed him seemingly eternal life and youth as long as he can keep the souls coming. The more innocent and pure the soul that he can provide to his new master, the better. However, he has now found a spark of conscience and wants to save the latest pure soul that he is in the process of damning. The demonic master will not want someone so effective to slip through his fingers, so getting the rake out of this one is going to take some doing.
Rake 2 – a young sybarite has discovered the delights of a new drug on the market and is introducing his chums to it. But one of them goes into a cataleptic trance and sees horrible things coming to get them. The drug is in fact connected to an extra-planar creature that is now out for revenge on those who harvested the drug, those who sell it and those who use it.
Rakshasa – one of these has arrived and has hired itself out as an enforcer to a minor gang boss. Under its tutelage and with its help, the minor gang boss is gaining in strength and threatening to upset the balance of power in the city with all the chaos that will ensue. The rakshasa will enjoy playing one gang off against another to try and cause the maximum chaos possible and promote evil.
Ranger – there are two rangers in this hook – an older male ranger and a younger female ranger. The female ranger was captured by orcs at an early age and used as a brood mare to produce half-orcs, bringing human strengths into the orc gene pool. The male ranger rescued her after killing many of the gang that had captured her and after helping her to recover her humanity, trained her as a ranger apprentice. She eventually parted company to strike out on her own but remained on good terms with him.
He started to feel his age, getting older, slower and more of a danger to himself. Parties of adventurers passed him by, he was injured on several occasions and eventually realised that his action days were gone. However, he was approached by a group of city nobles who wanted to use his services as a hunter and provider of exotic meats and to capture animals for the nobles’ private zoos. So down on his luck was he that he agreed and has grown used to the soft life.
His former apprentice, now a fully-fledged ranger has discovered what he’s been up to and has decided, with reluctance that he must be stopped and the nobles punished in case they continue their bad deeds. She has voyaged to the city to deal with the problem. She is tough, strong and rather beautiful but a creature of the wild and so needs a way to carry out her mission and not give herself away before she can fulfil her vows.
What’s the ruffian up to? 1d12
7. Picking on someone
8. Enforcing a protection racket
10. Shouting obscenities
11. Evicting someone
12. Running away
Spectres and Shadows
A large mansion in one of the more well-to-do areas of the city is in a run-down state; the gardens are overgrown and it is clear from the condition of the place that no-one ever goes there. The party may wander past this and think Hmmm… If they decide to start investigating, they will find that their efforts earn the swift attention of some city guardsmen who eject them quick-sharp. If they investigate further, they will find that the house has a very bad reputation, even amongst the city thieves, who have declared it off limits for safety’s sake.
What happened was that the city government, a number of years back was involved in experiments in magic and ritual to create a unit of warriors with supernatural powers to give them the edge in a war that was going on at the time. It all went horribly wrong and the scene of the experiments was sealed off – the cellars and passages under the house. The rituals has opened up a portal to one of the hells and consumed the personnel down there, leaving their spirits as undead, spectres and shadows. The clerics of the city managed to seal the exits but knew that anyone who got down there would be hunted down and consumed by the evil spirits. The spectral remains of would-be thieves and looters also haunt the cellars, mournfully warning of horrible fates for those who try to investigate.
Rookeries – these are derelict buildings that have been turned into places where gangs of thieves can shelter in reasonable safety and use them for storing their ill-gotten gains. They will be suitably trapped and guarded, and have bolt-holes into the local sewers and catacombs. They may even be booby-trapped to collapse once the thieves have scarpered. Only a small percentage of the occupants will be thieves of higher than 1st level – although they will all have some small skill in thieving abilities.
Pickpockets – tend to work a crowd. They will be either children or adolescents, and will work a distraction/snatch/transfer scam, with a crowd of urchins waiting to mob the victim and prevent them from giving chase.
Burglars – if encountered during the day, they will be either casing a joint, possibly on their way to offload stolen goods or just drinking or hanging out with other members of the thiefly fraternity. If it is at night, they will be on their way to a job, committing a burglary or making a getaway. There is a chance that they have been detected and will be leaving the scene at very high speed.
Con men – usually occupied in setting up a scam or carrying one out. Almost always, they will be mistaken for someone else; if the party is very new in the city, the con man may select them to be the mark. They may try to sell fake treasure maps, fake artefacts, bogus magic items with Nystul’s Magic Aura, etc.
Fences – they will often use a bogus antique shop as a front for their dealings, although the shop will have a back door to a network of alleyways, a shaft into the sewers or catacombs and traps aplenty. They will also know a forger or two who can provide provenance for any stolen goods they acquire.
Street robbery – a bit like pickpocketing but more violent, the perpetrators will be older, burlier and armed, mostly with clubs and hammers but maybe one per gang with a knife or short sword.
Captured thief – a pickpocket is apprehended dipping a victim, a burglar is identified and dragged off by the watch, a mugger is pursued by a hue and cry.
Spiv – you’re in a tavern, having a drink and there he is – pushing hooky gear and casting furtive glances over his shoulder. But what’s he selling?
1. Counterfeit clothing
2. Paste jewellery
3. Stolen jewellery
4. Stolen artwork
5. Forged artwork
6. Fake wines and spirits
7. Dodgy perfumes
8. Copied books
9. Fake treasure maps
10. Bogus magic items
11. Charms and religious items
12. Something valuable – they don’t realise it’s worth anything until after the party has bought it.
Mastering the Megadungeon - Several months ago I got the idea for this post when a person on the Swords & Wizardry G+ group asked for advice on making a megadungeon. I have two - N...
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