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April 1, 2006, 8:36 pm

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Remembrance of Things Past


The mentor of one or more (lawfully-inclined, socially ambitious) PCs is vulnerable because of a past action ââ?¬â?? an action that was justifiable at the time.  But opponents can now use changing circumstances or new information to discredit or destroy the mentor and damage the PC.  The mentor is unwilling/unable either to respond or escape the consequences.  The PCs can take action, but not in the open; ‘kill the monsters’ is not likely to solve the problem.  Failing to act will doom the mentor and damage the PC; taking action may also doom the PC.

Questions that must be answered to fill out the plot sketch:

* What was the past event/action?  This is open-ended, can be simple or complex, but should either be clearly sympathetic to the mentor or ambiguous.

* What has changed that the event/action is now suspect?  Could be a change of law (not all societies prevent retroactive application), or of leader, or simply additional information not available at the time.  To provide a clearer possible course of action for the PCs, there can/should be an instigator of dubious motive and integrity (the villain). 

* What is the evidence?  Is it legitimate or somehow manipulated?  Can it be overcome by acceptable means?  Will the PCs resort to unacceptable means?

Example Setup:  Kallakan, chief of the kitchens, had many moods, all aggressively loud and demanding.  In seven years, from entering the house as trainee to her pending installment as a master of arms, Mekla (the target PC) had never seen him slumped in defeat - until now.

She tried a jest: "Chef - has the bread fallen flat, or the cream turned sour?"

Kallakan’s somber gaze silenced her laugh.  His voice came drained and flat:  "Tata lives.  Tata will testify. The Master is undone."

Slowly, in fits and fragments, Kallakan unfolded the tale from all too vivid memories:  "Two and twenty year.  We was full of piss and vinegar, set to be Heros.  Cap’n Cobb led us.  In bawdy houses it was ‘Oh, We been slaying Giants and Dragons!’  Gods Truth, we’d only ever skirmished with some underfed goblins.  Them and us, all scared pissless - nicked trees and shrubs more than each other.  Then ran skelter in the dark.

"After a handful of these sorry fracases, and a hunnert times as many dead-boring nights, and a lot of big talk, we was The Ol’ Vet’rens!  ‘Give us a chance to show our stuff! Yeah, Cap'n - Let’s go off patrol, take the fight to the enemy.  We’ll show ‘em!  Let’s go get ‘em.'

"Well, we found ‘em all right.  Yah, Charge!  A blue bolt and thunder-clap smacked us to the ground.  Painted animal bodies dropped from the trees.  Reek of hellfire and burnt flesh. Devil shrieks " us, terrified; them, whoopin fierce.  Ambush!  Us blind, panicked and thrashing willy-nilly.  Me sword struck home and then wrenched free of me hand.  I flung my dagger, shield, canteen.  And ran.  Witless.  Fell over a carcass, came up drippin gore and swingin a fiendish axe " beheaded a yrch even more s'prised than me that I was standin.  Then more of "em, from all sides, closing.

"The Master saved our worthless hides.  Came from nowhere, drove off the demons that had us to rights.  Rallied us.   Lovack and Erlan we found dead.  Tata was missing.  And Cobb.  Cobb was dead.

"Cobb.  He got called that for his blond curls and green armor.  He didn’t mind.  He introduced hisself to us as "Prince Fregonard Ge’Lennet, presumptive Duke of Ardenne " bit of a mouthful, no?  Call me Cobb.  After all, it would not do to be overrun before a sentry could get my title out!?  He put on no airs.  He'd say ‘I am seven steps removed from succession " I've less of a profession than any of you!  Soldierin' suits me best.’ 

"Cobb was dead.  Run through from behind.  With my sword.  I stared at Cobb's body and said it aloud: "I killed "im.'

"Then the Master, she says to me, in that quiet voice: "Did you set out to kill Prince Fregonard? I rounded on "er and shouted "God's Truth, I would never! I would have fought her then and there over any such charge.  By rights, I knew she would just kill me on the spot for the crime, whether I had meant it or no.  But she just raised a hand and said: ‘You did not target Fregonard, you did not recognize and strike out at Fregonard, and in truth, you do not know even now that you hit Fregonard. You lost your sword.  An orc lost its axe.  You killed another orc with that same axe.  Who's to say the same thing did not happen with your sword?  Strange things happen in battle.  Speak only what you know to be true.'

"Then she spoke so all could hear:  "This was a battle against our enemy. Fregonard, Lovack and Erlan died in this battle.  They died defending our homes and our families.  Do not take it to yourself to lessen their sacrifice with idle speculation or self-pity.  We shall honor the dead. We all said "True' to that.

"After, she took us aside and was fierce " not angry, but pointed like she gets: "You feel badly for your failure in this fight, and so you should.  But know this: Your failure occurred before the battle was joined " You each know to fight only for your self.  You each fought here alone, neither gaining nor giving support to one another, and letting an inferior foe confound and scatter you.  For the sake of all current and future companions, we shall see that that never happens again.  You are not responsible for Fregonard's, nor Lovack's, nor Erlan's, deaths,  But from now on, you shall learn to become responsible for each other's lives.  We shall start now: We must discover the fate of Tata, whether he be dead or captured.'

"We spent a week searchin, dodgin' rather than fightin the enemy, but we never found Tata.

"When we got back to command, the Master only reported the bare facts. And none of us was busted or ribbon'd for it.  After, we bragged less, practiced more, won real battles, mustered out with honor.   Two and twenty years passed.?

Kallakan returned from his reverie, and grew grim.

"This morn, Tefford is at me door in a state.  Tefford weren't there when Fregonard died, he joined up later.  He didn't know about me sword, but everyone knew those what were there when it happen't.  Me and Tefford were in many spots together, and kept each other's backs.  Kept in touch ever since.  He's seneschal for Baron Reznik."  Mekla's face hardened.  "Yes, that Baron Reznik, but don't worry " the Master knows we trade no secrets, just old war stories.  At least, until today.

"Tefford told me "Reznik has found Tata! Tata musta spent these past decades as a slave.  Reznik is bringing him back.  And Tata saw me kill Cobb.  Or so Tefford gathered from what he overheard Reznik say to the messenger: ‘Harry shall have blood for blood, and woe unto Conspirators.’  That makes me guilty of murder, which is what Tefford came to warn me.  Well, I deserve death or worse.

"But Reznik won't stop there " he'll say our Master hid me from justice!  That's the Conspiracy!  And whatever comes of it, King Harry will not forgive the Master for hiding information about the death of his son!?

Kallakan fell silent, and Mekla considered carefully.  Surely, if Tata could report as claimed, Kallakan would die a murderer, and the Master would be ruined for harboring him " if she survived.  Although she was in the right at the time, King Harry would not make such a fine distinction " and Mekla knew the Master would acquiesce to Royal decree without question or debate, nor offer any defense.  What defense was there?  That the then-Duke's younger son had been a poor leader and led an unauthorized raid with ill-trained troops and died for his recklessness?  Harry would hear none of it!  King Harry could even, Mekla realized, revoke the Master's charter and disbar or banish her students as undesirables. 

Kallakan raised his head, his face puzzled: "One thing Tefford said makes no sense.  Tefford first overheard Reznik tell the messenger: ‘So, it seems Tata is finally ready to be returned.’  Not that he'd just been found, but rather, ‘finally ready to be returned.’  Like Reznik has known where Tata was for a while, but waited til now?  Then when Tefford came in, Reznik said no more about it, dismissed the messenger and hurriedly locked the letter away in his cabinet."

"Ah," thought Mekla, "I have a guess at the timing¦" The Master was away on business, and would not even return for several weeks " it might be decided before she even returned.  Mekla knew Reznik was unscrupulous, patient, and careful.  Although it had never been proven, he was commonly believed to have fabricated evidence in the past to destroy a rival he could not buy or best " he combined facts and half-truths so well that they passed the Truthsayers' tests.  And now it seemed that her Master, and even she herself, had become his latest target.

What was in that letter?  Mekla could never approach Reznik, and would not even consider breaking in to his townhouse " and she had no skills to do so at any rate.  Where was Tata now " and what was the meaning of ready to be returned??

Remaining plot points the PC's must uncover or overcome:

* The letter locked away in Reznik's cabinet states that The one called Tata has agreed to tell how the Prince was murdered.  He will be moved to Villa Cornata within a fortnight, and there shall complete his preparation.?  It is not so clumsily stated that it is incriminating: Reznik could simply say Tata was too weak or ill to appear immediately, and needed rest and healing " and protection from Kallakan and other conspirators?.

* Tefford has done his duty to Kallakan, but is fundamentally loyal to Reznik.  He will not help the PC's in any way that clearly violates his duty.  However, he will be strongly motivated to help Tata in any way he can.

* Of course, there should be many other sources of parts of this information " what's an underworld for, if not to keep track of every noble's secret maneuvering?  Now, a Lawful PC might not have too many direct contacts to that world " and would have to rely on others, while walking a careful line of lawful behavior.

* Tata will be protected by guards at all times.  Some of the guards that transport him to the Villa may have been with him for years, and if captured could help the PC's understand/prove what has happened.  Once at the Villa, though, new guards will be used to prevent any slip-ups.  The unknown being who will complete his preparation? will still be around, though.

* Tata could be a convincing fake, or for a more complex plotline, real, broken by decades of slavery, and skillfully brainwashed to completely believe that he saw Kallakan deliberately kill Fregonard. Tata had resisted til recently, since he saw no more than anyone else at the time.  Reznik has known of his whereabouts for years, and has been working this plot for much of that time " but how can that be proven?  PC's could adopt any number of strategies to get Tata to change his story " reunite him with old comrades, use healing powers to undo the brainwashing, etc.

* If the PC's become known to be involved in working to thwart this plot, they will gain a powerful enemy in Reznik, unless he is defeated in the process.  At the outset, they will risk being decried as accomplices for trying to keep a murderer from facing justice.

* Reznik is politically and socially skilled.  He's not above buying off even some of the PC's if it works to his advantage, but he won't blunder into exposing himself.  Reznik might even welcome Mekla as an ally, if she is convinced that the law is against her Master!

* Finally, depending on the game, there will magical or other ways to discover the truth of what happened.  I would make the true "cause" of Fregonard's death indeterminate: Nobody at the scene actually saw what happened, nor can it be reconstructed from divination, hypnotic regression, etc. Settling the question definitively would short-circuit much of the plot.

This works best with a well-established lawfully-inclined and politically-inclined PC and supporting social setting; it could also work in any well-developed politically-charged atmosphere.

Genesis: This plot was conceived to help a LG but politically-motivated PC to understand that he might have good reason to remain friendly with some decidedly other-than-lawful-good PC companions, in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

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Comments ( 7 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

September 20, 2004, 0:59
hmmm, now how do I clean up the formatting: Quoted dialog, contractions, possessive pronouns?

Test "Quote", it's too hard to read...
September 20, 2004, 1:16
I like the post. It fills out a very vague plot quite nicely.

I believe you did a fairly correct job on the grammer aspects of formating. The edit feature works wonder once you get the info. As for the actual format correction...

**** *****
Strunk's work is literally the bible for writing.

There are more. Google Rules of Writing or Rules of Grammer and many come up. Just be careful about pay sites.
September 20, 2004, 1:30
Thanks for the pointers (I do have Strunk & White within reach ;-).
I was actually referring to the edit-tool with my previous comment. It seemed to be escaping (prepending a '') to all the quotes. Said she, "It's a distractin' mess." ;-) I edited this on Word, and probably got all kinds of special characters by accident (so sue me, I'm an old Unix-head and think the world is plaintext ;-).
September 20, 2004, 22:40
Little difficult to follow at first, but then I got it.
A great idea!
The formatting and such is great, and I think you could of just stuck with the basic example story instead of giving the plot sketch. We can pick and choose details as we like.

February 13, 2005, 22:59
I like plots that lend themselves to roleplaying of this type.It makes me want to fit it into the game I'm running now.
December 5, 2012, 12:03
Oh those ugly special characters. I will get rid of them someday with Mathom's help! This I vow.
December 5, 2012, 12:36
Got most of 'em out.

Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

       By: Iain

In the middle of an unimportant combat with some bandits a burst of wild magic transforms all of the PCs and their opponents in to random animals and monsters. They retain their intelligence (though not, of course, the ability of speech). They can either carry on the combat in their new forms, panic, or otherwise react how they see best. After about an hour, they return, unharmed, to their normal form.

Ideas  ( Plots ) | February 13, 2004 | View | UpVote 1xp

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