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Supply Run

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Defenceless villagers, highway bandits, and primitive tribesmen. But who has the magic crystals a young shaman needs? And how do you get hold of them?

This takes place four years after the events described in A Test of Loyalty and three years after The Ruin. The GM should refer back to these modules since many of the NPCs where first described therein.

Although the PCs do not need to have completed these scenarios it is necessary that they are known to, and on friendly terms with, Derry Althen since she will not approach them otherwise.

Background

After three long years of study under Mistress Eskarina, Derry Althen is ready to take her first significant step on the path to shamanhood. The exact nature of this step is of course largely dependent on the prevailing magical traditions of the area, and in Derry’s clan it involves, by long-standing tradition, the creation of her first significant magical item - a Spirit Beacon

This task is considered to be a kind of examination, the object being to test her knowledge of the spirit world (without which she could not make such an item) as well as her resourcefulness and self-reliance. Consequently the old shaman will give her no aid, nor indeed will any of her clan, although she is free to recruit outside help if she can get it.

In point of fact the task is carefully chosen since the creation of a Spirit Beacon requires a small amount of Crystallised Dragon Blood, a rare but innately magical substance that can be found only in the Dragon Spine Mountains. Unfortunately the Dragon Spine Mountains harbour bandits, cave trolls, and worse, making such an expedition a risky preposition at best.

There is of course a thriving market in magical supplies and one of Derry’s first acts was to trawl the shops, markets, and bazaars of the city in search of the things she will need. Most of these items are either mundane or relatively common, so she had little trouble. Except, that is, for the Dragon Blood needed to power the device which, somewhat hard to find at the best of times, appears to be totally unavailable at the moment. Even Dural, the old alchemist who can usually be relied upon to find almost anything has none available. It appears that only two days ago he’d had a small crystal in stock (more than enough for Derry’s needs) but a young man had purchased it and he has no idea when he will be able to obtain more. {{Note to GM: The young man was in fact one of Derry’s own clan acting on Mistress Eskarina’s orders, specifically so that Derry would be lacking this vital component.}}

Derry must therefore travel to the Dragon Spine Mountains to obtain the Dragon Blood she needs. Unfortunately, this being in part a test of her own self-reliance, this is one of those rare times when she can expect no aid from her clan, so she must organise the trip herself. This, of course, is largely the point. By mounting such an expedition without the assistance, or resources, of the clan Derry will have proven that she has the resourcefulness to take on the duties of a clan shaman, and of course the authority that goes with it.

Derry Althen - human female, age 19 - ancestor worshipper (trainee shaman), city founder cult initiate - a lock of her mothers’ hair in a silver locket is a spirit totem for the ghost of Matty Althen - combat skill poor - moderate magical ability

Derry has command of most cantrips and petty magics (assign whatever spells you think are appropriate). She also knows several utility spells (e.g. creating light, igniting or extinguishing camp fires, locating lost objects, mending broken objects, etc) and some minor defensive and healing magics (e.g. magical alarms, minor healing, stemming blood loss, etc). However, apart from one or two offensive cantrips, she has no combat spells to speak of (such magics are the purview of the combat mage, not the shaman).

Derry also has the spirit totem linked to her mothers’ ghost (refer to A Test of Loyalty for full details). This allows the ghost of Matty Althen to appear on the mundane plane. However since Derry is now a young woman, Matty is increasingly of the opinion that she should be capable of taking care of herself. Therefore she will put in an appearance only if Derry is in extreme danger. {{Note to GM: You should use Matty as a kind of GMs wild card to get the party out of trouble if they really mess it up.}}

Where the PCs come in

Derry Althen must travel to the Dragon Spine Mountains to obtain the Dragon Blood she needs for her Spirit Beacon. Since this is a dangerous area for an apprentice shaman (who are not normally known for their combat prowess) she is clearly going to need warriors to protect her as well as trackers to guide her through the mountain passes.

Unfortunately, this being something of a test, her clan is not going to help her. Besides, for the most part they are crafters and artisans, so they wouldn’t be much help anyway. Therefore she has no option but to recruit outside help.

Since she is seeking warriors to protect her in a dangerous area, Derry will only recruit people she already knows and trusts. If the PCs have helped her before (e.g. in A Test of Loyalty or The Ruin) and have proved themselves competent and trustworthy she will likely approach them. If the party is still a bit light she will also recruit her old friend Orin van der Mewe, now a city watchman, who will take a leave of absence in order to accompany her.

Her other problem is that, lacking clan support for this venture, she doesn’t have access to the clan coffers. Nor has she been able to elicit any funds from her father, who seems strangely reticent about supplying protection for her journey (he doesn’t really like the idea of her becoming a shaman). Therefore she must rely entirely on her own resources, which do not amount to very much.

She can afford to hire the PCs and Orin at standard mercenary rates for about two to three weeks, which is just about long enough to get to the Dragon Spine Mountains and back. However, all she wants is enough Dragon’s Blood to power her beacon (one crystal is sufficient), so as far as she is concerned the PCs (and Orin if he is present) can share out any incidental treasure however they wish.

{{Note to GM: It is probably simplest to give Derry a fixed amount of money at the start of the scenario (just enough to pull this off but not enough to fund an extended survey of the mountains) and allow her to spend it as and when the need arises.}}

Orin van der Mewe - human male, age 19 - watchman - city founder cult initiate - competent fighter (slightly above average combat skills)

Orin joined the city watch shortly after returning from the Ruin, partially as a means of earning an honest living, but mostly to get some basic combat experience.

He still has the short sword he "liberated" from his mothers’ armoury three years ago (refer to The Ruin for more details). His mother gave him something of a hard time over this but eventually allowed him to keep it because she decided that it demonstrated initiative. He also wears the leather armour and carries the night-stick and light crossbow of a city watchman.

If it fits within your game world, you could give him a few cantrips or petty magics appropriate to watchman. Do not give him anything too powerful though (some defensive spells and temporary stat enhancements would be about right). Remember he is trained as soldier, not a wizard.

Highway Robbery

It should take about four days to reach the foothills of the Dragon Spine Mountains. The journey should be relatively uneventful since the roads are much travelled, and regular patrols by the imperial cavalry keep bandit activity well in check. Add a few "civilised" encounters for local colour if you wish (merchant caravans, travelling minstrels, country hamlets, etc).

As the party leaves the settled lowlands however, the country gets a little wilder and the roads a lot more dangerous since imperial patrols do not get up here quite so often. Some time during the fifth day, around mid-afternoon when they are deep into the hill country, the party will be ambushed.

This is pretty much the old "stand and deliver" routine. The leader points his crossbow at whoever looks to be in charge and demands everybody’s valuables while the thugs grab everything and stuff it into sacks. Assuming, that is, the PCs let them.

These bandits are not particularly tough and hardened adventurers like the PCs should have little trouble defeating them. It does however give the first indications that this area is none too safe for the unwary.

Alas, the bandits are also quite poor (if they had any money they wouldn’t be doing this), so there is no real booty to be had. {{Note to GM: If you are feeling particularly generous you could allow that the authorities pay a standard bounty for clearing out highway bandits, but don’t make this too excessive - equivalent to one days’ pay is probably about right.}}

Leader - average combat skills - crossbow, sword, leather armour

Thugs (numbers equal to party) - low to average combat skills - dagger, club, un-armoured

The Magnificent PCs

At the end of the sixth day the party will come upon a small and somewhat ramshackle settlement high in the foothills of the Dragon Spine Mountains. This small and impoverished hamlet, the last outpost of civilisation before the land gives way to primitive barbarians and bandit gangs, is home to a few impoverished farmers. Total population, around 40.

PCs who know anything about farming will realise that the village should be much better off than this. The land looks fertile enough, so it is hard to understand why the village is doing so badly. While nobody is going to make a fortune here, the level of grinding poverty evident amongst the villagers simply makes no sense.

The inhabitants here are somewhat mistrustful, in stark contrast to the almost carefree hospitality offered by all the other villages and hamlets the party has passed through. Women and children run and hide while the men folk nervously finger a variety of mostly makeshift weapons (kitchen knives, hatchets, sickles, etc). These people are clearly scared of something and, at first impressions, that something appears to be the PCs.

If the PCs make no aggressive move Brodin, the village headman, will eventually edge nervously towards them and ask their business. If the PCs talk to him he will, slowly at first because he is still nervous, begin to reveal the source of their poverty (and incidentally their less than hospitable welcome).

A couple of years ago a bandit gang moved into the mountains a short way off and have been raiding the village ever since, taking most of what they produce and leaving barely enough for them to survive on. The villagers were nervous because they were not sure if the PCs (clearly battle hardened warriors) represented more of the same.

Once it becomes apparent that the PCs have no such intention the headman will ask them for help. This will inevitably lead to the subject of remuneration at which point it becomes clear that the village has little, if anything, of any value. If the subject of Crystallised Dragon Blood comes up (Derry will ask about it even if the PCs don’t), the villagers’ say they have none (they have little need for such things) but they do know where some could be found. They will gladly reveal the location if the PCs agree to drive the bandits off.

Brodin - village headman - human male, age 63 - retired soldier - poor combat skills due to old age - spear, shield, leather breastplate (left over from his army days)

Farmers x17 - human male/female, age varies - poor combat skills - carry a variety of makeshift or improvised weapons

Children x24 - human male/female, age varies - no combat ability

If the PCs agree to help Brodin will give them his estimation of they bandits’ combat prowess. This is in fact reasonably accurate (he is ex-army) but not precise. Keep his description as general as possible (maybe a dozen men, know their business well enough, leader is some kind of wizard, girl is quite good with a bow, etc).

Once the bandits have been defeated the villagers reveal that there are two possible sources of Dragon Blood in the area: an old abandoned mine a short way off and a valley much deeper into the mountains proper. However, the mine has produced nothing in years and the valley, according to local legend, is home to brutal primitives who attack anybody who gets too close.

The Bandit Lair

The bandit gang is camped in a ruined farmhouse a few miles from the village. They are not really expecting an attack (after all, the villagers are scared of them) so they have set up only minimal perimeter defences (a few trip wires and alarm bells, but not much else). Furthermore they do not keep a particularly good watch (mainly because they are too lazy) so reasonable careful PCs should be able to get quite close without being spotted.

Gavriel - human male, mid 30s - bandit leader - average combat skills - moderate magical abilities (specialises in combat spells) - battle axe, shield, mail shirt

Brenna - human female, mid 30s - Gavriels’ lover - excellent with bow, otherwise average - bow, dagger, leathers (jacket & trews), iron cap

Bandits (numbers equal to ~1/2 party size) - average combat skills - stiffened leather breastplate & helm + leather trews, sword or axe, shield

Thugs (numbers equal to party size) - below average combat skills - leather jerkin, spear

The PCs are clearly outnumbered here so whatever they do this is going to be a hard fight. However the bandits have one major weakness. Much of their force in made up of low level thugs who, like bully-boys everywhere, are basically cowards - fine for terrorising defenceless villagers but they will not stand long in a serious fight.

The trick here is to take out Gavriel and Brenna. Once the leaders are dead, captured, or otherwise incapacitated, the thugs will run away. After this the PCs will have the remaining bandits outnumbered (and possible outclassed).

Unfortunately there is less booty than the PCs might have hoped. The bandits will likely each have a little money (equivalent to about 1-2 weeks pay each for the thugs, 2-3 weeks each for the bandits, and 3-4 weeks each for two leaders) and their weapons and armour may have some value, but that is about all. What they do have, however, is large stocks of grain stolen from the village. According to the law this should be returned to its’ rightful owners (i.e. the farmers).

{{Note to GM: Gavriel and Brenna are survivors of the bandit gang Malinda van der Mewe was hunting down three years ago (refer to The Ruin), although the PCs have no why of knowing this. There are, of course, prices on both of their heads (even if there is no general bounty for clearing out bandits) and the PCs will have every right to claim these if they think of it.}}

The Old Mine

Most of the villagers can tell the PCs about the old mine. Situated about a days’ travel into the mountains the mine once produced quite a lot of Crystallised Dragon Blood, but it was played out and abandoned about thirty years ago.

Nonetheless it has become something of a local tradition to go up to the mine in search of crystals, and one or two people have found enough to buy a few extra sheep. However, the last time anybody actually found a crystal was nearly a decade back so the chance of finding anything now is pretty low. But the villagers’ reckon that since it is on the party’s way (they must pass close by it to get to the valley), they may as will stop by and have a quick look.

If the PCs choose to investigate the mine they will find that the tunnels are unstable from decades of neglect and home to some of the local wildlife (do not put any monsters in here, just normal animals appropriate to a mountain region - roosting bats, a hibernating bear, etc).

No matter how long the PCs search they will find no crystals, the mine really is played out. Just let them wander around until they get bored.

The Dragons Nest

After two days of hard travelling, through increasingly rough country, the PCs will finally reach the valley the villagers spoke of. According to legend this valley was once the hunting ground of a mighty dragon, but it died several centuries ago. It is now home to a large neanderthal tribe (total population around 200-300).

Contrary to the impression the PCs may have received from the farmers, the neanderthals are by no means brutal. However since they are the targets of occasional slave raids, they tend to be cautious of strangers. They live mostly be a mixture of hunting and slash-and-burn agriculture. They have a basically stone-age level of technology, supplemented with a few metal objects obtained either by trade of as booty from slave raiders for whom things did not go entirely to plan.

Traditionally the neanderthals have collected any Dragon Blood they find for use by the tribal witch doctors, who know and understand the magical properties of these crystals. As well as creating magical items with them, the witch doctors will sometimes trade them for items the neanderthals cannot make themselves (this is, of course, the PCs’ key to obtaining some crystals).

Soon after the party arrives in the valley the neanderthals will be aware of their presence. A group of hunters (one per party member) will track them, sending runners to report to the tribal chiefs. They are excellent woodsmen, so the only clue the PCs will have is the occasional rustle in the undergrowth.

Neanderthal Hunters - excellent stealth and tracking skills - average combat skills - spear, club, sling, knife

First Contact

As the PCs travel up the valley, they will eventually come to a small clearing in the forest. Here a neanderthal farmer, his two wives and half dozen children of varying ages are industriously clearing weeds from around their millet crop with crudely sharpened sticks (standing in for hoes).

The hunters are still following the PCs and observing them with great interest. Their next move will be in direct response to the PCs’ actions here, which will also largely determine the future reactions of the rest of the tribe.

There are three main possibilities:

1) PCs are openly friendly towards the farmers: In this case the hunters will break cover and walk strait towards the PCs with their spears held point down (their signal that they have no hostile intent).

Unless the PCs do anything stupid (like drawing weapons) they will try to talk to them. At this point it will rapidly become apparent that there is no common language, so they will switch to using a mixture of gestures, play-acting and drawing in the dirt. {{Note to GM: Role-play this out - ham it up a bit.}}

2) PCs simply ignore the farmers: In this case the hunters act much as above except that they will wait for the PCs to make the next move.

3) PCs attack the farmers: In this case the hunters will attack the PCs. The farmer will snatch a stone axe from his belt and join the fray while his wives and children run off into the forest. Unless the PCs can finish off the farmer and all the hunters very quickly (say within the first two or three combat rounds), the women and children will escape and report back to the tribal chiefs. After this the PCs will be continually attacked until they are killed or driven from the valley.

Meet the Chiefs

Assuming the PCs have acted in a reasonable friendly manner they will eventually be brought before the tribal council, a kind of semi-governmental body made up of the assembled chieftains and witch doctors. Luckily one of the lesser chieftains can speak the PCs’ language, not well but good enough for understandable communication, and he will act as interpreter for the meeting.

Now is the time to bring up the purpose of their expedition (if the PCs do not, Derry certainly will). After some discussion the chieftains will offer to trade some Dragon Blood in return for metal weapons. The equipment looted from the bandits should buy them two or three crystals (possibly more if they bargain well).

In accordance with the original deal Derry will claim one of these for herself, the rest the PCs may sell when they get back to the city. Dural will certainly buy them, and the price should be considerably higher than a few second hand weapons (equivalent to between one and two months standard pay rates, depending on how well the PCs bargain, is probably about right).



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Comments ( 3 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Solagan
April 26, 2005, 0:35
0xp
I love your series of plots about Derry, keep up the awesome work! I plan to use them all in my games.

You should do an NPC write-up for Derry and Orin. Just a thought, since if you used all three plots they would appear quite a bit.

5/5
Dragon Lord
April 26, 2005, 7:43
0xp
Glad you like them

I have half thought of posting Derry and Orin as NPCs, but not just yet - to be honest I'm sort of letting them develop through the scenarios, so I'm not entirely certain how they will end up yet

Eventually they will probably get good enough (and tough enough) that they won't need so much help - then I'll get around to writing them up

In the meantime, there should be enough information in the plots to allow you to role play them (I hope)
Dragon Lord
November 4, 2005, 8:15
0xp
Updated: Re-set in-text links

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