The Demon Archivist (Smessalt)
The Archivist has one duty: keeping track of cursed items. At any given time in the world there are roughly x cursed items. Adjust x depending on the size of your world. Goody heroes have an awful tendency of destroying all the hard work put into creating a cursed item. They just can’t seem to see the art in the chaos these items bring. The Archivist keeps track of all the cursed items he knows about…and he knows about most of them. This is because most of the cursed items in the world are created by his Artisans. The ones created by mages are found by the Seekers when possible and are kept track of after they are discovered. When the world’s supply of cursed items starts getting too low “Damn adventurers!” he orders new ones created. He keeps track of where the cursed items go, who gets them, and what happens to them. He watches every detail of the items from their birth to their almost inevitable destruction. He knows when one is discarded or hidden and endeavors to retrieve it. Sometimes he places the items in specific spots where he knows they will eventually be found. He knows the history of every one of this creations. Obviously with all that’s involved in this task he has to have a few minions at his bidding to do some of the more trivial tasks.
The Archivist is normally a patient and methodical demon but when he is angered he will show his displeasure violently to the one who upset him. For this reason most of his servants do their absolute best to stay out of his ire. He will not kill the messenger but will instead go straight for the offending party. He does recognize the value of a good servant and will reward those who do their jobs well. Those who manage to continually do their jobs well will earn a place of honor and will be better equipped than their peers. They also have a tendency to get the harder jobs since they are more likely to succeed.
The Hunters (Thana’tol, Grolkin, Roltaw)
There are three hunters. These three minor demons are sent out when a cursed item is discarded or hidden away. They retrieve it. They also have to face any traps, minions, and wards the heroes put on the items to keep them from being used. This job has very god life insurance since it is quite hazardous. The Hunters tend to change quite often due to the high death rate of this position. Even so it is a desired position among minor demons due to the ability for them to get out of Hell on a regular basis and wreak havoc among the mortals of the world.
These tend to be more powerful demons since they often need to fight their way through traps, guards and the like. The easier jobs for a hunter are simply grabbing a discarded item. They are armed with ways to safely touch the cursed items without being affected by them (you really don’t want your servants being unable or unwilling to give up control of a powerful item that it took you years to create now do you?). They also have a variety of offensive capabilities and some decent defense to stand up to opponents they might face. All of the original Hunters are dead, having died during one mission or another. Thana’tol, however, is a second generation Hunter and he is the best Hunter there has been (he has survived the longest).
The three Hunters currently employed are Thana’tol, Grolkin, and Roltaw. Grolkin is a 5th generation Hunter who is showing a lot of promise but he has a problem with authority and doesn’t listen very well. Roltaw is a 7th generation Hunter who is clumsy and rash but lucky He will likely die soon if his luck doesn’t hold up.
The Artisans (Veldas, Telsor, Dolniak)
These demons are the creators of the cursed items the Archivist wants built. There are also three of them and the death rate tends to be lower than the Hunters. The deaths are typically the results of accidents during creation of the cursed items. The Artisans create whatever the Archivist orders.
These demons need to have a creative bent in them. Almost any demon type is capable of being an Artisan as long as it can produce magic items. Typically it takes a demon who has been around for quite a while to have enough knowledge to create the items. These demons are armed with a wonderfully expansive magic laboratory and all sorts of creation spells. Most of the ideas come from the Archivist but once in a while an Artisan might make something on his own. The penalty for doing something without the Archivists permission is death. An Artisan can, however, suggest an idea to the Archivist as long as it is worded carefully (with much groveling and the Archivist will of course take credit for the idea). There have been 5 Artisan deaths since the Archivist started this project. Only two were foolish enough to do side projects without the Archivist’s permission. Two more died in accidents in the lab while the last one died in a fit of rage from the Archivist when a cursed item managed to backfire and ended up creating an item of legend that has become an heirloom for a moderate sized kingdom.
The current Artisans are Veldas, Telsor, and Dolniar. Veldas is meticulous and very clever, comes up with good ideas, and is a likely candidate for the next Archivist if the position ever needs filling. Telsor is fast and a good worker but unoriginal. About 5% of his items have some undesired side effect. So far none of these side effects have proven too inconvenient so he is still alive. Dolniar is a very slow worker but has a high attention to detail. The items he makes always work superbly.
The Seekers (Draxl, Sayer, Krelvin)
The one duty of the Seekers is to look for cursed items. Both new ones created by mages in the world and any that have been discarded or hidden away. They only keep tabs on the items. The actual hazardous work is the work of the Hunters. The death rate for this position tends to be very low.
Imps typically make great Seekers with invisibility at will, suggestion to charm anyone they might not want to fight through, and being small enough to get to most places rather easily. The Seekers only need to spot an item to relay its location and most of the important information back to the Archivist. These demons are armed with rings of etherealness so they can hop on the ethereal place at will to reach places hard to get to. Only one Seeker has ever died on a mission and that was due to his foolishness. Others have simply gotten bored and left (normally hunted down and dispatched of later).
The current Seekers are Drax who seems to be fairly competent but he is easily distracted. Sayer who is a bit flighty and can’t always think straight and Krelvin who is a new recruit and has yet to be sent out on a mission. Sayer will do anything to get out of service and he actually talked Krelvin into taking his place but another Seeker left and Krelvin ended up replacing that Seeker instead.
This is the primary source for distribution of the cursed items. Hell’s Caravan travels around the world every 5-10 years selling, giving away, and hiding all the wonderful toys. Sometimes the caravan is sent out to target a specific group of adventurers while other times it simply travels around causing chaos at random. Most mortals know nothing about this Caravan but a select few know its purpose. Usually these mortals have been tipped off by demonic allies. Items are bought off the caravan knowingly and unknowingly and some are given as rewards to the adventurers hired to guard the caravan.
Curvalsi – current caravan master, looks like an innkeeper, overweight, honest and trustworthy appearance (appearance only), high ranks in bluff
Guards – generic humanoid units
The Caravan master is human, usualy musuallyho knowingly serves the demons. There are quite a few reasons for having a mortal in charge of the caravan. The primary importance of having a mortal caravan master is so he won’t detect as evil. Other reasons include knowing the human trade process better, arousing less suspicion, and being easier to pass off as a regular caravan. Being dispensable is another added benefit. The items do not detect as evil as they are cursed, not necessarily infernal. The caravan usually travels with guards (once again humans who knowingly serve the demons) but occasionally if the caravan is targeting a group of adventurers the guards will abandon it in town while the master tries to hire the adventurers. The caravan master also has an amulet that will summon the help of a few demons if any real troubles ever break out during a trip. Mortals caravan masters and guards will occasionally need to be switched out of their position since they do have a pesky tendency to get old and die. This also keeps suspicion away from the caravan though so the tiresome task of having to find a few new mortals every 30 years or so has its benefits.
The items are almost all cursed, however there are several simple magical items to make the caravan seem like nothing more than a purveyor of magical equipment and trinkets. Even the cursed items will always have some boon on them. Unfortunately the curse is always much worse than any minor advantage the item might have.
One standard trait the cursed items need to have is the unwillingness to relinquish them. If the items are too easy to get rid of the plot will fall through rather rapidly. Hopefully at least one member in the party will get an item that is not cursed so there is a chance of redemption for the party. If not it might be necessary to waylay them to an npc who cares. A family member or mentor is a good choice (if all your players didn’t tragically kill off their families in their back stories :P). Also all the items should have at least some benefit to them for two reasons. First, it makes the items look more normal and the curse might not be discovered until later. Second it gives the merchant something to highlight about the item. The merchant won’t usually lie outright but he will conceal the truth by only telling of the benefit the item has. He doesn’t lie out of any moral concern but because a half truth is harder to detect than a full lie and a good lie always has some part of the truth in it. There should be quite a few very simple magical items as well. Once again this is to make the Caravan look more normal and give the party a chance to get rid of the real cursed items. The merchant should have a vivid description of every item on the Caravan. I’ll give a few examples of items and what the merchant might say and you can stock pretty much any cursed item from the site, various books, or your own imagination after that.
The plot is designed for higher level adventurers with more resources at their disposal. The junk items are intended to anger characters who think they got the short end of the stick when in reality they will shortly become the only characters capable of saving their friends. Also getting rid of the cursed items will be quite tough depending on what they do. Most of them will need to be forcefully separated from the characters and some might require atonement spells or other work after the item is removed to restore a character. Any character with a cursed item from the Caravan will not see that he is cursed nor will he notice his companions strange behavior. In this sense someone has to be un-cursed (party member preferred but an influential npc will do) in order to get rid of any of the cursed items.
Some examples of items:
Book of Regret (link to site)
Merchants description: “This book will show you your ideal life.” The description accurately tells what the book does but not how. It doesn’t reveal any of the drawbacks.
Perception (create book and link to site)
Merchants description: “This book will allow you to see the world through another’s point of view.” Slightly confusing description that might intrigue a mage or scholar.
+1 long sword (non cursed)
Merchants description: “Ahh, this sword is fabled to increase accuracy while striking and damage dealt to any opponent you might face.” Greatly over-exaggerates the importance of a simple +1 sword.
Ring of Planar Alliance
Merchants description: “This ring will summon forth a powerful ally from another plane when you invoke the inscription on the band.” You can’t see the inscription until wearing the ring and the ally it invokes is a powerful demon who then has some control over you.
Demonslayer (create and link to site)
Merchants description: “This sword will make your attacks against demons more likely to hit.” The sword does have a +3 attack vs. demons… but it heals the demons instead of hurting them. Very inconvenient on the battlefield.
Merchants description: “This armor will make it nearly impossible for a ghost to successfully attack you.” However it is almost non-existent to normal weapons, increasing damage and not providing an armor bonus to anything physical.
A major demon has taken an interest in the party and sends the caravan out to target them. The caravan master hires the party on as guards. He happens to be going in roughly the same direction they are and will offer good money for them to escort him to his stop. The trip should be through a fairly dangerous part of the world and should include a couple random encounters along the way as well as one demon attack. The demons were sent by the Archivist and have orders to flee before dieing. A couple of demon deaths is acceptable to the Archivist but he wants his minions to know they will not be punished for saving their lives. Alternatively he could use a few minor demons he has become displeased with and send them out to their deaths at the party’s hands. After the demon attack the merchant will be profoundly grateful to the party and will off them one item each from his Caravan. “Thank you so much kind lords. I hesitate to think what would have happened to me had you not been here. Because of your great service you may each have one item from my stock when we arrive safely in the city. Feel free to browse the carts while we journey the rest of the way.” Browsing can be done at night since having the carts open during the day while travelling isn’t plausible. After they arrive safely in the city he tells the party “You may each ask one question about one item before making your selection. I’m afraid the attacks have delayed my schedule and I must hurry on to meet my client. Thank you for your help in getting me here safely.
The party has had time to look at the items so the choosing should be their one question and picking an item. The one question is designed to make the choices more difficult while not letting in on the fact that the majority of the items are cursed. The real fun comes after the items are in the characters possession as each item starts to show its curse. From this point I’m sure you all know how to handle a decent cursed item.
Other Possible Plot Hooks
The party happens to stumble on this caravan and purchase a few nice trinkets… that are very hard to get rid of.
An NPC hires the party to track down this caravan as he was not very happy at having purchased a cursed item and wants revenge.
A mage hires the party to purchase a specific item off this caravan.
Destroying the Caravan
After the party discovers the true nature of this caravan they might choose to attempt to find it and destroy the master of the caravan. If they destroy the caravan this will greatly upset the Archivist since that is years of work that has just been destroyed. They will then have a very angry Archivist to deal with.
Destroying the entire operation is virtually impossible. As long as the Archivist still lives he will simply create new items, a new caravan, and hire new help. The only way to stop the caravan is to kill the Archivist. Even if that is accomplished it is likely that another demon might try and take up the mantle of the Archivist within a few hundred years after the first ones death.
Notes: The inspiration for this came from Scrasamax’s Merchant’s Potion submission.
I need to provide links to the various items used in this submissions but my lunch break is almost over so I’ll work on linking things tonight. Also there are a few items here that I need to finish making. I’ll link to them also when I get those done.