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Rating: 3.5625
Condition: Normal
ID: 3480


December 21, 2006, 9:58 pm

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The Highwayman's Vials


Among his effects, the highwayman had 24 mysterious vials.  What could the strange liquid portend?

The PCs are confronted by a highwayman, who rapidly discovers that they are more formidable than he expected.  Searching through his effects, they discover that he was in possession of a finely-crafted box containing 24 small vials of an inky material.  Each vial has a different symbol graven upon it; scholarly characters can identify these esoteric symbols as having to do with blackest necromancy.

The Possible Explanations:
1.) Letters from Beyond the Grave:  The “highwayman” is actually the servant of a local mage.  The liquid is enchanted ink distilled from the remains of the dead.  Normally, it allows the user to write questions on parchment and receive answers from the spirits of the dead, written in the hand of the deceased.  The servant, not knowing this, disregarded his orders not to open the vials.  Thinking it was merely fine ink, he used the ink without the appropriate protective rituals and became confused, possessed by the ghost of the long dead bandit chieftain.  The mage will be most irritated when he discovers what happened.

2.) The Miracle Medicine:  The vials contain ordinary colored oils, enchanted with a simple spell to seem potent materials of magic.  The highwayman has an associate that has been selling items like these in nearby towns, making all sorts of outrageous claims about the “Miracle Medicine”.  Characters attempting to sell the stuff, or who keep it in their possession, may be suspected of being associates of these swindlers.

3.) The Necromancer’s Effects:  The highwayman took these items from the remains of a strange wizardly fellow that he found in an isolated cottage nearby.  Characters questioning him (or reading a partially completed letter the rogue was writing to his sweetheart in a nearby village) can find this isolated hut.  Apparently, before his demise, the wizardly man was a necromancer, who had come to this desolate place to complete a terrible summoning.  The vials hold ichor from a strange alien demon, necessary for the ceremony needed to banish the conjured horror. 

Unfortunately, while there is evidence that the creature was summoned, it appears that the necromancer died before it could be banished again.  From his scattered notes, the characters can discern that the necromancer had ordered the beast to murder several enemies of his in nearby towns.

This is an experiment in designing adventures in a format similar to that of the short “Tales of Terror” plots that have been used in horror-themed games.  In this format, a short adventure setup is followed by three different explanations, each leading in a different direction.  If enough of these are collected, a

Tales of Adventure

Codex will be assembled.

Those interested in seeing the original “Tales of Terror” using this format may wish to go to Steve Hatherley’s website:

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Comments ( 10 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Ria Hawk
December 21, 2006, 17:41
Neat. I like the ToT format, so I'll probably develop one or two myself... As for this, nice basis for an adventure, maybe two.
Voted valadaar
December 21, 2006, 19:20
Neat format - not as developed as most of your other subs, but excellent nonetheless!
December 21, 2006, 19:33
The intent of this format is to provide a brief plot; it's not the way to go if one is aching to get a 5.0 every time.
Voted Chaosmark
December 21, 2006, 20:06
Only voted
Voted Cheka Man
December 21, 2006, 21:34
I thought this was a scroll for people to make up what the vials contained.
December 21, 2006, 21:52
That's not a bad idea, Cheka. A scroll of mysterious liquids, powders, and pastes could be interesting. After all, how many times have PCs turned an alchemist's workshop inside out, looking for anything valuable.

In order to make it sound less like one of the list scrolls, I retitled this plot.
Voted manfred
December 22, 2006, 6:57
Short and sweet. I like this format for simple plot ideas that you can work with easily.
Voted Exile
December 22, 2006, 7:55
Really nice submission. I am very interested in explanation #1. That could be a very useful collection of items. I love how the answers are written in the hand of the deceased. I bet they could be used for some other nefarious purpose! Cool, really cool!
Voted Moonlake
March 9, 2009, 19:12
A fan of fantasy and mystery, so 0.5 added to the basic 3.5 for a short, sweet sub.
Voted RGTraynor
July 11, 2009, 10:35
Mm, I like it. (Heck, being devoid of ideas for today's run, I think I'll use it today.)

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