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: http://www.talesofterror.net