The Meerschaum Smoking Man
A sage is a well known repository of knowledge, a researcher of ancient lore. But knowledge is power, and a commodity to be brokered and sold to the highest bidder. The meershaum smoking man is such a dealer of antiquities and of lore unknown, but he is wrapped in a shroud of secrecy of his own. Can the PCs divine his ulterior motives, or is he a wizened, albeit elusive, sage?
Amulet of Mists - This simple silver amulet serves to mask the presence of the Meershaum Smoking man. As long as he wears the amulet, he is immune to scrying, divinations, as well as to mind and emotion reading spells. To such information gathering spells he is a non-entity. Should the amulet be taken from him by some means, it will shatter into silver dust as it will serve but one master.
The Meerschaum This hardwood pipe has been darkened by years of use, seasoned by the special blend of tobacco and herbs burned in it. The aromatic blend works with the pipe to create a mild euphoric effect. As long as someone is breathing in the smoke they are emotionally subdued, and not prone to outbursts of anger, or almost never inclined to violence. The fume even makes the casting of magic less appealing, at that specific time. After an encounter, the mage might slap his forehead and curse that he forgot to cast a Detect Motive spell on the MSM. This, with the amulet form the core of his defences.
The Meerschaum smoking man has piercing grey eyes and black hair, always precisely combed. He is well dressed in sombre charcoal, gray, or black clothing, favoring elegant frock coats, white silk undershirts, and small gold cufflinks, and buttons. Aside from the ever present, and lit meershaum, or pipe, he carries a walking cane and moves with the hint of a limp. He carries himself not the air of a researcher or academecian, but that of an aristocrat, someone born and bred into power.
He is conservative by nature, outwardly suporting the status quo, King, and country. When speaking, his voice is even, and has a pleasant timbre. He will do his best to set his clients at ease when they are in his presence, offering brandy, tobacco to those with pipes, or other comforts. aside from the meershaum, he himself never partakes of any food or drink he offers.
The Meershaum Smoking man is an aristocrat, with substancial financial resources, as well as contacts within the King's court, the guilds, and the military. There are also likely to be strong ties to at least one major magic using group, or more.
The MSM is a member of a larger conspiratorial organization, one that he serves through influencing outside parties to act in his or the organization's behalf. He will always answer the questions of the PCs truthfully, but there is likely to be some bias to the information, a hook or prod to move the PCs in the right direction. He will never answer any question about himself and admonish the PCs to politely mind their own business.
Meeting the MSM can sometimes be a challenge as he doesnt keep a shop, or any other known location. He will have a number of contacts that the PCs can approach and inquire about his whereabouts, but these will not know that information. A few hours to a day or so after they start looking, they will encounter him. There will always be a quiet table, adequate room for chairs, and the mid scent of the herb smoked in his meershaum.
After pleasantries are exchanged, he will listen to their questions, or appraise what items they have recovered. He will answer what he can on site, and perform the normal tasks of a sage. Further pleasantries will be exchanged, and the MSM will leave the PCs with something to think about while he makes his exit.
An example: The PCs find the MSM and inquire about the Myth of the Haunted Castle. He would inform them of the myths, likely what they have already learned on their own. Then he would provide the beef of what they want to know, that the Haunted Castle is real, and where they might find it. After recieving his nominal fee for services rendered, he will add his own twist. Perhaps there is a certain item in the Haunted Castle that he would like to have for his personal collection, he would be grateful if the PCs would be kind enough to bring it back to him. Such antiquities will seldom be weapons, but more often will be books, pieces of artwork, other things that could be one of a kind powerful magic items, but seemingly important to the PCs.
Seek out the Haunted Castle, defeat its ghostly defenders, and take all the loot the horses can carry. If the man asks for something like an ornamental black glass bowl, why not, no loss to the PCs. If they repeatedly fail to deliver these seeming tokens, their support from the MSM will evaporate.
The Ulterior Motive (Optional)
The Meershaum Smoking Man supports a powerful racist organization, and will work to the detriment of non-humans. For the most part this is unlikely to upset the PCs too much as most are going to be humans themselves. Kill some orcs, steal treasure from goblins, plunder the dragon's horde, all in a days work.
It could turn darker quickly. Elves, gnomes, dwarves, halfings, and the half-human children of cross-breeding would also be considered non-humans. Non-Humans in the Pc party will be treated politely, but it is evident that the MSM dislikes them. Their questions will be answered last, and with the minimum amount of effort.
The organization wants to eliminate the threat of non-humans corrupting and overthrowing human self rule. They hold elves and orcs with equal dislike. The orcs would destroy civilization, while the elves with their immortal, or near immortal intelligences could alter and corrupt the brief lives of men to suit their own whims.
Two important notes.
1. The organization is focused on improving the lot of humanity and seldom engages in hunting down and killing non-humans. Orcs are often the exception to this rule as they come looking for trouble. Think cloak and dagger, inner machinations and layers of mystery.
2. If you don't like the organization having a racist theology, it isn't hard to import some other idea to be their core principle. Perhaps this organization works for the betterment of one certain kingdom, or supports harmony and unity by collecting dangerous items and binding or destroying them. This is what they were in my game, not what they have to be in yours. The MSM can be an enigmatic figure that raises questions as he answers them, or a tool character to steer the PCs in the right dirction.
Basic - the PCs meet the Meershaum smoking man for the first time, a seemingly innocuous location at a tavern, bar, or at personal invitation. He offers his services in exchange for either favors (fetch, delivery, protect, etc) or rates that are lower than that of the sage's guild.
Basic - Seeing the Pattern. As a favor, the PCs are delivering a package for the MSM to an associate of his. The associate serves the same masters and has similar methods to the MSM. Everything is gracious, and likely a short and non-violent encounter, but the PCs should start to get the feeling of a larger organization behind the mysterious sage.
Complex - The PCs unexpectedly encounter the MSM. He gives them a warning. Perhaps an assassin has been sent after them, or they have drawn the ire of someone in power. Rather than loose a valuable asset, the MSM seeks to warn them and turn them against their hunters. More cloak and dagger.
Complex - The organization is steeped in mystery, so much that no one knows who is in charge, not even the MSM. The MSM learns the truth about one of the leaders, and must approach the PCs to pass on this valuable bit on information, or to seek aslyum from his previous employers.
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? Responses (6)
A Mirror character at its finest. The character is not a cypher copy, but has as much depth, if not more, than the original. A good application of mystery, magic, and technique as well. The items would be required to get the same effect in a more magical milieu.
Pourous white mineral, eh? A good character.
Now THAT was a series ripe for mining ideas....
A good 'informant' type NPC with his own ulterior motives.
*Commented on for the Commenting Challenge.