The train of six big wagons takes up position just left of the entrance to the fair grounds late in the afternoon. With a skill evidently born of long practice the roustabouts set up the tents and booths so that everything will be ready for the morning. Then they retire to their wagons for the evening, but a few lanterns glow late into the night, showing that at least some of the newcomers are still awake...
All is not what it seems, though. The troupe is actually group of spies and agents provocateurs from the realm's most dangerous enemy. Some of the shenanigans to be expected include:
- A linguist-sage whose "shtick" lies in guessing your background and history from the way you pronounce certain words, and the words and phrases that you habitually use. (There are real-world linguists who have this sort of skill.) His real interest is the questions he asks while you are distracted by his cleverness, making your reveal more about you and your town than you would like an enemy to know.
- A fortune teller who casts mind control spells on the servants and staff of local big-wigs to make them dish on their bosses. This lets the "seer" produce more impressive readings, and gets her more information.
- Devious social engineering: plays and skits that mock the local power structures in ways designed to encourage disaffection. These are based on the intel from the above schemes. This is a very obscure sort of stratagem: only the most dangerous enemy realms could come up with this plan. If the GM is kind, he might allow someone to overhear the Players plotting in their foreign language.
- A House of Horrors which has real ghosts and ghouls when a local person is to be "terminated with extreme prejudice", as decided by the distant spymasters. (The real night-creatures are replaced of course by actors when the inevitable investigation begins: "I'm sorry our little game was so convincing that your Baron scared himself to death, sir.")(Note again the sly dig at the quality of the local leadership.)
- Corrupt games which could include:
- weighted targets, so the balls do not knock them down easily.
- typical scams like the three cup game, card sharping, etc.
- mentalist acts which actually involve the prior theft of documents and goods, etc.(The accomplice sees John the Smith's wallet with a picture of a young woman and asks him about her (It turns out to be his dead sister, who died last year.) Then the mentalist announces, "I have a message for John the Smith, from his sister.")
- Horse thieves, apparently not connected with the troupe (possibly some of the anonymous crowd of roustabouts), that hide their takings in carefully chosen locations to throw suspicion on selected individuals.
- Cheating skillfully executed by card-sharpers and the like (in a clumsy-looking fashion so as to be found out, or planting of cards on another card player) could lead to a small riot at the fair, tainting the various parties with bad reputations, hefty bills for damages both legal and physical, and wasted time, to say the least. Some of the PCs might be caught in the middle of one of these altercations, forcing them to delay their own plans for a while.
There could even be hangers-on to these Players ("wheels within wheels"):
- Gwiyodhunas cultists might haunt the fairgrounds after dark, looking for victims. For a real twist, perhaps the Players could appeal to the PCs for protection from the vampires, while they continue their spying.
- The ghouls and ghosts might get out for some unscheduled hunting/haunting of their own.
- Local pickpockets or thieves might accidentally get hold of some damning document from the Players and (for a pardon or plea-bargain) turn it in to the authorities.
Other possibilities :
- A message to or from the distant realm might go astray--perhaps a carrier pigeon is shot down by a hunter, or perhaps the courier accidentally delivers the message to one of the PCs who happens to match the description given to him by the spymasters.
- The Players erroneously assassinate a local figure in a case of mistaken identity ("Oops, wrong Baron!")