"Lycinia!" shouts Emmeline as she scurries into the study, "I've just had the most marvellous news! A letter arrived yesterday for father! Can you imagine who from? And what it said? Oh, you'll never guess! But he said yes!"
"Emmeline, calm down," says Lycinia. "This must be exciting news, for you've not addressed me in Elvish."
"Oh! Haven't I? It's just too exciting," says Emmeline. Then she composes herself, takes a deep breath, and begins again, slowly, and in the elfin tongue. "Lady Margiste is travelling homeward from a pilgrimage to the Monastery of the Blue stones. She's going to be stopping over for a night in Wandlebourne before sailing across the bay. And she's invited me to come stay with her for a month."
"Who is Lady Margiste?"
"She's the daughter of the Marquess of Limenne. A very fine Noble Lady of Quality, according to papa. And she's only my dearest friend in the world! And I do so love to visit; she lives in the loveliest old castle. They've a wonderful library, too, so I think you'll like it. You don't mind, do you, coming along that is? Only, papa wants you to go as my chaperone. He doesn't trust her brother's intentions, you see; he'd... well, he'd not make me his wife, you understand. Not that he's ever paid me a bit of notice! A right piece of work, is that one! But you know how papa is. You will come, won't you? Oh, please say you'll come! I'm ever so anxious for you to meet Lady Margiste!"
[In preparation for the adventure, Emmeline takes Lycinia into town for some shopping. Papa has given her 50sp to buy herself a new gown. Lycinia spends 3gp (150sp) on a really nice gown (one whose skirts can conceal a pistol, and provide reasonably easy access to it), 4 more nice dresses (they are going for a month - 25sp each), an ornamental scabbard (an elven lady is never without her sword - 50sp), and 12 apostles & a bag of shot (7sp). They spend 3 days making various preparations, packing (Lycinia insists on bringing the rapiers for practise), and waiting for the tailors to deliver the clothing.
Whilst they were out, I rolled two random encounters (in Cities). Nothing came of either of them, so I had almost stricken them from the record. But one of them may become important later, so I went into an older draft of the adventure notes (fortunately saved in email) in order to put them back.
encounter 1: Whilst strolling through the wealthy neighbourhood, Lycinia and Emmeline chance upon a group of seven private soldiers: muscle for one of the city factions, essentially a group of well-dressed thugs. They aren't in a particularly difficult mood, and let the ladies pass with a show of overblown gallantry.
encounter 2: As Emmeline is dragging Lycinia through the thoroughfares of the market district, the elf spots a townsman nailing a notice to a post. An important city guild (strangely unnamed) is recruiting hardy souls for an expedition, leaving two weeks from today, downriver from Finnsover, possibly as far as the ruins of-- Here it is that Emmeline grabs Lycinia's arm and pulls her on down the street. "I saw you looking at the notice," says Emmeline, "and I know how you ache for your life of adventure. But we'll be travelling out of the city very soon, and besides, we already have an urgent mission of our very own: I've got to find gloves that match my new gown. Else it's the end of the world!" And so saying, Emmeline drags a laughing elf down the street.
On the 3rd evening Lady Margiste arrives. To conclude the preliminaries, let's meet the NPCs.]
There are three in Lady Margiste's party. The Lady herself is a young woman of about Emmeline's age. She is tall and shapely; she's quite a bit more graceful, and certainly much prettier than Emmeline, but she can be excessively shallow and juvenile. She genuinely loves her dear friend Emmeline, but that love is not without a tinge of pity. Lady Margiste is seldom far from her governess, a formidable duenna, hawk-faced and eagle-eyed, whose withering stare, it is said, could stop a charging horse. The governess does, of course, have a name, but only answers to 'madam' -- and only when spoken in a polite tone. The third member of their party is their bodyguard, Gerdie, a freckled and baby-faced mercenary who wears her red hair in two long braids. Gerdie is an affable sort, whose common speech seems at odds with the finery in which she's clad. The governess prefers that she not speak in polite company, and Gerdie is actually afraid of her enough to comply. In town Gerdie wears leather armour and an elegant rapier. She feels more comfortable when they travel, with her longsword, heavy crossbow, and chainmail.
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP ML
Emmeline 16 11 8 14 8 9 4 7
Lady M 12 11 14 12 9 4 6 7
Governess 11 8 8 10 9 13 4 9
Gerdie 11 16 12 12 14 10 6* 7
* The first three NPCs are 0-level. Gerdie will be a fighter of level 1d4-1. I'm keeping it a mystery for now. If she's 0-level, then her hit points are as stated.
They arrive late in the evening, with only a single small bag between them, having sent the rest of their baggage on ahead to the ship. Emmeline does her excited best to entertain them, but the governess sends them on to bed early, as they have a full day of travel come the morrow.
[I'm running a Horror Theme adventure from Mythic Variations. It has a slightly different Event Focus table and a special rule that the Chaos Factor never goes down; it either rises or stays the same. The Chaos Factor starts at 4, and the first scene is always an ambiguous event.
The scenes are much shorter than the ones I've been playing. I'm going to present the Mythic scene information in a truncated form after the first, only noting the Chaos factor, Threads and NPC list when something changes.]
setup: Ambiguous Event (whilst travelling to Brightpool by boat)
Threads: travel to castle, chaperone Emmeline
NPCs: Emmeline, Lady Margiste, Lady M's governess, Gerdie, ship's captain & crew
That morning our band of travellers boards a cog, the Empress Marava, in Wandlebourne's harbour, and sets sail across the bay bound for the town of Brightpool. They are the only passengers, having paid the captain extra for the privilege. There is a stiff wind, and the captain anticipates a swift voyage. Lycinia has never been in a ship like this before. She wants to remain above deck for the voyage and watch, but after about 15 minutes the cold and the biting wind forces her below.
[They need to sail 12 hexes (24 miles). I rolled a strong wind: movement rate doubled but there is a 10% chance to take on water. Fortunately, the ship avoids this hazard, and the encounter check also comes up No Encounter. Onto the Ambiguous Event (Gratify / Extravagance) which begins the horror...]
Lycinia descends into the ship to find Lady Margiste avidly digging through one of her travelling trunks, much to the dismay of her governess, who scolds her for making a mess of their clean linens. Gerdie is making herself scarce, Emmeline is watching with undue interest.
"Here it is!" exclaims Lady Margiste, triumphantly holding a small wooden box aloft. "My dearest Emmeline, I've brought you a present." Emmeline can barely contain her excitement, and holds her hands out expectantly. But her friend is insensible to this, and continues. "Since my brother was away, father let me have a rummage through mother's jewellery box and wear what I like round the castle. He likes it. He thinks it's a way of keeping her memory alive. I don't understand the endless objections that-- oh, but you've heard this before, and I shouldn't get off topic. Not when you're going to absolutely burst from suspense if I don't show you the gift. Well, before we left for the pilgrimage, one day I found a strange necklace amongst all of mother's jewels. It wasn't hers, I'm sure of it. One of the servants must have found it and just assumed that it was, and put it in with the rest. It's very lovely, but I could never wear it. I look hideous in gold! But you, my dear one, oh, you've just the colouration! Here, let me put it on you."
So saying, Lady Margiste opens the box to reveal a glittering golden necklace with beads of carnelian. She fastens it around Emmeline's neck and then steps back to admire it. Emmeline is tearing up with joy. Lady Margiste finds a small mirror and hands it to Emmeline that she may see herself in it. After a few moments, she exclaims, "I love it!" and throws her arms round her friend who returns the embrace with true sweetness, but also just a little bit of self-satisfaction. After a minute, Emmeline says, "I absolutely must see it again." As she pulls back to admire herself once more, Lady Margiste's elbow accidentally knocks the mirror from Emmeline's hand. It falls to the deck, shattering the glass.
"Ooh, bad luck," says Gerdie.
setup: travel to castle by horse
NPCs: Emmeline, Lady Margiste, Lady M's governess, Gerdie (removed the ship's crew)
Once landed at Brightpool, the travellers waste no time in procuring horses and setting out immediately. If they make good time, it should be less than a half-day's ride to the castle.
[random encounter: a gargoyle, in the hex right before the river
Reaction roll is 4, Unfriendly.
Q: Is it a Wizard's Guild agent? 50/50: 30, Yes.
Q: What is its mission? Judge / Adversities (doing reconnaissance)
Q: Has Lady M's family pissed off the guild or one of its members? 50/50: 61, No.]
As they are approaching the river, a shadow falls over them. A monstrous, bat-winged gargoyle is flying overhead. Seeing them, it circles once, then descends before them, blocking their path. The massive beast stands nearly 9 feet tall, and flexing its wings appears even larger.
The riders stop short. Gerdie rides to the fore, and issues challenge, "Stand aside in the name of the Marquess of Limenne! We have no dispute wi' ye."
[UNE: hostile-surrender-wealth] "Puny, fleshy creatures," says the gargoyle in a voice that sounds like stones grating against one another, "give me some of your shiny baubles and I'll go away." It flexes its claws menacingly.
[Initiative: PCs 5, gargoyle 4. It's now time to figure out Gerdie's level. She turns out to be a (1d4-1=) 3rd level fighter, with 20hp.]
AC 16, HD 4, HP 19, MV 90' ground or 150' fly, Attacks 4 (2 claws, bite, horns), Damage 1d3/1d3/1d6/1d4, ML 11, Save F8, Special: only hit by magic weapons
Lycinia has already decided that diplomacy will be useless. She spurs her horse and charges. She swings her sword as she rides past, catching the gargoyle full in the chest, which cracks open at the impact of the enchanted blade [8x2=16 damage. It's down to 3hp]. The gargoyle whirls about as she streaks by, grabbing at her arm with its claw and just catching her shoulder with one of its horns. She is nearly unhorsed, but the injuries are not severe [claw 2 damage, horn 1; she's down to 13hp]. The beast has turned its back on Gerdie, who strikes at it with her longsword, right between its shoulders. With a clang! the sword rebounds off its stony hide.
Lycinia twists in the saddle and brings her sword down right upon the gargoyle's forehead. It stumbles backward, then collapses in a pile of rubble [4 damage brought it to -1hp].
Lycinia rides back to resume her place next to Emmeline. "It's days like this," she says, "that are why I am teaching you to use the rapier."
setup: Altered - (was: arrive, settle in)
NPCs: Emmeline, Lady Margiste, Lady M's governess, Gerdie
Château Télème is a stalwart pile of grey stone which broods across the plains of the March of Limenne. The curtain walls have been the better of many a besieging army in days past, and still look to best another in days to come. Lady Margiste's father, the Marquess of Limenne, holds the title handed down from eldest child to eldest child ever since the first of his ancestors conquered these lands for the Kingdom long ago. As the travellers ride over the drawbridge and through the front gate, Lycinia catches sight of the painted and gilt escutcheon hanging over the entryway, bearing as ti does a curious motto written in an archaic form of the common tongue: ki veuil, doit (Qui veut, doit).
"Little wonder," she thinks, "that Terentius doesn't trust Lady Margiste's brother around his daughter!"
The courtyard is empty. There isn't even a soldier to be seen on the battlements. Lady Margiste seems perturbed, but is doing her best to put on a brave face. Lycinia notices her reaction, but says nothing [I use Search for general Perception rolls (which years of Call of Cthulhu always make me want to call Spot Hidden); Lycinia is the only one who passed her check].
When they enter the castle proper, they find that everyone inside is in a state of confusion bordering on panic. Lady Margiste sees Franval, her father's valet, scurry by, and grabs him by the arm. "What's going on?" she asks tremulously.
[This is a horror adventure, so someone ought to be dead. Using the d30 Sandbox Companion's Noble Household Officers table comes up with: Laundry.]
"One of the maids has been found dead in the laundry, my lady," says Franval, a dapper man of about 50, looking almost like a stage-player in his velvet livery. The sigh with which he delivers this news does nothing to dispel the illusion.
"Light God protect us!" says Lady Margiste. "But I was afraid you were going to say that Father's condition had worsened. Or... But what did happen?"
[Q: Is foul play suspected? Somewhat likely: 99, Exceptional No +Event: NPC Action - valet - Lie / Hope]
"The foolish girl went and hanged herself! And so soon after the last suicide. Such a mess you've come home to, my lady! But your father is improving, don't you fret. I wager he'll see a few more winters after this one!"
[Q: Does Lady M believe him? Somewhat likely: 53, No. Her reaction (UNE): scheming - arrangement - rewards]
Lady Margiste flushes at his words and clenches her fists. "Telling me lies so I'll keep you on after he's gone will get you nowhere! Perhaps you'd better work on my brother instead. And just where is he at a time like this?"
[Q: Does the valet know? Likely: 40, Yes: a random hex]
"He's at Castle Uldmere."
[Mythic: Take / Peace]
"He's trying to end the siege through diplomacy."
"That doesn't sound at all like my brother!"
"He left with a scroll bearing the seal of the King himself."
"What is going on here?" demands the governess. "Where is everyone? How have you let things get into this deplorable state?"
"And did I hear you say there have been two suicides?" asks Lycinia.