Chapter Two: Trebonshire Forest (3)
In this encounter, your party finds tracks of the bandits. (Should none of your characters possess the skill tracking, you can tell them that the highwaymen aren’t very good at hiding their tracks. It doesn’t jibe too well with their having eluded capture this long; but you can make up a story that today was an exception for some reason.)
These tracks could be footprints, broken off twigs, or perhaps a coin or two scattered on the ground.
The party can now follow the track to the bandits’ lair. The lair is on a small clearing, some thirty feet in diameter – just enough for them to have built a campfire and put down their gear. What little there is of the latter; they move quickly so they don’t bother with lugging around lots of stuff. The most recent loot is in bags by the campfire, in view of all the bandits at the lair. (Each will receive his share by the bandit leader, once the loot is brought to the leader’s hide-out.)
The bandits have posted two guards in the direction of the road – incidentally the direction from where the characters are coming. Now, if the party is cunning, they will try to take out the guards first, without alarming the rest of the bandits, if possible.
How to do that?
One way is for a character with the hunting skill to sneak up to the guards and attack them from behind, trying to cut the throat with one stroke. (Of course, since it is two guards, there ought to be two of your characters doing this.) For this, roll a check against hunting. If it succeeds, the character is close enough to attack her victim from behind.
Note: If none of your characters has chosen the hunting skill, they may try to sneak up to the guards as well. Of course their chances are considerably less – in fact, they are half of the hunting skill. Since that skill starts at 35+Intelligence Bonus, an unskilled character may roll a check against half that value.
Now the character can make a called attack (cf. Game Master’s Guide) to the head of his victim. (The player can decide whether he wants to try to cut his victim’s throat or just to knock him unconscious. No matter what his decision, the rules for a called attack apply.)
Another way is to attack the guards with a long range weapon, such as a longbow. The character(s) trying this method need not possess the hunting skill, but they need to check whether they have a clean shot at the guards while still hidden from them. Have the players roll a check against their attributes of intelligence and agility whether they succeed at this.
Then they can attack the guards and try to take them out.
If the guards have been eliminated successfully, the party can now try to sneak to the lair of the bandits – perhaps try to surround them, so that every character has a clean line of attack. (Ideally, the party will try to position their members with long range weapons so that they can fire a couple of arrows or bolts into the bandits’ middle. That way they might be able to take down one or two more of the bandits, before the mélée starts.)
At any rate, check again whether the sneaking is successful. (See above for more information.)
If the party manages to surprise the bandits, the highwaymen cannot parry for two rounds. The explanation is that most of them are sitting on the ground when the party attacks; first they have to get up, then over come the shock. (What they can do is attack after the first round. It’s the first thing on each bandit’s mind, and only the second thought goes to defense.)
Now that the bandits have been vanquished, the party will want to secure the necklace that was stolen from the courier, Nemchek. Unfortunately, as I have already pointed out, the necklace isn’t with the bandits. The party will have to find out where it is, and several ways are pointed out below.
But first let’s deal with the…
Although the bandits don’t have much with them, there are a few items of interest. First off, there is – naturally enough – money. The characters have to ransack the bodies of their slain enemies to find a number of gold coins.
To determine how much they put together, follow this guide:
There are also two special magical items:
This item looks like a simple blue linen cape, with a copper clasp that has a rune-like symbol engraved in it. But it has a tremendous effect in battle, for it creates the illusion of a doppleganger of the wearer three feet away. The illusion is perfect (but can, of course, be counterchecked with the proper skills or class abilities). The doppleganger will match any movements taken by the original, e.g. walking or striking a sword. When it hits a solid surface, it passes through it.
The wearer uses this illusion to distract the opponent. In the best of cases, only the doppleganger is attacked, while the wearer can safely launch her own attack.
The cape is activated when the clasp’s rune is pushed vigorously. The effect lasts for five minutes, or until the rune is pushed once more.
After using the effect, the cape needs a while to recharge: After two (normal, not combat) rounds it is ready for use again.
Amulet of Power
Made of silver, it looks rather unassuming. There are runes in the magical writing on its back, while in its front has been etched a relief of a historic battle scene. It has gone through some wear and tear, and right now it is well hidden under the clothes of one of the slain bandits.
In order to find it, the characters need to specifically search for other items aside from money.
Should they find it, make a special note that there are runes on the back. This should draw the attention of any wizard in the group; she can read the magical language, after all. If she tries to read the writing, it says, “Made of silver am I, yet no coins value me, for the strength of Namuras I lend to my wearer in dearest peril. The one time, feel the grand wizard’s strength, and recall it for your life.”
What does the amulet do? As the writing indicates, it grants its wearer magical strength – i.e. TL points -, but only once. After the TL points contained in the amulet have been expanded, there is only the silver left (value = 30 sp).
The amulet provides 50 TL points.
The easiest way to introduce what happened is to have one of the bandits survive, at least enough that he can – literally – cough out the details. Your party will quickly survey that the necklace is missing, and so it should be logical to question any surviving bandit.
That should cover this option nicely. The party now has all the information it needs to proceed, i.e. go to the river island, fight the bandit leader and get the necklace.
In the meantime, the matter of the surviving highwayman has to be taken care of. Despite the blusterous threats before, the party probably is not up to just murdering the bandit outside of a fight. So they are left with these options:
· Let the bandit go: Pretty easy and straightforward, but this is a highwayman who’s done his share of killing innocent passersby, so this option isn’t a great solution.
· Tie his hands and take him along for the trip: Not a great solution, either. The bandit shall be brought to justice – presumably at Clearspring -, but he’ll encumber the party throughout the trip.
· Tie him to a tree (or use some other mode to keep him in place) and fetch him on the way back from the river island: In this case, the bandit would still be brought back to Clearspring to face trial, but he wouldn’t prove cumbersome to the party. On the other hand, there is the possibility that the highwayman could escape – or that some beast of the forest could decide to make a quick meal of him. Then of course the party would have to face the fact that they are responsible for his death.
(Any other, better ideas by the party are to be applauded.)
Alternative methods of information
Unfortunately there’s also a very good chance that the party has been a little too efficient in their fight against the bandits, so that none is left alive to conveniently provide the story. In that case, you need to provide the party with clues so that they can piece together where the necklace can be found.
Try placing a few tell-tale items on the bodies of the slain bandits (each item on a different body). Taken together they paint a complete picture, and the party needs to put their minds into gear to figure out how to go on in the adventure. (It was the party who didn’t leave anybody alive, did they? Very inconvenient.)
The items are:
· Area map, roughly scribbled, with river island marked by a circle
· A ledger (small) containing a list of items that are either crossed out or circled with the note “HO” (which stands for “Hideout”) written next to it. Among the items marked with “HO” is one necklace, presumably the one your party is looking for.
· Notes or diary, in which one bandit wrote down how angry he was that the bandit leader always gets the entire loot and pays them in coins. “Everything to the hideout?! Why?!”
You are free to change these items or add new ones that you feel are more interesting. Remember that the bandits need a reason to carry these clues with them – a reason aside from providing their killers with the needed information. The bandits might not have fully trusted the bandit leader, or – in the case of the map – that highwayman probably didn’t trust his own navigational skills.
Give each item a bit of thought why it was created in the first place. You might want to tell your party about it, but you should do so only if it seems necessary – or if the players ask.
Either way, the party should by now have learned that the necklace is on the river island, along with the bandit leader who is alone.
Which should raise one or two eyebrows around your gaming table. One man, with a lot of money? It may not exactly be a vast fortune, but it would surely be a nice catch for a thief or some other bandits. Nonetheless the bandit leader seems very secure in his place…
The party should now head towards the river island, six miles to the north, further through Trebonshire Forest – and into the next chapter.