A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    The small town of Reggia is a winter spa for the wealthy. Nobles escape the icy cold winters in their stone cities to visit the warm microclimate of the Valley of One Hundred Caves, and their hot springs, which range from the scalding mineral waters of the upper valley to the tepid pools of Reggia Park.

    Last winter Lord Dearon, his lady, and the Merchant Chaffetz vanished in what was widely considered to be an assassination plot, though no cause, nor any culprit, could be identified.

    With the spring, the incident was put on the back burner and life went on as usual. Though not forgotten, there just didn't seem to be anything anyone could do about it.

    Within days of the new season's winter arrivals, however, the much loathed Lord Exchecquer Rambod, Subduke of Garancery, vanished. The king sent Magus Lord Nihl to investigate, but the realm's most renowned wizard was unable to find a cause for the vanishing.

    The town's reliance on winter visits from the wealthy has caused the local economy to collapse as the elite shy away, cancel their reservations, and abandon the town. With many local workers fleeing to other towns seeking work in order to feed their families, the local population of almost a thousand is already decimated, with virtually all of the seasonal workers devoted to catering to the wealthy simply not arriving this season. Less than 1 in 10 of the usual winter visitors have made the trip, and few have stayed long after realizing the spa workers, chefs, party organizers, and nobility would not be there to make their visit memorable.

    The local Business Council has agreed that if the source of the problem cannot be identified and eliminated, the town will fail and become a ghost town.

    Geography

    The Reggia River, (never much more than a creek, really,) runs Southward down a slope with steep hills and cliffs facing southward and gentle slopes facing North. Tall ridges East and West of the valley and the canyon carved by the alkaline water of the river create a natural bowl which traps the winter sun and blocks winter winds. In the coldest of times, fogs envelop the valley and trap the heat, creating very mild winters within the roughly three mile long by two mile wide valley.

    The so-called Hundred Caves are the headwater grottoes of perhaps thirty tributary branches of the river which trap heat and form natural saunas. These hot springs are more intense upslope, becoming less hot as the river meanders South. At the Southernmost end of the valley sits the town of Reggia, and from it cart roads lead upslope to the thirty spas which form the backbone of the local economy.

    The river itself is trapped as it passes through the town by seven ponds which are used by locals and poor visitors for bathing. Unsubstantiated claims of their healing powers have often been debunked, but rumors persist. In the current climate few but the most desperate care to test them.

    The Offer

    The Reggia Council, with support of eleven of the spas, has offered a bounty of 5000 gold for the person or group that can solve the mystery of the vanishing. If the bodies, or at least material evidence of The Vanished can be produced, their wealthy families may be grateful enough to offer awards independently.

    Next: what about the locals, clues, and possible avenues of investigation?

    Act 1

    Having heard of the town's delimma, and offer, a variety of adventurous folk arrive to begin to investigate.

    Garton, Squire Fogg, owner of the Reggia Winter Gates Estates, and Chairman of the Reggia Business Council, greets the group of adventurers and gives them a synopsis of the above information. He then introduces Magus Lord Nihl, to answer their questions, presented as the single most informed person in the valley.

    She appears bored, and her answers seem to verge on sarcastic. As a Lord of the Realm, she seems to be too pretentious to care what the adventurers know or do. She seems certain that at best, they will discover nothing, and may themselves vanish as they go looking.
    The truth is, she knows nothing, and has spent her time complaining about her involuntary exile from the capitol while overindulging in alcohol as she pretends to be casting deviation spells she does not know in the privacy of her luxury suite, (charged to the crown's expense account.)

    It appears that the adventurers will have to find their own information.

    Team Up!
    The PCs form a group, of course, and Woodsong Greeble wishes to join with them. Woodsong is a halfling bard of a level lower than the lowest level party member, and she appears timid and shy, but very observant.

    Helmod Fargam is a warrior, son of a farmer, and out to prove himself. He gathers a band of four others, Gen Durst, a sorceress, Hiram Black, an evangelical priest, Lim Warsel, a city urchin barely of age, and Udro, a halfling of little distinction.

    Curly Watts is a half-elf with severe male pattern baldness and a huge smile. His team consists of Tren, an exotic human who dresses in dark red silks, Frie Lallassa, an elf wizard, and Cellwynn Tlassir, a gnome with stained fingertips and a strangely boxy backpack full of potions.

    Waithe is a dwarven ranger whose 400 pound,(180kg) boar-friend is equipped as if it was a heavy cavalry horse. The boat is more polite than it's ranger.

    Aria and Boccherini are human twins, one with blonde hair and eyebrows, the other with strawberry hair and eyebrows. Aria carries a broad axe but wears no armor, while Boccherini wears hide armor but carries no weapons. Both appear to be sorcerer's, or multiclass sorcerors.

    The teams may talk among themselves, or not. The PCs set the tone of cooperative communication by their example. Woodsong, if rejected by the PCs, will team up with any group except Curly"s.

    The teams split up and begin their investigations.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-07-22 at 09:22 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    I am not particularly interested in games with a prepared plot any more, but so far, your adventure sounds intriguing. I think it is a better way to create adventures around the involved factions, the motivation an resources of these stakeholders and interesting locales, rather than determine events (or worse, predetermine their outcome), but your concept sounds neat so far. The setting might be a little too modern ski resort for my taste, but otherwise it looks good

    Also, rivaling adventuring groups are always a nice touch, giving the PCs somebody to compete with, and a reservoire of replacement PCs if the quest proved more challenging than anticipated.
    Play the world, not the rules. Numbers don't add up to a game - ideas do.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    The ski resort theme is intentional, but DMs can change things up to suit their own themes.

    Some areas the PCs may visit:

    White Estate
    This is one of the older resorts in the valley. Originally an estate for a wealthy noble family, it was converted to commercial use about 60 years ago as the winter vacationers became more common. Heated by steam, the massive 120 room estate is built over a grotto which is part steam bath, part caldarium. The hot spring is cooled by a series of artificial falls, but the lowest pools are warm even in the cold of winter.
    The White Estate had several critical foundation issues which required it to be closed before the previous vacation season as builders excavate and shore up the building prior to it being renovated. The newest guest rooms are functional, and limited catering is available, but the resort amenities are off limits.
    The estate management is a sponsor of the offered reward even though they project a three to five year renovation that must be completed before the estate can reopen.

    Golden Door
    An extremely simple structure controls access to an ampitheater which at it's bottom opens into a crescent-shaped cave. The sand and gravel floor fans out to a pond which is not-quite too hot for bathing. A practice of this resort is to bury patrons in warm sand for skin and joint health. Thirty small huts house guests, with a large rectangular hall used to host parties and for communal dining.

    Amras' Garden
    A greenhouse is the central feature of this estate. Its glass panel roof covers a ravine that contains at least eight natural pools fed from a steam vent's runoff. Thirty suites are built into the wall of the ravine in small townhouse structures of three to seven guest quarters. At the foot of the ravine a large dome encloses the largest of the winter gardens which flow from the topmost enclosure all the way down the ravine. Outside this glass avenue and concealed by its buttressed walls are steam pipes which feed into the town with sufficient steam flow to heat half of the buildings and their associated saunas and baths.

    Clan Tradaon House
    This establishment appears to be more of a fort than a house. Its central feature is a large courtyard with a rectangular mudpool surrounded by steps, three above and five below the surface of the mud. A roofed arcade surrounds the hot mud pool. Around the courtyard are the guest rooms, and there are smaller hot pools inside the lower parts of the estate, with a warm waterfall on the South side of the courtyard used by mud-bathers to clean off after soaking in the heat.

    Most of the other resorts are typical brick or stone estates with single rooms for guests and communal dining, grooming, and recreation facilities. The more elite establishments are located farther uphill from the town, and they tend to offer more amenities. Closer to town the amenities are more standardized and are available for day-use or for pay-per-service.

    Within the town itself are the homes and businesses of those who make the tourist trade possible. Almost every building has partitioned attics, basements, and any other unused space for seasonal workers to rent, along with recreations which specifically cater to them. The town of five hundred can triple in size in the winter, not counting the guests, which can be as much as twice the town's population at any one time.

    The average seasonal worker is employed for four months, while the average guest stays less than a week. Elite guests may stay for several weeks, but very few stay over the entire season.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-08-02 at 08:42 PM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Act 1: Offers And Ideas
    The PCs are invited to White Estate to learn about the terms of the offer and the available evidence.

    Scene 1: The Empty Resort Town
    Entering the town, there is a noticeable absence of activity. The town itself is clean and well kept compared to more commercially oriented locations, but fewer than 1000 people are in it, with fewer than 100 guests. Finding accommodations would be the first order of business.

    Tourist quarters start at 10gp/day per person and go up.
    Worker quarters start at 10gp/month for private quarters and 1gp/week for communal quarters. If the PCs search, they can find an attic partitioned by quilts into ten bedrooms, warmed by a kitchen hearth smokestack that runs up through the center of the room. The Widow Frida will rent the space to the party for 5gp/week, including breakfast. There is an interior stair to the dining room and an exterior stair, somewhat rickety, to a gable door.

    The Widow's back yard is tiny, but has an unused carriage house which can be used as a stable for an extra gp. Fodder and animal care is not provided.

    There are, of course, other offers, but the town relies on tourists, which means prices are inflated. Let the PCs describe what they want, then let them find it for a marginally high price. The town has 1/4 of its expected seasonal workers and 1/10th of its expected guests, with more than 10% of the local population having left in search of work.

    There are no jobs available. Some of the resorts may put PCs or rival group NPCs on staff without pay if the players want to go that route.

    Scene 2: The White Estate
    Many years are built into this sprawling structure. Each section of construction is of a different style, from the stone keep built as a fortification over the hot spring grotto made of dressed field stone to the brick facade of the garden arcades to the polished limestone curtain walls enclosing the elegant slate-roofed beam and brick cabins. The meeting place is a marble-walled great hall at the end of a compacted river gravel path which butts against the steep slope beneath the family keep. A large kitchen built to incorporate a natural dry steam vent can serve up to a hundred, but this evening's fare is limited to the leftovers of the thirty construction workers who are leaving as the adventurers arrive. This crew is involved in the complex engineering of the foundation of the keep, and their work and the grotto's instability have made the use of the cave unsafe.

    The Magus Lord Nihl sits at one end of the table reserved for ten local resort owners, of whom five show for the meeting. He appears to be angry, hung over, or both, and his consumption of wine lends to the impression that he spends most of his time getting drunk. If directly spoken to he will reply in a surly tone, usually with an uninformative answer. It becomes quite clear that the renowned Magus Lord knows nothing of interest to the party, (though it is possible he has spells or magic items to sell.)

    The owners try to hold a meeting, but as each discloses what they know, it is soon apparent they, too, have no idea what is going on. What is known:
    The famous people who have vanished are not the only victims. Since the start of last season at least fifteen commoner tourists and workers have vanished as well. Indeed, this unreported fact is the most likely cause of so many of the seasonal workers staying away.
    Almost all of the vanishings have occurred at the five most prestigious resorts, (excepting the White Estate, which closed most of its operations before the start of the season.) Two vanishings occurred elsewhere. A 'relaxation therapist' vanished, apparently from her room, and a skin condition sufferer vanished from the semi-public healing mudpools.
    After this information is imparted and the terms of the reward offer is restated, the resort owners fall to petty bickering and the Magus Lord stalks out carrying a bottle of wine, bringing the meeting to an end.

    The PCs may attempt to ask questions of the bickering petty nobles or Magus before the party ends, but soon they are left with a buffet of cheap food, very little wine and beer, and the company of their rivals.

    Clever adventurers may take a moment to size up the competition or make friends.

    Scene 3: The Resorts
    Given free reign to explore, if not actually invited into the private areas or offered the use of the amenities, the PCs begin to search the resorts and question the locals for clues.

    The vast majority of the local people feel trapped. They cannot afford to go elsewhere, but are afraid they might be next.

    The vast majority of the guests scrimped and saved for a vacation in winter paradise, only to be cheated by deserted resorts with over-priced facilities and services. This group generally feels that the vanishings are a lie created to cover for greedy resort owners who gouge gullible simple folk for their meager savings.

    Speaking to the locals, rumors that can commonly be heard include:

    There are between twenty and fifty 'vanished'. (The more people spoken to, the more obvious it becomes that nobody knows how many, but that nobody believes the official count.) Most of the claims involve seasonal workers, some include less wealthy guests or healing seekers.

    If closely questioned, nobody knows any locals who have vanished.

    The only resort, (not including guest houses or inns,) that has not had anyone vanish is the White Estate, but there are currently very few guests due to the repairs.

    Apparently unrelated, but interesting, (should be told as a local gossiping,) is the sighting of some kind of ghost. Teens out late and playing in the public tepid ponds near the center of town woke several neighbors and attracted the local constables when they began to scream just after midnight, but nobody else saw the ghost, and it has been officially dismissed as a prank.

    Several townsfolk are discussing leaving the valley. Whether cursed, targeted by malign entities, or victimized by criminals, the town doesn't seem safe. Some claim those who already left got the good jobs in the nearby villages and towns, while others claim there isn't enough work to sustain them since the tourists failed to come this season.

    A rumor that an elemental, water or steam, is angry that it's springs have been defiled and is getting revenge. Some presume that the resorts accidentally woke or liberated it by disturbing it.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-08-17 at 12:34 AM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    In Act 2 the players, and their characters are probably feeling a little discouraged because there are no leads. This is exactly the position the King's Magus is in. There are no leads and no clues that make sense.

    At this point subtle hints become valuable. Remind the players that they have run into the same wall the Magus hit. His response was to give up and drink away his time. Is that where they want to go?

    Act 2

    Scene 1 begins in the local worker's tavern of the PCs choice. A local is complaining about money and how hard it is to come by in this situation. What should have been a lucrative winter has turned out to be a petty-tourist's holiday, and instead of raining gold, the workers are scrabbling for coppers.

    An argument erupts, and one patron makes the claim that the little folk are being hurt while the big resorts sit on their piles of wealth. Others defend the owners, claiming they are hurting too. In fact, the Thousand Stones Baths are closing, and it's owner is talking openly about selling out.

    Either a bar fight breaks out or the PCs calm things down. This scene is intended to be non-lethal, so only 25% of damage is actual, unless the PCs use lethal force, which will cause the NPCs to flee.

    (Use of lethal force here might result in attempts by the constabulary to arrest the PCs, which may quickly go South into Wanted posters with their names on them and the PCs fleeing for their lives. Might warn the PCs before a fun romp turns into a nightmare that kills the mood!)

    But the scene might get the PCs thinking about the money.

    Scene 2: Where is the money? It may occurr to the players to follow the money. While few of the business owners want to talk figures, most of the small operators indicate one way or the other that they cannot afford to keep losing money.

    (This should be part of conversations with NPC owners and higher level staff.)

    Scene 2a: two or three have been offered loans by the larger resorts to help keep them operational, to be paid back with interest once things get better. These loans come with liens on the properties and titles. The White Estate was the first, and continues to be the most generous benefactor of the small resorts.

    Scene 2b: rumors that the PCs are asking about money prompt other investigators to question the supposed lenders.

    Scene 3: A group of local guild workers confront the investigators and demand they stop harassing the business owners, claiming their "accusations" are putting their jobs at risk.

    Scene 4: A rival investigator disappears. Gen Durst, a sorcerer, vanishes while bathing in the Crystal Cave Resort. (The namesake cave is a sandstone sinkhole with a clear hot spring and billions of glittering 'diamonds' which are actually quartz sand embedded in the sandstone walls and roof.)

    Her group's leader Helmod Farghan is quick to blame everyone except himself, and a spat between him and his former cleric friend Hiram Black erupts in the street. They each accuse the other for Gen's vanishing, revealing a love triangle that had all but stopped progress in their investigation. They both leave town that afternoon and evening.

    Scene 4a: that night a local worker goes to a healer claiming the grungy guy that was in the party of Helmod, Gen, and Hiram was in his room and stabbed him as he awoke that morning. A call for the arrest of Lim Warsel leads to the discovery that he left town earlier that day by the main gate. The gate guard that saw him leave said he appeared as if he had no guilty feelings at all for his crimes.

    Scene 5: Back at the rooms of the PCs, the halfling Wood song Greeble approaches them with a 'friend' she claims has something to say to them. Udro was part of the now defunct party, and if interviewed, he will claim the following:
    1) Gen was stringing both Farghan and Black along, and seemed to be more interested in playing them against each other than in finding the Disappeared.
    2) There was a plan to confront the owners of the resorts with veiled accusations and pretended knowledge in order to find out if anyone would accidentally drop a clue about the Disappeared.
    3) The morning of her disappearance, Gen instigated a fight between them, then left when they only argued, presumably to go to the bath where she disappeared.
    4) There was a creepy guy with a bad shave who started showing up in odd places after their 'accusation strategy' began. Lim suggested capturing him and asking questions, but the leaders of the party, by then, were only worried about each other.
    5) Udro needs 100 gp to get out of town.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-09-01 at 10:26 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Magus Lord Nihl, to answer their questions, presented as the single most informed person in the valley.

    She appears bored, and her answers seem to verge on sarcastic. As a Lord of the Realm, she seems to be too pretentious to care what the adventurers know or do. She seems certain that at best, they will discover nothing, and may themselves vanish as they go looking.
    The truth is, she knows nothing, and has spent her time complaining about her involuntary exile from the capitol while overindulging in alcohol as she pretends to be casting deviation spells she does not know in the privacy of her luxury suite, (charged to the crown's expense account.)
    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    The Magus Lord Nihl sits at one end of the table reserved for ten local resort owners, of whom five show for the meeting. He appears to be angry, hung over, or both, and his consumption of wine lends to the impression that he spends most of his time getting drunk. If directly spoken to he will reply in a surly tone, usually with an uninformative answer. It becomes quite clear that the renowned Magus Lord knows nothing of interest to the party, (though it is possible he has spells or magic items to sell.)
    I'm confused. Is she a he? Is he a she? Is this the result of casting deviation spells the Magus doesn't even know?

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    It's the result of the writer not consulting his/her notes to check. I need to edit a few things. Her sex doesn't matter unless you want it to, but I intended the Magus to be female.

    Now I need to consult my crystal ball to determine if I am a him or a her. At my age it's all so confusing.

    Act 3: Conflict, competition, and confusion ensue.

    The other investigating groups are beginning to show frayed nerves. Rumors of arguments and accusations among them are flowing through the community.

    Several of the smaller resorts close for the season, sending their employees scrambling for the few available jobs or heading home. Rumors begin to circulate that some of those who failed to find work, or who were discharged earlier in the season, have taken up the trade of highway banditry, robbing those who leave the town of what coin they have managed to earn. Some of the investigators hire on as guards to get the unemployed workers safely through the gauntlet. The meagre coin these workers have is hardly enough to cover travel expenses, but it may beat remaining in town on a fruitless investigation.

    Scene 1: the duel
    Igor Stansk and Fela Hippona engage in a very public argument over their goals and methods at a bar which ends in a brawl. The next day news of an impending duel at the public park.
    The local constable is paid his fee to observe the contest and call the victory, the terms, (three touches,) are agreed, and a crowd of citizens congregate to watch the fight.
    In the crowd, bookies collect bets as the constable prepares to start the duel. A side duel almost begins when a watcher accuses another of shoving, but those around swear he could not have done it, calmer heads separate the two, and the annoyed constable declares the rules of the duel.
    If the players engage in betting, roll a d6 for Igor and a d4 for Fela, and those are the odds of the contest. If the PC bets on the winner, divide his bet by the winner's roll, multiply that by the loser's roll, and add that to the PC's bet for the total winnings. To determine the winner, roll a d20 for each duelist and compare the result. The higher number achieved a touch. Continue until one or the other achieves three touches. Describe Igor as stronger and more agressive and Fela as more agile and quicker on her feet.
    If either rolls a 1 that contestant is badly wounded and the constable calls the fight. A tie occurs if both roll a 1 for the same touch. A tie results in refunding the bets, but the bookies still expect their gratuities.

    Scene 2: 'Cooperation'
    As the party gathers at their base to discuss the recent events, the leaders of another group arrive to share details and observations.
    The observant party members will note that they ask more questions than they give answers, but they reveal the following:
    In past years the White Estate has bought at least a partial interest in some of the other resorts, and the more prominent of the vanished disappeared from those properties.
    As businesses fail, it is generally White Estate investments that keep them afloat.
    Other resorts had hopes that the shutdown of the White Estates would increase their share of the annual profits, allowing them to pay off their debts.

    Scene 3: I know that you know that I know...

    The dwarven ranger Waithe confronts the party and accuses them of spying on him.

    "That infernal halfling has been sneaking around, and giving you all the information I've gathered! I want half of the reward when this mystery is unraveled because I've done most of the work!"

    Woodsong adamantly denies spying on the dwarf. Waithe insists she's been lurking around while invisible. If the party asks for times, they can confirm that Woodsong was with them some of the times Waithe accused her of spying.

    There is little the party can do, other than promise the dwarf half the reward, and anything short of that makes him more and more angry until it looks like a fight is going to happen. The screen is interrupted by a child running through the area, shouting to one of the onlookers that, "A ghost is in the Golden Door pool!"

    This sends those who gathered to watch the party vs. dwarf fight running.

    Scene 4: What's going on here?

    The crowd at The Golden Door is being turned away by the staff, but those involved in the investigation are allowed in.

    Rumors from the crowd claim variously that a banshee, a spectre, or an actual ghost has appeared in the pool.

    Once the adventurers get inside, they discover that the Lady Dearon made an appearance. She was attempting to speak, but could not be heard. Two of the resort's employees and three guests saw her and have the same story, though only one of the therapists identified the translucent figure. (The others claim to have never met her, but their descriptions all agree.

    This information should come out through questioning the witnesses rather than as an info dump. If the players miss an important clue, have Waithe ask the question.

    Scene 5: The dwarven ranger

    Waithe hides in the grotto overnight to watch for more ghosts. By morning he is gone.

    If any of the party does the same they may hear an altercation abruptly end. The really lucky, (or if the party is on the wrong track,) they might see a human cast an invisible net over the dwarf seconds before he also vanished. No spellcasting is involved.

    The creepy guy with the bad shave is the net-casting human.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-09-27 at 05:55 AM.

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    In Act 4 answers start to come. It is very difficult to allow the players to work things out themselves, but for maximum enjoyment of the adventure they should. If you find that the players are foundering or really have no clue, have an NPC say something that leads to the right question.

    For example, the players may have the idea that a monster is eating the vanished. "Okay, then, why has no one seen it?" asks the bartender. "Is it an invisible monster?"

    The above example may lead the PCs to seek See Invisibility scrolls or potions. Or use another method such as having a rival group ask if they have any to spare, or whatever gets the players looking for ways to answer the right questions.

    Some Right Questions:
    Why has nobody seen the monster?
    Who benefits most from this crisis?
    How does a person vanish without being noticed?
    Where are the clothes, blood, remains, or any actual evidence of the Vanished?
    How do the ghost sightings play into this? Or do they?

    Answering all of these isn't necessary, but some of them should lead to answers that lead to the right answer for the others.

    Examples:
    The monster has not been seen because it is invisible leads to buying See Invisibility potions, which reveals the man with a bad shave who appears to be spying on the adventurers.

    The White Estate had to shut down for a few years to do major foundation work. They were going to lose large numbers of clients during that time. Instead of allowing their rivals to grow the crisis has almost bankrupted most of them, and many are only open now due to White Estate loans. If the crisis remains into next season, the White Estate may own most of its former rivals.

    A person vanishing against his or her wish would likely make some noise or fight back. Whatever happened was almost, if not, instant.

    None of the vanished left even a glass slipper behind. Wherever they went, they took it all with them.

    A short amount of time with someone versed in undead should reveal that ghosts are primarily undead which are part of the Ethereal plane. There may be an undead expert in the party, (knowledge, necromancy, undead, or some similar skill.) Q(Spellcraft and Turn Undead ability may also help) The Magus may have useful knowledge.

    If the players are in the driver's seat the following may not take place in the order presented, and if they are on the ball perhaps they could skip parts of this act.

    Scene 1: Ghosts? What Ghosts?
    If the PCs have gained the ability to detect undeath or negative energy via Detect Magic, knowledge skills, or other means, and they wait at one of the pools long enough while the moon is out, one of the so-called ghosts will appear. (d20, 15+ per four hours.) Multiple pools may be staked out.
    The ghosts are neither undead, nor powered by negative energy. (Or positive energy.) A very good deduction is that they are Ethereal, but how do living people become Ethereal?

    Scene 2: It's always the money.
    The PCs may confront the managers of the White Estate, or at least engage in uncomfortable questioning. The Estate denies any involvement, claiming they put up their share of the reward even though no one has ever vanished while In their resort. Veiled threats to reduce the reward and/or actual threats to have the PCs run out of town for libelous accusations conclude the interview.

    Almost immediately thereafter, any of the PCs group that is caught alone will vanish. (If the party members are too smart to be alone, Woodsong makes a good choice.

    Scene 3:

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Almost immediately thereafter, any of the PCs group that is caught alone will vanish.
    I'm not sure that's a very good idea, or, at any rate, can't quite see how it could be implemented in a way that works well for everyone involved. Do you just remove a PC (and, effectively, a player) from the game until such time as they are found? Or does one player get to roleplay being kidnapped and helpless for a prolonged period? And if the latter, does that mean that OOC, the whole group just learns what the whole jig's about for the low-low cost of splitting the party?

  10. - Top - End - #10
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    It may facilitate completing the adventure. Act 5 is the conclusion, and this option is a backup in case the players have been missing clues along the way.

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    Metastachydium's Avatar

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Well yes, but how would you handle it?

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Well yes, but how would you handle it?
    As you will see when I get the time to continue, having a PC vanish will force the adventure to its conclusion. There won't be much time for separation.

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Alright, standing by 'til then.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Scene 3: Moonlight?
    In the public tepid pools moonlight bathers splash and play. It is then that an apparition appears, frightening the bathers, who flee the pools.

    The apparition vanishes.

    A PC may decide to use See Invisibility or some similar magic. Invisibility Purge has no effect. However, sight enhancements which reveal invisible subjects will reveal a half dozen indistinct humanoid forms in the water. Splashing water at them will reveal the figures more clearly.

    The descriptions will be similar to some of the vanished. (The DM is free to provide these details.) These apparitions are not ghosts, nor any other form of undead. They only appear I'm moonlight and droplets of water. They are insubstantial.

    If someone has the ability to attempt to telepathically contact the apparitions, it should fail if the ability relies upon the caster and the subject being on the same plane. Otherwise, the subject describes an indistinct place with shadowy, warped representations of the real world, with only the water and moon being the same.

    They say only that as they relaxed, they were shifted into this other realm. If the PCs go looking in the other pools and spas they will discover the majority of the vanished, including one very upset sorceress who, if communication is possible, has an additional tidbit:

    She claims the badly shaven man attacked her, and she fought back, stabbing him before he cast a net over her.

    Scene 4: See Invisibility for everyone?

    By now everyone is looking for potions or other means of seeing the invisible. Prices have gone up to ten times the cost for the available items and potions.

    Asking vendors who is buying reveals not only the rivals, but the unassuming man with the bad shave. In fact, he appears to be a major purchaser of the available stock.

    Woodsong actually burglarized his apartment and steals a dozen scrolls and potions. She reveals this information to the party when they discover they cannot find or afford the few still available.

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Ah, I see! What's that, Shadowfell? Ethereal?

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Low-Combat Adventure: The Vanished

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Ah, I see! What's that, Shadowfell? Ethereal?
    Yes.

    An adjacent demi-plane of the DM's choice, but I have been going with Ethereal. It is a largely uninhabited place, so there are no monsters there eating people who have crossed over.

    It may also be a phase shift such as phase spiders use if the DM has formed firm opinions on the nature of the planes adjacent to the Prime Material.

    Scene 5: Caught In The Act

    With all of the See Invisible going around, it inevitable that someone will see a ghost-like form, shrouded and glowing like moonlight.

    Normally, See Invisible will allow the vanished victims to be seen as translucent, but otherwise identifiable in detail. The shrouded form looks like a child's ghost costume, with no visible details at all.

    Bringing attention to, pursuing, or otherwise attempting to interact will cause the figure to flee. Attempting to grapple or attack the figure will cause it to fight back.

    Its weapon is its shroud. The Veil Of Moonbeams is a powerful, if limited, magic item. One surface of the very fine lace is just a spider silk lace of pale white. The other side is a portable portal into the Ethereal Plane, (or whichever Material-adjavent plane the DM prefers.) When worn lace-side-in, the exterior surface is the portal, which gives a view into the plane, rendering the wearer invisible, except when fog or water-spray interacts with moonlight. (This will reveal a ghostly image.)

    The wearer will attempt to flip the shroud over the attacker, transporting him to the alternate plane where the vanished have gone.

    If the attacker manages to get a hand on the edge of the shroud, an opposed Str check will allow him to jerk the shroud into the alternate plane.

    Either way, the man with the bad shave will be revealed, and the method of the vanishings will be exposed. The culprit, once caught and disarmed, (by whatever means,) will give up.

    He appears to be a low life. If he is an adventurer, he doesn't appear to have the gear. Dressed and equipped like a city punk, his only magical item is the Veil. It is apparent he could not have purchased it himself.

    (If this happens earlier in the adventure, the adventure skips to here.)


    Act 5: Book 'em Dan-o!
    So, we have the 'Who?'
    The man with the bad shave.
    We have the 'What?'
    A portable portal used as a weapon.
    We have the 'Where?'
    It was never really an issue, except the one place it was not: the White Estate.
    We have the 'When?'
    The vanishing a only happened to isolated individuals while they relaxed.
    And we have the 'Why?'
    The White Estate was in danger of losing clientele to other resorts. By creating the panic, they were able to turn a negative, (they had a building foundation in need of massive, expensive repairs before the estate collapsed into it's grotto,) into a positive, (leverage their remaining wealth into ownership of other resorts, and reap their profits too.)

    Now comes the 'How?'
    An agent of the Estate purchased a unique magic item with limited usefulness in a distant city, then hired a convict to use it to disrupt business in the area.

    The hard part is proving any of this.

    Scene 1: Interrogation
    The man with the bad shave suddenly gets laryngitis, so to speak, because he won't talk. Threats and bribes don't seem to work. Asking around, it seems he's been around a couple of years, but nobody seems to know where he works. He's been seen in several of the resorts, but none admit he works for them. Other than the trove of potions and scrolls of See Invisibility he's very recently acquired, he seems not to have much wealth. Yet he's never missed a rent payment and he has been known to spend on the finer amenities available.

    He accidentally lets it slip that the PCs will never be able to prove who he works for.

    Scene 2: Assassination Season
    An attempt to assassinate the man with the bad shave is foiled by (hopefully) well prepared PCs who manage to track the bleeding assassin directly back to the White Estate. The staff tries to prevent the PCs from apprehending the assassin, but they hear a scream, break through, and find the manager of the Estate holding a bloody knife over the body of the foiled assassin.

    Scene 3: Confessions and Denials
    The manager confesses his part in the scheme after being brought before the Magus, but the owner of the White Estate denies any knowledge of the plot, using his share of the offered reward money as evidence. To prove his innocence he doubles the reward to 10,000 go and publicly denounces the 'real criminals.'
    If a PC mentions it, the matter of the loans can be negotiated to allow repayment without interest. The Magus will allow this, pending approval of the monarch.

    Scene 4: The Reappeared?
    Those who have been vanished must be returned but how? The adventure has been built around the idea of l low to low-mid level party. Access to level 5 spells may be beyond them.
    Experimentation with the Veil may allow a PC to figure out that one can grasp the veil and pull it into the alternate plane behind him. (This may have already happened.) With the Veil in the alternate plane, casting its material side over a vanished portals that individual into the Material Plane. It is a simple, but tedious, matter to repeat until all of the vanished around a pool are returned. The many pools and several dozen victims give each PC a chance to experiment with the Veil.
    Alternately, a vanished PC with a vial of Oil of Etheralness can anoint himself while on the alternate plane, and when the time limit of the oil expires, he will reappear on the Prime.
    A clever PC may find moonstones or other objects common to the alternate plane but rare on the Material. Alternate plane water may also be useful as a spell component. Other possibilities exist.
    The Magus will require the Veil, when it is all over, as proof of the crimes. The man with the bad shave and the White Estate manager are taken prisoner, and they are marched off by a contingent of town guards under the eyes of the Magus.

    Scene 5: Rewards
    Of course the PCs are paid, and the grateful town gives them the keys to the city. Loot in the form of the trove of potions and scrolls are theirs to do with as they will, and a certain boar-riding ranger either takes his share and rides off with gratitude, or is denied a share and rides off with anger in his heart. Who knows if either will matter?

    As word spreads that the vanished have been returned, winter vacationers begin to trickle in and the town gets back to work.

    Of course, there are several grateful and wealthy victims who may wish to reward the PCs. One may become their patron for their next adventure.


    Now, the important stuff: suggestions!

    Knowing what we know now, what details are missing from each act and scene, and how can they be included? What details are too obvious?

    The idea is to create many paths to winning, then let the players find one. If the players choose a path you didn't prepare for, (99.999% of players do!) how can the adventure be guided back without railroading?

    It was my intention to have the PCs struggle at first, while planting the seeds of victory. By Act 3 the basic 5Ws should have clues in place, even if they don't yet make sense. Act 4 should answer the 5Ws, and in Act 5 the PCs should be able to prove them.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-10-04 at 11:38 PM.

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