The Archpriest, leader of the Church, has defied a summons to the Immortal Capital. You have been chosen to retrieve the recalcitrant pontiff.
Disclosure: This went through my content partner service.
This 54 page adventure has the party coming up with a plan to … kidnap the archpriest from his holy chapel. It’s all based around NPC’s, devising a plan, diplomacy, sneaking, bribery … all of the things that make up a great social adventure in a city. (And, fair warning, I LUV city adventures.) Good timeline reference materials compliment great NPC descriptions and useful advice to support the DM in a sandbox manner. A little intimidating in length, it supports the DM well.
That teaser is short & to the point, isn’t it? Almost the entirety of this adventure could be described as short and to the point, in spite of its fifty or so pages. Most location, except for the main castle, get about one small paragraph of descriptions. The streets are narrow, maze-like and crowded. Perfect! Just enough to communicate the flavor … and then that’s supported by a random encounter table for day & evening. Likewise the river, and other important locations/sites the party will need. Do you need to know the price of a bowl of stew in order to kidnap the archpriest? If so then it’s in here (it’s not.) It focuses like a laser on supporting the main mission of the adventure. And as it does so it manages to communicate more flavor in each little section than was in the total of a mainstream product like Hoard/Rise.
The prologue serves as the hook. Here’s what the guy tells you: “His Dread Majesty Gulfrey II, ruler of the Immortal Capital, heir to the Immortal Empire, is troubled. The Archpriest, His Holiness Thomas I, has recently defied a summons to the Capital. While the dignity of the Archpriest, and his authority in spiritual matters, is not in doubt, His Dread Majesty has some… questions. Doubts, even, regarding the Archpriest’s recent publications.” And then it ends with “You can handle this discreetly, can’t you?
Great flavor, and reminds me a lot of the city administrator in Going Postal.
The NPC’s are well done also. A small little section for each, noting appearance, voice, wants, morality, intelligence and stats. Only the important stuff to help the DM run them and none of the trivia found with most NPC descriptions. Exactly what you need to run them and make them memorable.
Want more? There’s great advice. Getting the characters involved. How to orient the adventure for higher magic environments. GREAT advice in playing fair as the DM: there should not be surprises; the players should be able to figure things out. How to communicate tension and violence for the palace guard. There’s a page or so that covers advice for common things, like climbing the walls, bribing the guards, stuff the archpriest in a barrel for a trip down the river, and so on. The designer anticipates what the DM needs and provides it.
Almost everything is oriented toward the scenario at hand. The rumors, locations to be described, the river and street encounters, even the room descriptions of the castle. What can I steal, where can I hide, is the door locked, whos in the room and when, what are the vices of the NPC’s to be exploited … what you need to run an infiltration and social adventure.
The rumor table is cross-referenced. There’s a timeline breakout for each major area noting where NPC’s are and what major events are going on. There’s a sideview of the castle showing windows and noting locations. The treasure is great and oriented toward the environment. Who wants a blank letter of excommunication! Or red gloves, impervious to all damage?
Lookin at just one place, an inn. We get the owner, his wife (who wants sex & excitement, sort of) and is creating on her husaband with a chandler and sneaks in her window every night. He’s a little dumb and looks JUST like Cardinal Delver … and delivers candles each day to the castle … In this one little section, with three brief NPC descriptions, you have leverage over the innkeeper, his wife and her lover and can now blackmail to encourage them in to plots. You can use the chandler to impersonate the cardinal, or to get in to the castle, or blackmail the cardinal. It’s ters and full of multiple possibilities all oriented to the task at hand. And that’s what you want.
A good solid city sandbox adventure.
This is $5 on DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. How Can I Help, on page 3, gives you a good idea of the advice and tone of the adventure. The next page of the preview is the prologue, dripping with cold-hearted flavor, with the next page giving an example of the NPC format (although its three of the more boring/remote ones)
I’ve been following these reviews for awhile but I must have missed something along the way. What does this mean? “Disclosure: This went through my content partner service.”
Impressed! I just bought it. It’s particularly interesting to see how the can-go-in-all-directions heist and social aspects are handled, vs. much easier “Here’s a dungeon- Get the gold- Kill the monsters” adventures where DMs and Players know what to do without too much thinking. It’s also interesting to see system-neutral stuff done well. 54 pages of material for $4.99! Beautiful clear layout. Detailed but not ponderous timelines for what NPCs are doing at particular times when PCs might be heisting. It inspires me to make my own stuff better.
I love the premise of this adventure: the heist/kidnapping/prisoner rescue type scenario is an enjoyable break from the norm. It is stripped down to details that are actually important; the minimalist key for the castle is appropriate; the “Black Endoguards” sound and act in a terrifying way. When I read the adventure, I thought “Bryce might like this one, it isn’t smothered in the wrong sort of detail”. Then I saw Bryce had been consulted.
There is one area I think it could be improved: the author claims that PCs are gradually taught the necessary deceptive and planning skills, but how? I suggest a notoriety system. (See next comment.)
I bought this and I’m happy with my purchase.
Continuing: one of the best prisoner rescue scenarios is a 2e Greyhawk adventure “City of Skulls”. A key mechanic is notoriety: you gain points for looking out of place (e.g. elves in an evil kingdom), but more for what you do (e.g. leaving witnesses, corpses lying about, broken locks). And if you accumulate enough points, hit squads seek you out. This could be adapted to “Kidnap the Archpriest”. Asking questions without subtlety e.g. “Where does the Archpriest live and when is he least guarded?”, or sticking out like a sore thumb, would gain points. The hit squad leader could have a written order “Apprehend the foreign merchants asking questions in the Market Square”. In this way the PCs might realise they need to change disguises, ask less direct questions, or have some decent cover story. If they really attract attention, time for the Black Endoguards!
Hi! So I considered an escalating series of “Danger Points” for PCs who caused too much trouble. The issues I ran into were:
-assigning points to individuals vs groups
-when to assign points
-when to remove points
The draft ended up being 3 pages long and featured a lot of really silly examples, so I cut it. Instead, the entire issue of blowing cover was moved to the Escape section and replaced with a binary “Raised/Not Raised Alarm.”
I also like tight economies (possibly too much.). Money, Time, and Information are hard-coded into RPGs already. “Notoriety Points”… aren’t. Given the choice, I’ll try and use an existing subsystem rather than invent a new one. There are downsides, but I think, given the scope of the module, that not including a strict notoriety system was the right choice. There are simply too many ways to approach the heist.
Nice to have a reply from the author. Congratulations on your creation. However you have yet to convince me regarding the lack of “danger points”. Regarding asking questions, surely the constraint should be asking too many or asking too obviously, rather than not enough time to ask. And if you are dropping lots of bribes, again that ought to draw unwelcome attention no matter how deep your pockets. I think you might find material of interest in City of Skulls; the pdf is cheap on rpgnow. It is more of a high magic high level affair (with lots of notes on spell/magic item use), but it does have useful examples of how and when to assign notoriety.
Here’s my thoughts, just from the design notes of KtA.
The first issue is “how can the GM define an obvious question?” or an “unsubtle move?”. One or two paragraphs of guidance (that say nothing of value).
Then, how can the GM track these using “danger points”? They’ll need some sort of tracking mechanism or sheet or framework, adding to their already hectic workload. Is the payoff worth it?
There should also be a mechanism to gain “danger points” by flashing money around. How much money, spent in what way? This adds a whole new variable to the “money=time” market equation and something else for the GM to track. Is the payoff worth it?
Then, a bit about results. What do certain danger point thresholds mean? Doubled guards, extra defenses, all that. Does this add value? Are these things a GM /couldn’t/ do on the fly, just based on a realistic view of the heist and the PCs, without requiring guidance?
Basically, I’ve spent all this time telling the GM “increase the guards or send a few Endoguard after the PCs if they are being unsubtle”. This is information that’s already baked into the NPC descriptions. It’s also such an obvious statement that it’s hardly worth saying… so I didn’t.
Every subsystem had to fight for its life in this module. This one didn’t make the cut.
Is there a reason why this isn’t categorised under “The Best”
Because I’m a mess and fail at routine admin tasks. From the Volcano Lair, Death Ray constructions is more fun than FMLA paperwork. But, fixed now.