Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September Short Adventure 28: Skin Trade

A September of Short Adventuresis an OSR Challenge initiated by Matt over at the Asshat Paladinsblog. You can click on the Moustache Dragon over on the right-handside-bar (just above Features) to learn more about all of this stufffrom Matt directly. All of our 25 (possibly more...) entries areformatted along the lines of what Matt calls the Get Ready, GetSet, Go! format. In a nut-shell, this approach breaks eachadventure into a Title, Three escalating sections of adventuredetails (the Ready section is limited to an elevator pitch only 2sentences...), and a final catch-all section for any NPC notes/stats.The idea is to keep it short, simple, easy to read without any maps,drawings, diagrams or 8X10 glossies. Keep description to a minimum,avoid lengthy exposition, and no casts of thousands -- unless it's aninvading horde of three-eyed orcs or goblins riding purple wombats.

We're also going to aim to keep thingsgeneric, setting agnostic and thus portable or adaptable to anycampaign/setting using the particular rules-set we'll be using in anygiven September Short Adventure such as Mutant Future,Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry (White Box), etc.

Labyrinth Lord:
Mutant Future:
Swords and Wizardry (White Box):

SeptemberShort Adventure Number 28
Title: Skin Trade
Rules: Swords and Wizardry (WhiteBox)

For the last three weeks a number ofyoung people have been disappearing from the surrounding countryside.Many believe it is the work of the worgs, the cultists, the mountainnomads, or worse villains.

Even before the local authorities canpost a reward or bounty, let alone hire anyone to investigate, aterrible explosion rocks the area and a massive ball of flame eruptsfrom what was supposed to have been a deserted old ruin up on one ofthe sides of a scenic mountain overlooking the village.

Chaos ensues. Thelocals are in a panic. Someone should go investigate the explosion atthe ruins. Someone should investigate the missing persons. Rumors andgossip will fly fast and furious. There is a mob-in-the-making amongthe villagers, but so far they do not have a target or a ring-leader.Yet.

This is a volatilesituation indeed.

The old ruin up onthe nearby mountain was Herr Doktor Morbius' secret laboratory wherehe was conducting research into various forms of reanimation andrevivification such as the manufacture of flesh golems. His misshapenand demented henchmen have taken a few 'specimens' from among thelocals, but not very many as they prefer to collect bodies and pilfergraves which they consider a safer bet. Or at least they used tothink it was safer, before they ran into a pack of ghouls who tookexception to their raiding the ghouls' larder.

The heist ofvaluable artworks from Lord Rupprecht's salon in Short Adventure 22:Art Thieves was in response to an agreement between Herr DoktorMorbius and the ghouls. He was to deliver the loot to the ghouls, andthey would become senior partners in the body-snatching trade with anespecial interest in Herr Doktor's research.

The ghouls comefrom a hidden colony of humans descended from prisoners and 'lost'children that the ghouls have maintained in secret for centuries. Theonly way to access the valley is via a series of extremelytreacherous tunnels that the ghouls guard with ancient traps andarchaic sorcery. They have allied themselves to Morbius in order togain access to his work on flesh golems as that might give themimproved defenses against more modern opponents who do not run awayin fear from a few stacked skulls, foul stenches or wicked pit traps.

Whether the minionsof Morbius were successful or not, and whether they were able tosuccessfully return to Morbius' lair is something of an openquestion. If Morbius was able to cement his alliance with the ghouls,then there is a distinct chance that he not only survived theexplosion but he has been taken away by his 'friends' to the hiddenvalley to continue his work in safety. If the minions have failed orhave been thwarted by the Player Characters, then the ghouls mighthave taken Morbius prisoner. Poor old Franz or one of his brethrenmight even be setting out to try and rescue their master...

Meanwhile, theworgs watch everything and will make sure that a few clues reach thePlayer Characters regarding those disappearances and how they do notlead back to the exploded ruins, but rather to a rather imposing andancient Keep maintained by a rich and aristocratic family that havedwelt in this region for practically ever. One of the younger scionsof this noble family was once a student, even a protege of HerrDoktor Morbius, before they had a falling-out.

Everyone in thevillage knows about the feud between Morbius and his former pupil.

What they don'tknow is that the student has continued his own experiments into thesecrets of death and life and all things in-between at the expressbehest of his elders and family members. Instead of looting graves,this man of science has instead used his families' wealth to acquirespecimens from the woodsfolk who are rarely seen outside of thewoods, and the local bandits who have been happily selling theircaptives as hostages for ransom to what they regard as 'the gullibleand sanctimonious nobles' without realizing that those hostages havenever been seen ever again.

There is a secretrendezvous site for the Loyal Retainers to meet with the Bandits andto carry out their customary business. This clandestine trade inhostages has been going on for the better part of centuries, but hasonly lately been made available to the young scientist. The banditsdo not question easy gold, those that do grow too curious disappear.

Examining the ruinsof Herr Doktor Morbius' former laboratory will produce all sorts ofevidence that he was in fact up to no good. The Therioclasts will becalled back from their anti-monster campaign in the woods andexpected to secure this area, but it will take 2d4 days before theycan get the message and respond.

Should the PlayerCharacters arrive before the mob, they have a 30% chance of runninginto a very grim and determined Franz who is going to rescue hismaster. Franz might try to bribe or even hire the PCs to help him onhis mission. If they let him go or he escapes, Franz will make hisway to the entrance of the ghoul's tunnels, but should he enter themwithout the PCs all knowledge of their location will be lost withhim.

There could be afew other red herrings or actual clues scattered in the ruins. Theremainder of Morbius' minions will be scattering except for a fewconfused misshapen monstrosities who will be squabbling over who ismore free or who will lead now...

Herr DoktorMorbius' journals will be missing from the ruins. However, uponreturn to their lodgings, the Player Characters will find theJournals sitting on a table or bed in one of their rooms. No one willhave seen a thing. This is a gift from the worgs, and there is a 50%chance that they will leave some sign that this is the case. Aparticular section of one of the diaries has been marked with ablood-soaked handkerchief as a book-mark. The passage so notedconcerns Herr Doktors' former student and casts vague, darkaspersions upon the Noble Family and for some reason there is a loosesheet of foolscap upon which there is an exceptionally detailed andwell-done anatomical sketch of a bat signed by the student. Thesketch is worth a few gold pieces to anyone who collects art, but asit is the work of the scion of a Noble family with deep roots in thecommunity, no one will buy it. Everyone will insist that it bereturned to the former student and in fact if this is not attemptedwithin 1-2 days, someone will alert the family and they will sendtheir Loyal Retainers to pay the PCs a visit and offer to buy thesketch and any of Herr Doktor's things that they might havediscovered. The Loyal Retainers will offer an exorbitant amount,hoping to use the Player Character's greed against them. They havealso alerted the local bandits, so the gold will most likely not gettoo far before it is recovered, at least according to the Noble'splans.

The worgs know toomuch about what is really going on over at the Keep and they want itstopped before it goes much farther...but they cannot come out andsay anything without stirring-up too much trouble for themselves.They are inclined to attempt to work through guiding the PlayerCharacters as cats-paws and dupes, as that is their way. The worgsmight foul-up any ambush by the local bandits in order to get theplayers to reconsider leaving and they will keep dropping cluesbefore the Player Characters in hopes of manipulating their inquiriesso that the PCs begin to see the Nobles as a real threat that needsto be dealt with...a threat that they might not be able to run awayfrom.

Of course, theNoble family might just hire-on the Player Characters and send themoff to find the lost valley of their long-time rivals the ghouls. Orthey might instead try to have them killed by assassins, but thatsort of thing rarely works and will only get the PCs riled-up...whichmight get the worgs to attempt to make it look like the Noble familytried to kill them all...

The intrigues andbetrayals, revelations and implications should start flying fast andfurious now...

Notes / NPCs
Franz theFaintly-Singed Flesh Golem (1d4) [HD 12; HP48 (will heal to 78); AC 5[14] (wearing chainmail); ATK 1 fist/battleaxe; Move 7; Save 9; CL/XP 12/2,000; Special: Only lightning(which heals the thing), fireand cold spells (onlyslow it down) affect it, and you need a +1 or better weapon to harmit.] (S&W[WB]Bk III p. 19)

Misshapen Squabblers(2d4) [HD 3; HP 16,16,14; AC 9[10]; ATK 1 fist; Move 6; Save 16;CL/XP: 5/240; Special: Only lightning (which heals them), fireand cold spells (only slow them down) affect it, and you needa +1 or better weapon to harm them.] Note: These brutish masked loutsare of minimal intelligence and no longer obey Franz or anyone else.They are free now, no more slaves, but are confused easily if anyonetries to talk to them and this can provoke them to go mad or toattack as they are emotionally and mentally unstable in the extreme.

Mob at the Ruins(4d6) Dwarves, Halflings and a few Humans. Mostly unarmored, withmaybe a pitch-fork or bill-hook for weapons. All have torches andthey are looking for trouble.

WorgWatchers (2d4)[HD 4; HP 20,20,18,18,16,15,14,12; AC 6[13]; ATK 1 Bite; Move 18;Save 15; CL/XP: 4/120] Note: These creatures are supernatural andhave some measure of human in their ancestry due to unspeakable ritesperformed by demented cultists long, long ago...they are consideringjust how far they can manipulate the Player Characters into doingtheir dirty work and will leave them clues as to the terrible thingsgoing on at the Keep.

LoyalRetainers (1d4) [HD 6; HP 36 on average.; AC 4[13]; ATK 1 weapon;Move 10 (30 when mounted); Save 13; CL/XP: 4/80; Special: +2 on Savesvs magic, regenerate 1 HP per turn unless burned, freely cast Charmin place of an attack.] Tall and emaciated-looking, the LoyalRetainers are elegant in their traditional finery and carry +2 curvedlong swords and an array of secondary weapons includingcuriously-crafted composite short bows dating back to thesemi-mythical hordes of an ancient conqueror who once dominated thisarea as part of a vast, now vanished empire that is credited withhaving driven-out the serpent people. They are old, very old andsmell like catacombs even in the brightest daylight. Most suspectthat they are not really human...

LocalBandits (6d6) [HD 3; HP 14 on average.; AC 6[13]; ATK 1 weapon;Move 10; Save 15; CL/XP: 4/80; Special: +1 to hit worgs, move withouttrace through the woods, move silently as a thief.] Cunning andclever, the bandits in these parts have an understanding with certainof the local Nobles and they are in cahoots with anyone who will paythem gold. They fear the Loyal Retainers and serve them faithfully asthose who do not have a tendency to disappear under troublingcircumstances. Banditry is a way of life for them, something thatthey have done for generations. It's in their blood.

TherioclastTroopers(2d4) [HD 3+1; HP 12 on average; AC 6[13]; ATK 1 weapon; Move 12;Save 16; CL/XP: 4/80; Special: +2 on Saves vs lycanthropy] Grim anddour warriors who might be either Humans, Dwarves, Elves orHalflings. Studded-leather armor, crossbow (with a mix of silver andiron headed bolts), silver-headed hand-axe or blessed scythe,rune-engraved short-sword and skinning-dagger. These are hard-bittenprofessionals who exterminate shapeshifters and each one has a 10%chance to spot one outright.


  1. No. 28? Is there no stopping those imaginations? This is great stuff too, and hints at a complex, living landscape. The worgs are especially intriguing, with the journal delivery and impact very effective.

  2. We've decided to see things through to 30--that way we have 10 Short Adventures for each of the 3 different Rules-sets.

    The worgs are fun monsters, and one that people overlook because they think that they are just some overly-educated dogs with an attitude...they're supernatural beasts with an attitude and they don't necessarily get along with lycanthropes, which is a theme we want to develop a bit further in the PDF...


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