Cursed Monastery of the Crocodile-Behemoth (Part 3)

March 14, 2020

Part 2


Having had a few days to ruminate on this adventure subconsciously while trying to apply my paltry skills to attracting people to a new group amidst the current COVID-19 furor, I think the time has come to revisit the Cursed Monastery.  As a reminder, here's where I left things off:

A: A famed artisanal smith's workshop, targeted by the order.  Their attempt to kidnap him somehow coincidences with the PCs doing business.

  • B1->

  • B2->

  • C1-> The monk leading the kidnap squad has a fossilized crocodile tooth implanted under their skin.

  • C2-> The monk leading the kidnap squad has a booklet of scriptures under an illusion to look like a collection of hymns.


B: A noble estate owned by an art-collecting order initiate, who employs two order members as personal artists.

  • C->

  • D->

  • E->


C: An amphitheater used for religious performances, under which is a complex for holding initiates being tested for ascension and a room for induction rituals.

  • B->

  • D->

  • E->


D: A cemetery with a false mausoleum owned by the order.  It contains a portal to a source of exotic materials.

  • B->

  • C->

  • E->


E: A hostel in the heart of the city, full of and run by order members.  Magical wards hide the room containing the reliquary of organs watched over by the genius loci.

  • B->

  • C->

  • D->


Time to start filling in all of those clues.
 

Three things come to mind right away for node A.  First, clue C2 should be reworked to make its connection to the amphitheater more direct.  Second, the two clues to B can be bundled together rather easily by giving the monks some items (let's go with medallions for now) stamped with the signet of the art collector, who happens to have approached the smith previously about working as a personal artisan.  Third, is the implanted tooth enough by itself to point at the amphitheater?  Probably not; it's more of a weird detail than a direct link.  It probably makes sense to replace that with one of the initiates being recognizable as a performer there.

With that, the basic design of A is complete.  Nice!

Moving on to node B, I'm leaning towards the idea that the artists were in the order prior to entering the noble's service; in fact, maybe they were responsible for swaying the noble into joining.  I don't think either of them should be members of the inner circle, though, since that might lead to the players jumping to conclusions about the people with the implanted teeth (namely that there will always be one in any area associated with the order, and the resulting strip searches are not something I want to encourage).  The PCs are going to be jumping to conclusions and coming up with plenty of false leads on their own, if my past experiences with mysteries are any indication, so I try to stay away from setting up more of those on purpose.  I can imagine the noble patronizing the amphitheater as a cover for funneling funds into the operation there as a clue to node C, and I can imagine some goods being prepared for delivery to the hostel as a clue to node E.  As for a connection to the mausoleum, the first thing coming to my mind is that it belongs to the noble's family, but that makes it seem like a rather contrived coincidence for it to also have a portal, which I'm assuming is a permanent fixture.  Perhaps the deliveries are actually going to both the amphitheater and the hostel and the connection to the mausoleum is that the noble purchased it recently to simplify the order's activities there.  That still seems like a stretch, but it's a better fit, and I can think on improving it once I get there.

Up next is the amphitheater.  Given that it's going to be receiving a delivery from the noble's artisans soon, it stands to reason that it's received others already, so the clue to node B can be such a package.  I'd thought before of having a coffin with the mausoleum's name on it being used for disposal of failed initiates as the clue to node D, but upon further reflection, that feels like too much of a red herring implicating whoever's in charge of the cemetery.  On second thought, though, there could be a coffin from a former (legitimate) occupant of the mausoleum, moved here for temporary storage to clear up space in the mausoleum.  Pointing to node E is a little more straightforward, at least, since it makes sense to have some inner circle members in this place.  To have a little bit of redundancy, I'll go with two: the chief surgeon is the hostel's proprietor, and one of the trial managers is a distinctively disfigured lout who beats vagrants and/or prostitutes in the alleys around the hostel.  In fact, I hadn't planned this in coming up with that detail, but I can link their locations to day/night time.

Pointing from the mausoleum to the noble is as simple as having paperwork records of its recent sale.  Pointing to the hostel can be simple as well; after all, members of the order will be visiting the mausoleum to make use of the portal there, so I think it's sufficient to leave it up to the PCs to either follow or interrogate one of them.  How frequent will this be?  That's not important at the moment.  As for connecting the mausoleum to the amphitheater, this is a chance to tie up some holes in the backstory.  Maybe the former owner's ancestors had set up the portal and used their effective monopoly on the exotic materials from there to build their fortune; the genius loci recognized said materials as a key to its scheme to inhabit the reanimated god-beast and so had the order take over the site.  And the clue arising from this?  The cemetery's proprietors can recall the mausoleum's former owner complaining about harassment the last time that they went to the amphitheater before going missing.

Now, there's a clear possibility that the PCs will want to investigate the missing noble after learning about this.  That's fine, in contrast to my earlier statements against red herrings, since it's a quick dead end.  There's not exactly a clear point where that becomes true, but I've run enough investigative/mystery adventures to have some idea of what's likely to be resolved quickly versus what's likely to turn into a rabbit hole of a time sink.  Besides, if this dead end bogs things down too much in play, it might result in an order squad showing up to kidnap them or some other piece of action that might get things pointed back in a useful direction.  I still have to come up with details for a timeline of the order's activities and their responses to PC actions, so I can put further fleshing out of this aside until then.

All of that just leaves coming up with clues to place at the hostel.  Well, linking it to the mausoleum is as easy as flipping the clue from D to E, and linking it to the noble can be done by following the amphitheater's lead.  Lastly, for linking it to the amphitheater, there are obviously the two who go back and forth between the places, but I want to add something more.  Perhaps the chief surgeon reads one of the scripture booklets to pass time during the day.

Putting all of that together, here's the current status:

A: A famed artisanal smith's workshop, targeted by the order.  Their attempt to kidnap him somehow coincidences with the PCs doing business.

  • B1-> The monks are wearing medallions under their clothes marked with the noble's signet.

  • B2-> The smith had turned down a previous offer to work as a personal artisan for the noble.

  • C1-> One of the monks is recognizable as a performer at the amphitheater.

  • C2-> The monk leading the kidnap squad has a booklet of scriptures under an illusion to look like a playbill from the amphitheater.


B: A noble estate owned by an art-collecting order initiate, who employs two order members as personal artists.

  • C-> A package of finely made ritual tools is prepared for delivery to the amphitheater.

  • D-> The noble purchased the mausoleum recently, after the family who owned it was assassinated by the order.

  • E-> A package of order iconography is prepared for delivery to the hostel.


C: An amphitheater used for religious performances, under which is a complex for holding initiates being tested for ascension and a room for induction rituals.

  • B-> Remains of packaging bearing the noble's crest sit in a receiving area.

  • D-> A storage closest has a ruined remains of a coffin removed from the mausoleum.

  • E1-> The chief ritual surgeon (around during night) acts as the hostel's proprietor by day.

  • E2-> A trial manager missing half a face (around during daytime) beats vagrants and prostitutes in the alleys around the hostel at night.


D: A cemetery with a false mausoleum owned by the order.  It contains a portal to a source of exotic materials.

  • B-> Receipts of sale of the mausoleum to the noble.

  • C-> Cemetery proprietor recalls the mausoleum's former owner mentioning being harassed at the amphitheater.

  • E-> Order members venture between the hostel and the mausoleum regularly.


E: A hostel in the heart of the city, full of and run by order members.  Magical wards hide the room containing the reliquary of organs watched over by the genius loci.

  • B-> Remains of packaging bearing the noble's crest sit in a cellar.

  • C1-> The chief ritual surgeon (around during night) acts as the hostel's proprietor by day.

  • C2-> The hostel's proprietor reads a booklet of scriptures under an illusion to look like a playbill from the amphitheater to pass time.

  • C3-> A trial manager missing half a face (around during daytime) beats vagrants and prostitutes in the alleys around the hostel by night.

  • D-> Order members venture between the hostel and the mausoleum regularly.


I've got more to flesh out (progress timeline, ritual details, order's typical responses), but this feels like a decent place to stop for now.

 

Part 4

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