The Alehouse Mystery

Difficulty: Low to moderate
Author: ketherian
Environment: This mini-adventure is a stand-alone scenario for a campaign based in Selvos, Kanday. It is designed to introduce players to the town, and to highlight the dangers of intrigue.

This was the second adventure run for my gaming group for Signs & Portends. (The first can be found here.) It is a not-so straight-forward murder mystery with significant plot hooks for later use. The links in this article lead to the Obsidian portal campaign website’s wiki. These pages include local maps, and varied information on background, places, and people.

Table of Contents

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The following is a list of suggestions for how to introduce the party to the scenario. Originally run using HarnMaster III and set in HarnWorld, it would fit in any relatively low-magic medieval fantasy world.

  • Home is where the heart is. No townsman particularly likes having a murderer run loose in their home. If all the inns close, where will the honest townsfolk get their ale? Each of the townsfolk will, of course, have their own friends, opinions, and bias’es.
  • Sailors need their ale. The first murder occurs in The Safe Harbour Inn; its patrons have a vested interest in solving the alehouse mysteries; and thus proving their innocence.
  • Soldiers of faith. The Laranian knights of Selvos are almost as motivated as the sailors they think are committing the murder(s); their faith demands they seek justice. The militia are equally motivated, but for them its as much because they must as because they have families that are townsfolk.

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This adventure is set in Selvos. The rumors provided are probably not all that’s being said about the bar brawl and the extra body, extra plot hooks (leading to other plots) can be dropped into the pile.

  • It’s the ale that done it! Everyone knows that Carals of Hilgenel skimps on ingredients. Most likely the first victim fell to Carals inability to brew ale. Poisoned by the house brew, Carals must have been the one to hide the body.
  • Death to the outlaws It’s a natural (even legal) thing for scoff-laws to die. There’s worse ways to go than a bar fight. The ninth just isn’t that well known is all.
  • It must involve the Agrikans! Everything does, after all. These nine were probably here to infiltrate the sailor’s guild; fortunately for us they stood out like unpounded nails.
  • It’s all a ruse The nine weren’t killed in a bar fight at all. They were assasinated and now the local militia’s been called to cover it all up. Selvos relies on shipping; if word gets out it could be disasterous!

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A.pngfter a protracted fight, the party is called out to deal with the resulting eight dead and two-dozen riled sailors. Unfortunately, there are nine bodies.

The ninth is eventually identified by a visiting pilot as a pilot that usually sails out of Melderyn; and who had shown no interest in this side of the island. The mystery is in the presence of the ninth man. He was not seen in the inn before the brawl and no one remembers hitting him during the brawl. So how did a dead man get into an inn just before (or during, or perhaps after) the brawl?

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Building the party

The adventure is set in the party’s home town, so, considering their budding reputation from A Principled Idea, they are called on to help the overburdened town watch.

To use this adventure in another setting, the party needs a motivation to help. The easiest is being asked to help by someone already in the story.

  • The watch is seeking aid on this venture, perhaps announcing the request at dawn after the bar brawl takes place.
  • The innkeeper would be willing to give whoever makes this “all go away” free drinks for a night (he’s a cheap bastard).
  • Lastly, an old acquaintance of the deceased (Aandin of Elast) could step up and offer a bounty to find the murderer.

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The way it happened

A.png few hours before the fight, Tever of Sarien met with Andrain of Chahryn. The two were to exchange various and questionable goods and then sneak off into the darkness. Unfortunately, they saw movement along the docks. Following it they managed to surprise Frejan of Senza on his way to his hideout. In the moonlight, Frejan was recognized by Tever as a wanted man in the Azeryan Empire by the name of Polu of Oldech. Frejan killed Trever, and left his apprentice Masen of Udanel to dispose of.

Masan discovered a group of sailors on the docks that were already deep in their cups. He told them that there were black-marked sailors celebrating their evil deeds in the Safe Harbour Inn. The men were swayed by Masan’s disgust at such behaviour and agreed that something must be done. Eight of the sailors went off to find these miscreants and see them justly punished. Two sailors were sufficiently inebriated that they inadvertently stayed behind. Eventually, they retreated to the Sheesha where they were unceremoniously dumped in their bunk as the drunks they were. Within the following days, they can piece the tale back together and identify Masan as the instigator.

Masan looted Andrain’s body, taking a ruby ring from his finger, his dagger, and a satchel that included his change of clothes and his rudder. These goods are hidden in Masan’s apartment in the town.

Masan then tied Andrain’s hands so he could be easily carried, and lugged him via back alleys to the kitchen door of the Safe Harbour Inn. Once there, he waited for the bar brawl to break out. Once he was sure it was well under-way, he untied Andrain’s hands, opened the door and threw the body into the kitchen, quickly closing the door behind him, before making good his escape.

Tever of Sarien is still alive, although badly injured. Frejan is keeping him until next month to fulfil his quota. Frejan takes Tever back to his hideout below the tower, in the old tunnels that lead to the temple. Frejan is keeping Tever asleep with a home-brew concoction including Fanosel; but otherwise the man is chained to the wall.

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From the Innkeeper’s point of view

- His daughter saw them come in, wasn’t near the back table (all from the same ship).
- His son, Dralvin, heard the noise. He was in back “cleaning” one of the smaller rooms. He came up to the bar (as is the tradition) through the press of men, but couldn’t tell man from brawler.
- His wife, Delael, saw the fight, but was in the kitchen when it started. She went quickly to the bar to hide.
- Carals of Hilgenel admits to hitting one or two on the head with his massive cudgel.

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From the Militia’s point of view

The Arkain, Sork of Andamen, controls the night watch’s eastern patrol of 7 men. He’s in charge of the crime scene until help arrives.

He arrived shortly after the hew and cry from nearby merchants. He and his people pulled 10 people from the front; they were mostly drunk and fighting but their hearts were not in it. They became docile once the night watch arrived. His people pulled out an addtional 20 from the back with their hearts set on murder; they were intent on killing the 8. He distinctly remembers seeing at least 2-3 combatants to a fallen man; but both sets had significant signs of damage.

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From the inn folk’s point of view

The 10 from the front of the inn include a group of local townsfolk and villagers come to enjoy the fine air of Selvos. Their stories vary only a little. Being locals and in small groups, they took seats closest to the hearth. They were deep into their drink when the first lot of sailors arrived for some sort of celebration. Loud, but friendly enough; they took the big table near the bar and kept mostly to themselves. It was quite a bit later when the other eight came in. They were angry and charged the rear table directly. Within moments, Arain got knocked into Churin ended up throwing his beer at Ebrǡrand, who bought the beer tried to strike out at Erdel, but he hit Orthel instead. Tent tried to step in to stop it, but Erdel and Orthel struck him and Iran jumped Sin Bjurth.

Most of these folk are visiting farmers and unguilded craftsmen from outer manors, spending the night and intending to leave in the morning. A few of the folk will stay an extra day; bedding down with friends, distant family or the inn here. While the curfew fell at 18h00, the townsfolk are often permitted to go from place to place so long as they don’t linger outside for long.

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From the sailor’s point of view

Endin (the merchant from the Timivan) tells a pretty straight story. Most of his men are both pretty drunk (heading towards hangover) and very injured. Not all can be questioned as two have broken jaws, and three have teeth and mouths so mashed, they cannot speak but only mumble instead. Endin is sorry that the battle went so far as to kill; but his men certainly gave as good as they got. He claims the 8 came directly to the big table near the bar. Once there, they accused him and his men of sporting black marks. They denied it, naturally. Alian stood up, faced the newcomers and said they could clap him on the arm to prove he wasn’t marred, but there would be no way they’d bear arm to such a charge. Well Alian got clapped, but it wasn’t on the arm; and that was that.

His crew includes: Alian, Lanasoa, Durron , Zuliran, Kobaras, Ranal, Ketta, Obrel, Gober, Yebain, Durastra, Buldan¡than, Embra, Ulsain, and Stewyn.

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City wide investigations

s.pngelvos daily market in Victory Square (Selvos Buildings, Selvos 38) and those from the two ships in the port. Most folk will be interested in the tale, but have little information they can provide. The sailors were best known at the docks and at the Safe Harbour Inn, where they stayed and spent what little money they had.

There are four ships in dock when the murder occurs:

  • The Sheesha out of Golotha, a coastal trader through here about 4 times a year.
  • The Timivan out of Aleath, a coastal trader through here about twice a year.
    • Endin tells the best version of the story (see above).
  • The Bera out of Janera, Tierezon, a deep-bottomed sea vessel that has been this way in the past, but rarely. He trades wines and fine vintages for cider. His small crew usually sleep on-board to protect the stock.
  • The Fitacore, out of Melderyn is a White Ship that trades in luxury goods (perfumes, fine furs, exotic carvings, jewelry, …). White ships often carry renegade hunters and shek-p’var from Melderyn. The ship is heavily armed and is known to seek out and destroy pirate ships traveling the high seas.

The tradition of most sailors is to get a shave and a hair cut when the ship arrives, or on the port just after leaving the ship. Barbers typically set up their stalls as close to the ships as possible to help maintain this tradition (and get first dibs on the newly arrived). With four ships in harbour, the two barbers in town must be very busy. At least one will always have a port-side stall, while one or both will set up a stall in the market place to deal with the overflow.

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Paying a pilot’s ransom

Within 3 days of the murder (or should it become known sooner), the captain of the Fitacore (Kairena of Thelya) will offer a reward for any information leading to the whereabouts of his pilot, Andrain of Chahryn of 50d. He will offer a further 50d if the pilot’s rudder is returned to him. The local pilot’s guild cannot match that price, but is willing to assist anyone in their efforts in return for access to the rudder for 24 hours.

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Who would miss him?

Tever of Sarien is a pedlar who travels the local byways of Dunir. The innkeeper of the Safe Harbor Inn will report the presence of the man’s pack the day after the murder. Tever only paid for two nights, and after the second night, the innkeeper enters the room, takes what he can from the man’s belongings and returns the rest to the watch. He has no knowledge of Tever, and only a passing familiarity of him as a pedlar who’s good at sharpening knives and dealing in “odd” things.

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Naturally Masen will take the fall for Frejan; believing that Frejan will raise him if he dies.

i.pngf the party stumbles upon Frejan, he’ll proclaim innocence and use all his powers and abilities to convince the party of his innocence. His business, the perfume stall in Selvos market, is legitimate. And he’s been there (with occasional travel to and from other cities including Golotha and the mainland. If, however, he is discovered it is the start of another adventure.

If the party can’t solve it, figuring out who the 9th man is should be still considered a victory.

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How it really went

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  • Cadfael – One Corpse Too Many
  • Signs and Portends The campaign from which this came (and most all of the links go to).
  • HarnMaster III by Columbia Games. The game system which was used to run this adventure.
  • GURPs Mysteries A great reference for how to build and pace mystery adventures. This book also covers how to deal with magic and mysteries regardless of the setting or amount of magic (or technology) present.
  • A Principled Idea The desire of bringing the bones of a saint to the local temple has a far greater cost than could ever be imagined…
  • The Sinister Secret Children are missing. Amidst the hue and cry, can the locals (and the party) figure out where the children have gone before it’s too late?

Thank you for reading.

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The Alehouse Mystery

The Fantastinomicon ketherian