(This post may not make a lot of sense unless you read part 1 first.)
To recap, I’m taking the otherwise excellent location-based adventure XP2: Song of the Beast Gods and giving it the One Page Adventure treatment to make it’s existing hooks even more robust, for my sandbox-loving, rails-jumping, plot-ignoring gang of players. Again Thulsa, the author, has created a really good location-based Swords & Sorcery adventure, without any sort of reliance on the players following a set path, any sort of pre-determined events, etc. And for $5 it’s a really good bargain: you get three locations, a bunch of NPCs and his highly atmospheric World of Xoth setting (with Cultural feats, a new class, et al)–all statted out for the Pathfinder RPG. Xoth is shaping up to be my go-to S&S setting.
So here’s my slightly updated progress from last post:
Revenge of the Hyena Princess
A long-lost princess has returned to usurp her younger sister’s place and get her revenge, with the help of the Hyena God’s secret cult.
Evil Princess: Kill opposition to Hyena God Cult. Sacrifice Good Princess when The Stars are Right. Stay disguised as Good Princess ’til then.
Handmaiden: Escape slavery. Free Good Princess. Expose Evil Princess.
And that’s where I stopped. The rest of the NPCs are either minions of the EP or have good reasons to oppose the Evil Princess–but at the moment are in the dark about her conspiracy to sacrifice the Good Princess during a ritual that will transform her and the other cultists into Beastmen and break the hold of the current god on the city.
This isn’t a huge problem, but it does create problems if the players don’t get involved with the Handmaiden, who is the only NPC that suspects something is going on. Even she doesn’t know that the Evil Princess is masquerading as the Good Princess when she meets the PCs.
At the starting point of the adventure, all the Handmaiden knows is that a rich man from the city paid the desert nomads to raise a young girl who disappeared when she came of age. The Handmaiden isn’t able to warn anyone unless she is rescued from the slavers and returned to the palace, where she recognizes that the supposed Good Princess is acting strangely.
Here are the other NPCs with a stake in the Situation. As before, I’m using titles rather than names, because it’s easier to remember: General, Guard Captain, Good God Acolytes, Royal Steward.
NPCs without a real stake (or who can’t do much) who can be regarded as assets: Slaver, Royal Scribe, Senile King, Good Princess.
There are also some goons, hideouts and other useful assets attached to various NPCs.
So let’s give the Evil Princess some serious opposition.
Good God Acolytes: Escape the Palace before we are killed. Get word to our superiors that the Evil Princess is evil. Spy on her with the Guard Captain. Recruit the General with Proof: the Scroll or the Good Princess.
Assets: a pious servant at the Palace, Guard Captain, the loyal Palace Guards, a desolate tomb outside of town, keys to the temple treasury, the Handmaiden (and the other handmaidens).
I’ve rewritten these guys such that their God has let them know not to trust the Evil Princess with omens. They have seen a Scroll that details the upcoming Stars Are Right moment and the secret signs of the cult. They know the Good Princess is missing. They’re in-the-know, have resources, but lack muscle and can’t move freely.
These guys are going to want to enlist the PCs to help them get out of dodge, send messages that won’t be read by the cult, go between themselves and the Guard Captain who manages Palace security, and try to get the Scroll (now hidden) or the Good Princess (missing) to the General to bring his troops to bear on the problem.
Since I’ve made the Guard Captain an asset, I don’t need to worry about his goals. Same with the Handmaiden. They’re the same as the Good God Acolytes–which also means either can stand in for the Acolytes if they’re killed or missing. Now we’ve got some good guys and some bad guys. How about someone on the fence?
General: Preserve my life and position. Keep the army strong and intact. End up on the winning side. Get richer off this argument between priests.
Assets: 400 light infantry (City Guards), 150 camel riders, keys to the city, a tower in the Citadel.
And finally, the Evil Princess in full:
Evil Princess: Keep conspiracy secret. Prevent the Acolytes from getting help. Make sure the General stays neutral. Sacrifice Good Princess and transform my allies when The Stars are Right. Disguise myself as the Good Princess ’til then.
Assets: The ear of the King, the Royal Steward, disloyal Palace Guards, keys to the royal treasury, the Torturer, catacombs under the Palace, undead minions, a secret chamber in the catacombs, a secret prison, the life of the Good Princess, the Scroll, the Slaver, Slaver Guards.
Smart money is still on the Evil Princess, especially if she recruits the PCs to her side. Of course, that means they’ll end up transformed by her ritual, and may not approve of that. Her Situation is also the most precarious: if the Court or King figure out that she’s not the Good Princess, the jig is up. If the General doesn’t stay out of it, his army can wipe out her band of disloyal Palace Guards and undead minions. If the Good Acolytes get away, a powerful theocracy to the south will invade her little city-state.
What else would I do here to round things out? I’d re-write the Slaver and his Guards as members of the desert nomad tribe that raised her, so she has somewhere to retreat if everything goes pear shaped for Team Hyena.
If the PCs work for the Evil Princess, I’d have the General take an active role in playing the two sides against each other. Offering the Good God Acolytes protection, but not escape, until the Evil Princess has time to make a counter-offer. Putting his soldiers between the PCs, their objectives and the Evil Princess (curfews, an extra guard on the Palace, locked city gates). Even using soldiers to attack the PCs and weaken the Evil Princess’s position.
If the PCs work for the Good God Acolytes, I’d throw everything the Evil Princess has at them, re-kidnapping the Handmaiden, assassinating the Royal Scribe and anyone else in the know. Using them to flush out other allies of the Acolytes. Trapping them with the Guard Captain. Spying on them with Palace servants and desert nomads. Murdering them if they come into the catacombs.
Whew! This is getting me really excited to run this game.
Last part. The hook! Replace “hired” with “convinced”, “enlisted by”, “seduced”, etc. as needed.
…decide to rescue/help the Handmaiden and…
…are hired by the Good God Acolytes to oppose the Evil Princess.
…are hired by the Evil Princess to do her dirty work.
…are attacked by the Evil Princess’s cultists and hired by her enemies.
There’s another option I hadn’t thought of before that’s bound to be appealing to Fistful of Dollars/Yojimbo fans:
…are hired by the General to protect the Acolytes and force both sides to deal with him.
In some ways, the General ought to be opposed to either side “winning”. If the Acolytes get away or the Evil Princess does her ritual, the General’s city is probably going to get invaded by the theocracy that worships the Good God.
Well, what do you think? How would you adjust things to make it even easier to roll with whatever the PCs dish out?