Sun son city scenario 1
This is an outline of a scenario I prepared for inclusion in a proposed HeroQuest scenario book, Sun Son City, dealing with Lunar and Solar characters in the city of Raibanth. The book was to be a series of linked scenarios involving the trials and tribulations of a group of troubleshooters from the small and lower-class Association, the Broken Street Conjoinment. As things progressed, the PCs would be drawn further and further in the machinations between two large, rich, and powerful Associations, the Stardome Blessing and the Golden Line
The overall arc was written by Mark Galeotti and Greg Stafford.
However, with all the upheavals at Issaries in the past few years, the plans for the scenario book seem to have fallen by the wayside.
This is the outline of the first scenario in the book. The intention was to get the PCs involved in various situations and places around the city of Raibanth, to gain some familiarity with the place. For that reason, it is unashamedly a wild-goose chase.
The plot is structured as a three-layer onion.
In the superficial layer, the PCs are approached (though their association) by a newly widowed young woman. Her husband, a night watchman at a spice dealer's warehouse, was killed a few days ago in a robbery. She wants the people that committed the offence to be brought to account, and to pay for what they did. She's also a bit doolally.
The PCs are selected as they're go-getters in the Broken Street Conjoinment, and the widow has some connections with the association. She also has access to some funds to pay for the PCs help.
Simple legwork will reveal that though the break-in may look like a robbery, things don't add up. Some of the stolen spices are found dumped nearby. Others are found swamping the local restaurant market in a different Association's territory, being sold for far below market price. There was cash on the premises, and much of this remains. The watchman seems to have been tortured before he was killed. There are some witnesses to the robbery, and they reveal that it wasn't a local gang that carried it out. Indeed, underworld contacts say that the raid was by the Strident Kidney Lion League, in a rather out-of-character (and out-of-turf) move.
If they think about it, the widow's circumstances don't add up. Where did the funds come from to hire the PCs? Night watchman pay wouldn't be enough. There are two sources: the victim's other job, and funds being diverted to the widow by the Golden Line. The PCs were asked for by name, by the widow, for the job. This was because they were selected by the Golden Line. None of this is passed on to the PCs by their Association.
And there are the cryptic comments made by the Pissing Man (see below).
The PCs soon discover that robbery was not the real motive for the murder. Further investigation follows two avenues: why was the man killed, and why did the gang do it?
The former question is answered when the PCs discover what the victim knew. What he had was the McGuffin (a meme; see below). He passed it to his wife before he died, and she has now passed it on. The Strident Kidney Lion are now hunting for the McGuffin, but don't really realize that they're looking for intangible information. While the PCs investigate, the Strident Kidney Lion continues to hunt down the information they need. They harass and beat up the widow, and vandalize their apartment. The victim's known associates are targeted, with actions ranging from offers of payments for information to vague threats and even beatings. The PCs will also have to protect the Strident Kidney Lion's various targets. Meanwhile, the McGuffin continues to pass from mind to mind, spreading mayhem and confusion in its wake.
As the PCs learn more, there are hints of another layer of machinations. The McGuffin is high-power magic, and it seems unlikely that the Strident Kidney Lion are in a position to make use of it. Eventually, the PCs will discover that the Strident Kidney Lion were “hired” to find the McGuffin for an old, established Association, the Stardome Blessing. Of course, being and old, established Association, the Stardome Blessing didn't do anything as vulgar as pay the Strident Kidney Lion; instead, there is an understanding of favours for the Strident Kidney Lion in future.
The PCs may also learn that their association knew all along about the connection to the Golden Line, but didn't tell them. They should start to question why, especially as it would have saved them from a potentially dangerous expedition for one particular clue.
This section of the scenario will probably be presented as a set of clues for the PCs to discover, a set of priorities for the Strident Kidney Lion, and a proposed timetable for their actions. It is also likely to be the bulk of the scenario.
Finally, the PCs have been able to identify the power behind the throne in the whole situation: the Stardome Blessing. The Stardome Blessing are too powerful for the Broken Street Conjoinment, let alone the PCs alone, to tackle, so the PCs may want to call in assistance. This allows them to have a confrontation with higher-ups in the Broken Street Conjoinment itself as they seek to discover who is pulling the strings in the Broken Street Conjoinment. After a short political struggle, the PCs will be introduced to someone poweful in the Golden Line (thought just how powerful is probably left unsaid). She will be willing to exchange information about the McGuffin for action against the Stardome Blessing. She will also explain, as clearly as a wacked-out, politicking, Lunar devotee can, that the obvious course of action may not be the correct one. It is up to the PCs (as a final test) to choose what retribution and recompense should be extracted. In doing this, the PCs get to define what the truth of the whole affair was. Perhaps it was a simple robbery-cum-murder after all...
The current holder of the McGuffin will be taken away and made the subject of a powerful Lunar ritual, and all sorts of fun things could happen to them as a result!
Retribution and Recompense
The PCs must sort out these questions. Who bears responsibility for the murder (Strident Kidney Lion? Stardome Blessing?)? Should the recompense be in coin or corporal/capital punishment? Should it be proportionate, compensatory, or punitive? The choices the PCs make will have a significant effect on who starts out on top in the rivalry between the Golden Line and Stardome Blessing: choices here should be detailed in the "flowchart", though not explicitly explained to the players before the choices are made.
The Pissing Man
He is a recurring NPC. He is an agent for the Golden Line, and appears at odd moments to drop cryptic hints about events and avenues the PCs should explore (or avoid). The PCs should never learn his name, or really understand who he's working for. He gets his nickname because the only time the PCs see him is when they're in a public lavatory: the Pissing Man sits down beside the chosen PC, mutters something enigmatic while taking a leak, and disappears into the crowds before the PCs really have a chance to react.
What this is is up for grabs, but I think it would be neat to have it take the form of a meme, transferable but not reproducible. It could take the form of a Nysalor riddle, which can only be answered by transferring it to another person (a la the videotape in “The Ring”). Contact with the meme also has profound effects on the holder's personality while they've got it, which linger even after it's been passed on. Perhaps this could link into Illumination, to show off that aspect of the world?
However, whoever currently holds the meme also (subconsciously) holds the knowldge of how to open a portal to a Lunar short world (perhaps on the Red Moon?). Therefore, holding the person who holds the meme is important to both the Golden Line and Stardome Blessing.
One idea is that the transmission of the meme is imperfect: as it moves from person to person, it becomes more powerful and dangerous. The first people that carry it suffer mild dementia while it's in them with few permanent after-effects. Later carriers suffer greater and greater efffects (schizophrenia, phychosis) and remain permanently mentally damaged after passing on the meme. The idea is to get the PCs very, very scared of the possibility of becoming a carrier of the meme, as well as showing how dangerous Illumination can be.
That sets up a potentially neat final scene. The PCs finally track down the meme, which is residing in the now-shattered mind of a previously comfortable family man, last of a long line of people whose minds have been utterly destroyed by the meme. They have also identified a Lunar philosopher from the Golden Line. When the PCs bring the two together, she approaches the latest victim and listen to what he has to say, thus transferring the meme to her. She rises, turns to the PCs, says "How interesting," and walks off, seemingly completely unharmed. This could be used to reinforce that the deep truths of the Lunar Way are not for unprepared minds, and just how far removed from the common folk are the Illuminated leaders of Lunar thought.
(Note: the McGuffin is vital to the success of the Golden Line's magical plans, which lead to the summoning of the entity in Scenario 4. In this way, the PCs' success here leads to the problems in scenario 3).