3 min read

Murder by Another's Hand

Terror grips the town as a demon runs amok, but all is not as it seems. Will the characters realise something is terribly wrong before it is too late?

Terror grips the town as a demon runs amok, but all is not as it seems. Will the characters realise something is terribly wrong before it is too late?

The Past: The merchant Jalmari Kuningas deals in rare antiquities. Recently, he sold a certain statuette to a certain wizard. The wizard, Sagar Nimambu, is the high priest of a dark power, and the statuette is sacred to his faith. Unbelievers may not gaze upon it, and no one may know he possesses it; thus, Sagar has engaged the services of the gnomish assassin, Erfael Ningel, to slay Jalmari.

The Present: Screams—followed by a stampede of panicked townsfolk—alert even the least perceptive characters to something terrible happening up ahead. If they investigate, they discover a demon standing in the middle of a rapidly emptying street. It is wailing and waving its hands around. At sight of the characters, it runs toward them.

This is Jalmari Kuningas, cloaked in an illusionary form by the gnomish assassin Erfael Ningel who lurks invisibly nearby. Erfael hopes the characters will take extreme, violent action to end the demonic threat facing the town.

The (Bad) Future: If the characters slay Jalmari they will have serious questions to answer. By the time the watch arrives, Erfael has dispelled the illusion cloaking the now-dead merchant and slipped away. While many other townsfolk saw the demon, none of them saw the characters slay it. The only evidence is Jalmari’s (possibly scorched and bloody) corpse. If the characters flee the scene or manage to talk their way out of the situation, they may want to clear their names by finding out what really happened.

The (Good) Future: If the characters realise something odd is going on and do not slay the demon, Erfael slips away to plan his next attempt on the merchant’s life. Meanwhile, Jalmari is profusely grateful to the characters. He is terribly shaken up and begs the characters to find out what happened. He has no enemies; thus, this must have something to do with his business.

  • Jalmari Kuningas (NG middle-aged male human [Str 8, Dex 9, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 14]) deals in ancient antiquities; he does not realise that one of his customers wants him dead; Appearance: well dressed and pot-bellied; wears fine robes and has the sheen of wealth and privilege about him; bald Personality: friendly, good attention to detail; a bit of a coward; steeped in historical and religious lore Mannerisms: licks his lips when nervous; Background: a second generation merchant; inherited the business from his successful parents; Hook: appears to be a demon when first encountered; subsequently, may be able to supply the characters with outre items; Notable Gear: has access to many strange, esoteric and downright ancient things in his shop
  • Erfael Ningel (CE male gnome illusionist 11 [Str 8, Dex 17, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 14]) does not slay his targets—he gets other, unsuspecting, people to do that for him through the clever use of powerful illusions; Appearance: short, fair skinned with long red hair and blue eyes; wears nondescript robes, but often changes his appearance with illusionary magics Personality: clever; a sadist without morals; loves manipulating people to do his dirty work for him; Mannerisms: titters when his schemes bear fruit; rubs his hands together when gloating; Background: an outcast from his clanhold; Hook: if Erfael fails to slay Jalmari he blames the characters and sets about plotting drawn-out, cunning and diabolical revenge; Notable Gear: ring of invisibility

This is a short encounter along the lines of Hungry are the Young which I posted a few weeks ago. This is my first urban encounter and I think it is a cracker. You could easily use this as the start of an entire investigative module or campaign. Erfaek Ningel and his sinster employer could easily become reoccuring villains or the focus on an entire quest. Or the encounter could be a "one and done" affair--it's up to you!

(This encounter, in a modified form, will appear in Citadel on the Wilderlands).

However you use this encounter, I'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment and let me know!