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  1. #81
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    I think it goes without saying that this was hardly my best work, both as a straight adventure and as an Iron DM entry. I'll admit to being as shocked as to the outcome as anyone, if not a little grateful.

    I've got a lot of a thoughts and things to say about this one, and specific responses to things, and not the time to do it now. It's hard for me to fully engage with this board on the weekend, but I'll try to compose them into something coherent and extensive soonish. I will say that I accept and am completely grateful for all of the feedback, even (especially) the constructive criticisms.

    I will say congrats to @CleverNickName for putting up one hell of an entry. I look forward to competing against you again!

    In any case, all that's left now is a rematch against my first and at this point only un-avenged loss. I'll see you in the next round, @MortalPlague!
    XP Rune, CleverNickName, hawkeyefan gave XP for this post

  2. #82
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    I will say congrats to @CleverNickName for putting up one hell of an entry. I look forward to competing against you again!
    No surprise here; you wrote an excellent adventure. I don't envy the judges for having to decide the winner in that round. In the end, you had the best use of ingredients and that made the difference. Good luck in the Final Round.

    I wish I had some advice to give, but I think our judges already have it covered. The best I can offer is: if you have the space for it, try to include a brief summary or synopsis at the beginning of your next entry. Having it there at the top of the page as a reference really helped keep me on track while writing my adventure, and I think it really helps the reader to get the "gist" of the story.

    Anyhoo. Not sure if you want to follow the advice of the person who just lost, but there it is. Give @MortalPlague hell for me!

    And to illithids everywhere: you are stupid and you know it, that's why you crave brains so much. You don't belong in D&D, so get back into the cockpit of whatever lame spaceship you flew in on and warp back to that terrible "Independence Day" movie where you belong! Purple brain-eating telepathic squids from outer space, indeed! I should call in Darth Vader to show you what The Force is supposed to look like, you rubbery hack! Your mother was a space hamster, and your father smelt of a bad Sci Fi Original Series. Begone!
    Last edited by CleverNickName; Saturday, 20th October, 2018 at 02:38 AM.

  3. #83
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    In any case, all that's left now is a rematch against my first and at this point only un-avenged loss. I'll see you in the next round, @MortalPlague!
    I relish the opportunity to square off once again, sir.

  4. #84
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    Okay, let me try to organize my thoughts on The Twisted Court in the most efficient way possible. I think I'm going to accomplish that best by breaking it down to tackling my two biggest mistakes in the writing of it, before circling back to what I thought I did well.

    I Fit The Ingredients to the Adventure, Rather Than the Adventure to the Ingredients

    I mentioned in my pre-judgement analysis that this was an adaptation of an adaptation of the Forge of Fury. A pro-tip to everyone writing for Iron DM: never, NEVER do this! Even if you've already got an adventure planned that you think fits most of the ingredients, and just needs a few tweaks? Yeah, this was my biggest regret. You might notice that none of the ingredients figure prominently, if at all, in the Forge of Fury; how I've adapted it to my home Eberron campaign places the Ancient Culture (the Dhakaani) more front and center and includes a manipulative mind flayer (I usually just call him "Karl") and a version of the Incremental Malison, but if everything else felt tacked on? That's because it was.

    I Wrote for the Wrong Audience

    I'll hold that A Twisted Court is still, as it is currently written, a pretty good adventure for Eberron DMs. "Eberron DMs", however, were not my audience here: the judges were. Hence, all that early setting lore establishing the exact location of the adventure that made @IronSky's eyes glaze over; none of that was particular relevant and I should have cut basically all of it.

    Furthermore, several of the ingredients only work well as essential ingredients because of the specific setting lore of Eberron; primarily the Mindful Mind Flayer and the Hungry Hippogriff. I at least took the time to make a brief mention that the Daelkyr led armies of aberrations, hence why specifically a Mind Flayer (who in Eberron are created by and are often servants to the Daelkyr) would know about the curse in the first place, let alone have cause to study it. The Hippogriff is the more egregious example: as per setting canon the crest of House Vadalis is the Hippogriff; and of all the Dragonmarked Houses it probably maintains one of the closest ties to its heraldic beast. Vadalis claims to have created the first Hippogriff, and Vadalis' history of experimentation with magebreeding beasts (and the tendency of some its members to cross ethical and moral boundaries in doing so, Isle of Dr. Moreau-style) made it a perfect thematic match for all the business with Daelkyr flesh-warping and the lasting impacts of their curse on the ancient fortress.

    Of course, it doesn't help that I got the description of the Hippogriff wrong ><

    On the other hand, @Rune did pick up on the fact that Fernii was the true representation of the "Hungry Hippogriff" in the adventure. I got dinged on that anyway because, were this a setting of my own creation I could have picked any magical beast for the house crest; or even given Eberron (and thus the established House Crest) I could have had Fernii be a member of any Dragonmarked House. Except I couldn't, because again, the thematic ties between House Vadalis, her excoriate uncle/father, and the Daelkyr fleshwarping curse.

    Incidentally, "excoriate" is the appropriate and canonical term used in Eberron for a Dragonmarked House exile.

    This brings us to one of the biggest issues:

    To Use or Not To Use Established Settings in Iron DM

    This is the tricky one, because I don't think there's a proper answer to this, either as a contestant or as a judge. Ultimately, a judge should never have to do research on any deep lore of any particular established setting, and I'll admit I went pretty deep on some of the lore (although Dragonmarked Houses are a pretty core, central aspect to Eberron). One could make the argument that Eberron is fairly obscure, but I don't really buy that the currently second-most popular setting of the far-and-away most popular RPG of all time could be considered "obscure". But then, if then if the ingredient had been "Hungry Hobbit" and I had set the adventure on Dark Sun, would anyone have asked why the halflings were all cannibals? Would anyone have blinked if I had set the "Mindful Mind Flayer" at the helm of a Spelljammer? Have any of the many Shadowrun adventures submitted taken the time to explore the role megacorps play in the setting? Again, I can't actually answer that (it could be no, it could be yes; it really depends on the judge), nor can I argue that I didn't go truly overboard with my setting lore (I definitely did).

    But yet, there are pitfalls to homebrewing settings as well. Last year I nearly lost in the first round because my generic fantasy adventure failed to account for how easy it is to cure poison in even low-level D&D. And the more non-standard the setting gets, the more discussions center around "usability" (and you really, really have to do a good job of justifying the essential-ness of your ingredients).

    I'm not sure that the answer is "only stick to settings that you're pretty sure the judges know about" either. After all, one of my best adventures in this competition was my other Eberron-based aventure, it just so happened that the Eberron-ness of that adventure was not nearly as central or essential to the plot of that adventure as it was to The Twisted Court and the way the ingredients were used within it. Ultimately, I think, the answer is simply to be more mindful of the world I establish within the adventure, and to relay information as necessary (to understanding the adventure as an Iron DM entry, moreso than the geographic location of the adventure).

    Other Thoughts
    I wish I had organized the adventure much better. A though I'm having currently is to just stick with the site-based adventure: here is the site, here are the major NPCs and their motivations. Waste less energy on establishing multiple hooks and let those hooks be implied. This is a weird place with weird stuff coming out of it and weirder and weirder things happening in nearby villages; the multitude of reasons why an adventuring party would be drawn to it ought to be self-evident. I'm not certain all of the judges would have appreciated that lack of a specific tie-in (tie-ins) for the PCs to get involved or not, but if nothing else it would have made the adventure less confusing to read.

    I definitely got a little too cute by half in some of my naming conventions. The specific Daelkyr who cursed this specific fortress did not need to be named. The Mind Flayer did, but I there's probably a middle ground between Iacthatkarlosh and Karl.

    One of these days I'll learn never to equivocate on ingredients. The bit about "He might very well have been the heir for all he knew" was intended to be a clever turn of phrase to establish that Tel'Daar was the Con Artist, but it also unnecessary and weakened the ingredient (not that it was particularly strong in the first place). I feel like this is something I've done before, too, though I can't say I can name a specific instance off of the top of my head.

    I'm a huge fan of aberrations, and even though I got the base anatomy of the Hippogriff wrong, I'm really happy with how Hephaestus turned out. I wanted it to be suitably unsettling as well as a decent challenge for the PCs (were I wasting space on combat stats, Bragi probably would be a pushover comparatively). I'm also happy with how Karl worked out, for the most part, though I wish I had given myself more space to talk about the resolution, because I feel like he could have played a more interesting role in the finale. That said, social combats (an under-utilized concept that I love to use) are great fun, and giving the players a chance to outsmart a semi-hostile illithid should be a great moment for them.

    I also enjoy how open-ended it became; I liked that there were multiple ways for different parties to get involved, and while the PCs ultimately attempting to destroy the mint was an assumption, it also wasn't a given.

    Overall, I'm quite happy with The Twisted Court as an adventure, if not as an Iron DM entry.

    Here's to looking forward to getting those both right next round.
    XP Rune, hawkeyefan gave XP for this post

  5. #85
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    Just wanted to throw out here before the match starts that the ingredients list we've collectively assembled is one of my favorites I've seen in IronDM. Makes me wish I was competing and I'm really excited to see what you two do with them!
    XP CleverNickName, Deuce Traveler, MortalPlague gave XP for this post

  6. #86
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    2018 Championship Match: Gradine vs. MortalPlague

    @Gradine and @MortalPlague, you have 48 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 2000 additional words. The judges will be using WordCounter.net to check your entry’s count.

    Please include your list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

    Entries that are between 1 and 59 minutes late will have their word-limits reduced to 1800. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1400. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1000. In addition, entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the judge with consent from the match's opposing competitor. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; we will ignore everything after.

    Your ingredients are:
    Byzantine Schemes
    Elder Signpost
    Dread Ninja
    Pie Wagon
    Red Unicorn
    Deadly Ink
    Iron Law
    Traitor

  7. #87
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    My reaction to the ingredients list

    GREAT SCOTT!
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    Laugh Rune, MortalPlague, Gradine, Deuce Traveler laughed with this post

  8. #88
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    Spoiler:
    [spoiler] My first draft weighs in at 1381 words. Which means it's time to flesh this sucker out. [/spoiler]

  9. #89
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    Ravenloft: Writ in Blood
    Byzantine Schemes
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    Dread Ninja
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    Red Unicorn
    Deadly Ink
    Iron Law
    Traitor

    Shodō
    Shodō is one of the Domains of Ravenloft, the Demiplane of Dread. It is ruled over by the daimyo Ooma, but its true Darklord is the notorious shinobi Nagato. The two grew up together, and treated each other as brothers; together they expanded Shodō and brought it prosperity. In the midst of a difficult war, Ooma sent Nagato to assassinate the tyrant lord Nobunaga.

    Unfortunately, Nagato failed in his mission and was captured. Instead of accepting his execution, as honor would demand, Nagato persuaded Nobunaga to hire him instead, and forged a contract with him to kill Ooma and his entire family. The contract was signed in Nagato’s blood. Nagato returned, and as Ooma embraced him, he drove his tantō into his former lord’s back. Nagato continued on to slaughter most of Ooma’s family, though princess Junsui was able to escape. The mists of the Dark Powers descended on the prefecture as Nagato chased her, failing to fulfill his contracted mission.

    Ooma exists now as a ghost, though none of Shodō’s native inhabitants have noticed, and thus he is still recognized as the rightful daimyo. He spends little time ruling, however, as he is despondent over the betrayal of Nagato and the death of his family. Both of his sons are dead, and only his teenage daughter, Junsui, remains truly alive; at least to an extent. Each night at midnight she suffers the fate Nagato intended for her, and blood pours from her as she is repeatedly impaled by an unseen force. Ooma dotes on her by day, and mourns by night; each morning Junsui awakes in her original, pristine state. His realm has been run in his stead by his fleet of squabbling retainers.

    Atakakune Meat Pies
    The Dark Powers, as they are want to do, draw in groups of adventurers to their Domains of Dread for reasons known only to them. Perhaps they grow bored. Adventurers may seek out the lost prefecture of Shodō. Regardless of how they find themselves swept up by the mists of the Dark Powers, they eventually find themselves wandering the streets of this lost community, which is reeling from a series of disappearances; every night for the past month, exactly five citizens of the city go missing, and are never seen again. Most place blame on a local boogeyman called “Nagato”. There is little pattern to the disappearances, but intrepid investigators can discover that every district of the city has been home to these horrific crimes save one: Atakakune.

    Atakakune is home to many markets and eateries, but none are so treasured by the people of the district as Pan-ya’s famous Meat Pies. A Shodō institution for generations, Pan-ya’s meat pie recipe is a closely guarded family secret. Pan-ya himself is a well-loved, gregarious man; his pies aren’t cheap, but he never turns away a hungry stomach, whether they can pay or not.

    Pan-ya is the culprit of the disappearances; the key ingredient to his pies is human flesh. This can be confirmed by finding his family recipe, kept hidden within his humble wagon. If confronted, Pan-ya will insist he was only following the family recipe, that he somehow felt compelled to carry out the brutal murders each night to keep his pantry stocked. He will seem genuinely horrified by his actions.

    The recipe does appear ancient and unaltered, but the disappearances began less than a month ago. The recipe was, in fact, altered; the Dark Powers, due to the nature of Nagato’s transgressions, have the power the pervert words written in ink, through which they have compelled many atrocities for their own amusements.

    The disappearances solved, the people will look to the adventurers to solve a more dangerous mystery: the Beast of Aokigahara.

    The Beast of Aokigahara
    The Beast of Aokigahara has, for decades, demanded the sacrifice of a virgin once every four weeks, on the night of the full moon. When denied, the Beast has destroyed farms and corrupting the fields. All would-be heroes who have gone to slay the Beast have never returned; only the Beast remains, returning each full moon. For years, the young women of the city were forced to draw lots to determine the sacrificed. Strangely, however, nobody in the city can specifically remember the names of those who have been sacrificed in recent months; they can certainly recall sending young virgin women to their deaths, but nobody can actually remember who they were. With the next full moon nearing, the princess Junsui has offered herself in place of another sacrifice from the city, over the objections of her father.

    Shodō-jō
    Shodō-jō is the castle in which Ooma, his family, and his staff reside. It is an impressive and imposing structure that looks out over the city and the surrounding countryside.

    Ooma’s many retainers fight with each other over what remains of the Shodō prefecture; the corruption of many of Ooma’s directives, as well as the laws and edicts written by the court’s bureaucrats, have led to a tangled web of intrigue and schemes; a never-ending parade of alliances and backstabbing, poisonings and assassinations. Only one retainer has managed to remain above the fray: Grand Steward Taneka.

    Taneka discovered the source of the corruption long ago, but has only managed to convince a handful of allies to believe his claims. He began to instead etch his messages and edicts in slabs of pure iron; he learned this writing would not be corrupted. If Pan-ya’s recipe is discovered, Taneka will hear about it through his agents and attempt to reach out to the adventurers. He will plead with the party to accompany Junsui on the night of the next full moon, and discover the true nature of the Beast, whom Taneka believes to be Nagato himself. Taneka can tell them the story of Ooma and Nagato, and of Nagato’s betrayal. Though he knows little of the nature of the Demiplane of Dread, he has definitely began to suspect that something deeply unnatural has happened to his homeland.

    The Virgin Princess
    Junsui maintains pretenses of being of the chaste, simple daughter of the daimyo, but this is merely a facade. Though none in the court maintain any memories of her gruesome deaths (including herself), and her monthly sacrifices are always forgotten by the people of Shodō the next day, she was nevertheless the first to suspect that something sinister was afoot in the realm, and reached out to Taneka when she noticed him coming to a similar conclusion. When Junsui first offered herself as the virgin sacrifice for the Beast, she instructed Taneka to make two copies of the edict declaring her sacrifice; one in paper, and one in iron, and to keep them hidden in her pillow. When she awoke the next day, she found both edicts; the edict in paper called had been corrupted, while the other spelled out her fate.

    Though young, Junsui is clever, and a capable hunter, as she often skipped out on her calligraphy lessons to hunt in the woods of Aokigahara. She is not a seasoned adventurer, but she is not helpless either. On the night of Nagato’s assassination, she was able to wound him with an arrow and escape into the woods. Now their fates are bound, but because of this she has the protection of the Dark Powers; no harm can come to pass against her until the time of her appointed “death” and resurrection the following morning.

    Qi’lin
    Deep within the misty woods of Aokigahara lies the domain of Qi’lin, a unicorn and the former spiritual guardian of Junsui. His time trapped in the Demiplane of Dread, cut off from his divine connections, has corrupted him, and he seeks nothing more than to escape the domain of Shodō. His attempts to form the necessary seals to summon a portal to escape have all resulted in failure, primarily due to the Dark Powers corrupting the seals as they were drawn. But Qi’lin, in speaking to a fellow trapped spirit, has learned of one form of “ink” the Dark Powers could not corrupt: blood. In the light of the full moon, Qi’lin uses his sacrifice’s blood to slowly trace the necessary seals on the ancient trees around the woods. These markings point out the path to Qi’lin’s grove.

    Qi’lin was originally frustrated that Junsui, once his sacred charge, was presented as a sacrifice. He grew more angry as he found himself unable to actually harm her. Still, when midnight came, Junsui would die and Qi’lin had the blood he needed. His confusion over Junsui’s returns was swiftly replaced with relief that he no longer had to responsible for murder. Still, the practice of tracing his seals has steadily stained his pure white fur a dark blood-red.

    Nagato
    Qi’lin’s friendly spirit is none other than Nagato himself. Unable to be seen or directly interact with the world as part of the curse placed upon him by the Dark Powers, Nagato can do little but whisper words into the wind; his favorite pastime is to whisper his name in the ears of the sleeping citizens of Shodō. He maintains his sway over the people through fear alone. In his own quest to escape his curse, he learned that his fate is tied to Junsui. Only by completing his contract, signed in blood, can he truly find peace. But he cannot directly kill her. He does not realize that the Dark Powers maintain their protection over her until midnight; it is only during this time can he, just a moment, act upon the world. It is this precise moment, however, when the Dark Powers “kill” Junsui, right in front of him if they can arrange it. Because Nagato’s contract requires him to personally kill Ooma’s family, it remains unfulfilled, and the Dark Powers restore Junsui to life each morning.

    Though he had originally hoped that convincing Qi’lin to slay the princess would free him, he began to realize that Qi’lin’s portal might actually allow him to leave the Demiplane of Dread as well, and he has continued to urge the corrupted unicorn on.

    Resolution
    Adventurers might choose to allow Qi’lin to complete his seals and follow him through the resulting portal, as Nagato intends to. This will, in fact, return them to their home plane. Qi’lin, for his transgressions, will be immediately transformed into a wretched demon and dragged into the Abyss. Nagato, on the other hand, will regain his mortality and corporeal form, and will be free to offer his skills to a new master. The Dark Powers will instead turn their attentions to the suffering of Ooma, which they will escalate; as they let out their wrath from Nagato’s escape. Junsui will take Nagato’s place as an invisible, incorporeal being, unable to let her father know of her fate. They and their people will continue to suffer to the end of time.

    Alternatively, the heroes can attempt to sway Ooma to move on. His grief over his family’s slaying and anger over Nagato’s betrayal are what tie him to world. If he can be convinced that Nagato suffers also, and that the rest of his family is already at peace, he might be willing to move on himself. The Beast of Aokigahara must be dealt with first, however; he will otherwise refuse to abandon his people and his daughter in their time of need.

    Ooma’s passing severs the ties between Shodō and the Demiplane of Dread, and frees the prefecture from the Dark Powers’ grasp. All that will be left is Nagato’s incorporeal form, as the Dark Powers spend eternity dreaming up new ways to punish and torment him for their amusement.
    XP MortalPlague, Iron Sky, hawkeyefan, Deuce Traveler, Rune gave XP for this post

  10. #90
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    Byzantine Schemes
    Elder Signpost
    Dread Ninja
    Pie Wagon
    Red Unicorn
    Deadly Ink
    Iron Law
    Traitor

    The Culling of Carriage Court
    A macabre adventure for low-level characters


    Thousands of years ago the Empire fought a war against capricious and cruel fey. After their great victory the Empire built a fortress over the fey's caverns, with a floor of cold iron flagstones. In such great quantity, cold iron ensured the fey could not easily escape their prison.

    But that was a long time ago. The Empire is gone and so is the fortress, buried beneath the dirt. The cold iron flagstones have begun to loosen, and several have fallen away. The seal has begun to crack.

    Welcome to Carriage Court
    Nestled high in a mountain pass on the Kingsroad, Carriage Court is home to three thousand people. Tall, narrow buildings huddle behind a stout stone wall with gates at the north and south end. The air is cool and crisp, and frequent gusts of icy wind cut through the winding streets. The town square is a small park with pine trees and grass, dominated by a thirty foot stone monolith in the very center. Poking up from the earth, its deep gray color doesn't match anything else in the town, and each face is scribed with ancient runes and sigils. It has long been a forgotten fixture in Carriage Court, faded into the background texture of the town. For those with the skills to decipher it, the monolith bears a dire warning:

    The threat below will never die / cold iron keeps the foe at bay / they will scour us from the high places / the assassins wait beneath / wield them in times of need / the quill directs the blade to strike

    Very few people know of the ruins that lie beneath the cobbled streets of Carriage Court, and only Greel the hag knows their extent. She has made a lair beneath the town where she can pursue her own macabre designs. She has learned of the missing cold iron flagstones and has opened a dialogue with the immortal Fey Beneath. They told Greel about Shugo, a revenant assassin who awaits orders, walled away from the ruins with cold iron.

    When a young lady named Elsie stumbled onto the ruins, the Fey Beneath called out to her and lured her to Greel. Thinking the girl naive and pliable, Greel solicited her help in retrieving Shugo. Greel could not cross so much cold iron, but Elsie could squeeze through the opening where the bricks had fallen away. Elsie encountered the revenant and found that he would take no action unless directed. She did not command Shugo to break the barrier as Greel requested; instead she decided to use Shugo for her own ends. She struck up a shaky alliance with the hag; Shugo would kill for Elsie, then bring the bodies to Greel to disappear.


    The Hook
    Crunch. The heroes are enjoying a meat pie at a tavern when they bite down on something hard. They find a silver unicorn necklace, red with the juices of the pie.

    • The meat pie was part of a batch delivered that morning. The pies use cured meat so the inn can roast them and serve them fresh. The wagon comes once a week. Asking around, the heroes find that the wagon rests in an alley on the west side of town, near a set of stairs down to a cellar which secretly opens into the ruins below.
    • The necklace is distinctive; it belonged to Lady Annabelle Deleen, who vanished several days ago. Her father has been seeking information on her whereabouts.
    • A barmaid relates some relevant gossip; Annabelle disappeared at the Swan while meeting her secret lover. It's a juicy rumor, but it isn't quite true. Annabelle was killed before leaving home.
    • There have been six minor nobles killed in the past year. No bodies have been recovered. There is a growing unease that something is stalking the nobility.




    House Deleen
    The tall house sits on the east side of town with a ten foot wall to block off the yard and a sturdy gate. The heroes are readily admitted to discuss Annabelle's disappearance. The girl's father, Lord Barric Deleen is a humorless man who has not been sleeping well since his daughter vanished. He thinks that something slipped in his daughter's window and took her.

    He will show the heroes to Annabelle's room, where her maid Vellia will show them around. A search of the room turns up a few clues:

    • A cold iron throwing star is under the bed, stained with blood.
    • Vellia will confirm that Lady Deleen was having a secret tryst with a stable boy named Daniel who works at the Swan, and she was going to meet him the night she was taken.
    • Vellia heard a rumor that the pies are made by trolls in a cave underground.

    If the heroes show Lord Deleen the unicorn necklace he will be quite shaken, fearing the worst. If they tell him where they found it, he will be very quiet for a moment. Then he will request that the heroes find out who murdered his daughter. He will offer a sizeable reward for justice.


    The Swan
    The inn has seen better days. It stands three storeys with a sturdy roof, but the walls lean and the floorboards creak. The taproom at the base is pleasant, with a roaring fire and warm lighting, but the rooms are a little drafty thanks to the windows. Each bed has extra blankets to stave off the cold.

    Elsie is young and charming, with brown curls and a fondness for dresses that flatter. Ten years ago her father was forced to accompany a lord on a hunting trip, and he did not return. The lord paid her a pittance for his life, and Elsie's burning hatred has simmered ever since. Now she finally has the means to enact her revenge; she has been sending Shugo to slaughter nobles in their homes and bring their bodies to Greel. She is nervous that Annabelle's disappearance has caused a rumor that implicates the Swan, even by accident.

    She will make every effort to be a charming hostess. If she gets the sense that the heroes know about her secrets, she will slip down to the cellar, where the ruins below can be accessed by a hidden passage. She will go directly to Shugo's lair and command the revenant assassin to murder the heroes that night. If the heroes pursue, she will try to elude them. If captured, she will claim she was forced into service by Greel, and that the witch controls the assassin.

    Daniel can be found in the stables. He is burly and handsome, and he is deeply afraid. He thinks that people will blame him for Annabelle's disappearance, even though he had nothing to do with it.

    • Daniel tells the heroes that Annabelle never arrived at the Swan. Something must have happened to her on the way, or maybe even at her house.
    • Daniel has seen Elsie going down into the cellar a whole lot lately. He followed her down once and found a secret tunnel into the ruins below.


    The Ruins
    Beneath Carriage Court is a labyrinth of ancient chambers and hallways, home to a collection of dangerous vermin and oozes. There are three levels to the ruins, and the bottom has a floor of cold iron flagstones which have begun to succumb to the passage of time. Most of them are firm and intact, but a few have dropped away into the darkness below, leaving tiny holes where the Fey Beneath can engage with those above.

    Greel
    Greel's lair lies to the southwest on the mid-level, and the smell of curing meat is powerful. There is an entry room full of bells on cords to make it difficult for guests to arrive unannounced. The next room is where the pies are made. Here, her zombies engage in their macabre practice; they slice off their own flesh, mincing and curing it, and then they make meat pies. Gradually, the zombies become skeletons. They will not attack unless the heroes instigate combat, at which point they will all join the battle.

    Greel's chambers are beyond. Greel herself will join the battle, but if the heroes don't engage her minions it's possible to sneak up on her. She is a formidable opponent in her own right, but she is willing to engage in diplomacy if the adventurers lead with it. If she is threatened, she will tell the heroes all about Elsie and her monster Shugo in exchange for her freedom. She will offer a reward if the PCs turn Elsie over to her in the end.

    Shugo
    To the north is a room walled off with cold iron bricks. Several have come loose, creating a hole that an unarmored human could squeeze through. The chamber is round and columned, sixty feet across, with six stone altars lining the walls. Long ago, each had a scroll mounted on rods and a basin full of magic ink. Only one altar remains intact, its basin full of red ink. The others are bare. The room is warded so fey-controlled creatures cannot enter.

    Shugo is standing in the center of the room. Pale and wiry, the revenant assassin is covered in tattoos in a distinctive red ink. He is compelled to obey whatever is written on the scroll in that magic ink. Without a command he will only fight back if attacked, and will otherwise do nothing. His tattoos grant him boons; blindsight, silent steps, enhanced strength, the ability to nullify teleportation adjacent to him, and the ability to know the direction of his written target.

    Turning the rods will inch the scroll backwards or forwards. The heroes will be able to see Elsie's previous commands. Kill Annabelle Deleen and bring her body to Greel. Also, If I die, kill Greel. There are more; Elsie's transgressions are clearly written. Further back, there are much older commands; Shugo was used to assassinate important fey during the war.

    The inkwell can hold enough for thirty words on the scroll, but there are ten left currently. The basin refills one word every dawn. Unbeknownst to Elsie or Greel, each command only lasts twenty-four hours, rendering Elsie's contingency moot.

    Fey Beneath
    Greel is the master of the ruins, but the fey have a widespread presence. Their rat-spies are everywhere. Their motives are capricious and cruel; they want to be entertained above all else. It entertains them to see Greel turning people into pies. But it also entertains them to have their rats ensure little baubles end up in the pies, to make things more challenging for Greel. They will lure oozes into the path that Elsie usually travels. They will filch small valuables to lure people into the ruins, forcing Greel to kill them.


    Villains React
    The three villains have a tenuous peace, but it's possible for that to be upset.

    Elsie has control of Shugo. She could command the revenant assassin to kill Greel, but she thinks the Fey Beneath and Greel are allied, and doesn't know the extent of their capabilities. At present, Elsie is getting what she wants.

    Greel has a growing army of minions and feels like she has the upper hand over the Fey Beneath. The additional corpses from Elsie's proclivities has swelled her undead ranks, and she enjoys the terror it sows in Carriage Court. If she can find somebody else who can command Shugo, that would make Elsie deliciously expendable. She will promise anything to get control of Shugo.

    The Fey Below are mostly content to wait and watch. They are happy to see Greel and Elsie at each others throats, and care not at all if both of them perish. At that point, the fey will entreat the heroes to aid them. They will tell them the secrets of Shugo, and tell them how to wield him. Shugo's great strength could pry up the flagstones and free them. If the heroes are foolish enough to listen, they will find great cruelty is their only reward.
    XP Gradine, Iron Sky, hawkeyefan, Deuce Traveler, Rune gave XP for this post

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