Lake Town investigation

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blankrubix
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Lake Town investigation

Post by blankrubix » Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:01 pm

(Players of my game.. If you happen to be reading this.. Don't)

Hello One Ring Hive mind :)
So this is the third of my 'Get advice on how to proceed' threads for my ongoing Darkening of Mirkwood campaign. And the last two times have really helped, so thank you in advance!

So last week my group went through the 'Secrets Buried' adventure, in what I think was the most successful session so far. I bulked out the adventure by having them explore the dungeons of Dol Guldur before carrying out the investigations in the High Keep. Their goal in the dungeons below was to find the remains of King Thrain, left behind by Gandalf exactly 100 years prior (Which I thought was a nicely poetic coincidence).

They found the kings skeletal remains, identifiable only by his belt buckle that bore the sigil of the Longbeards. But missing a skull. Now this is a plot thread I've weaved in to the campaign to callback to in a few years. Between the White Council assault and the current year Saruman sent his Dunlending cohort (who shows up in later years in the printed adventure) To seek out thrain, and confirm that the Dwarven ring he bore is not still with his body (Not that that was expected at all) and if not to take his skull to use in conjunction with mystical ways of attempting to divine that ring (I'm not sure whether or not Saruman would have the Palantir at this point?). Anyway, in terms of clues they found a throwing dagger bearing a celticy style Dunlending marking.

Up at the keep they suffered through a lot of corruption tests (To the point of the Dwarf suffering his first bout of Madness, first hacking up the Orc corpse they found in a blinding rage and then striking Radagast when he tried to calm him down, snapping him out of it in a moment of horror) and got through all the clues as written up to the Lake towner body with the woodland realm dossier.

So the players didn't want to move on to the next year straight away, wanting to leap on and investigate as soon as possible. I let them spend a few weeks recovering shadow in Rhosgobel before they struck out to Lake Town to try and uncover what they can.
So far they have found out: The identity of the dead Lake Towner (A merc/dogsbody type character), and at his apartment found a hidden stash of coins as well as a bottle of fine Dorwinion wine (To foreshadow Halbrech the Wine Seller)
And also have found a cartographer that originally made and sold a map they found of Lake town in Dol Guldur, with notes on of it's defenses. He has told them he has only drawn up three maps of laketown over they years and sold them to the Master of Laketown, the Captain of the Guard and a Merchant (Halbrech, but he did not recall the name) The players intend to kick off next session with talking to the Guard captain.

So.. Going forward, I want the players to feel satisfied with their snooping. But Ideally I don't want them to discover Halbrechs identity just yet, the adventure down the line where they stop him from poisoning all the important folk is a cool plot Id like to reach.
So, what kind of trail do you think I should lead them on. And what would you suggest as a satisfying thing to discover through investigation?

Otaku-sempai
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Re: Lake Town investigation

Post by Otaku-sempai » Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:06 pm

blankrubix wrote:
Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:01 pm
Now this is a plot thread I've weaved in to the campaign to callback to in a few years. Between the White Council assault and the current year Saruman sent his Dunlending cohort (who shows up in later years in the printed adventure) To seek out thrain, and confirm that the Dwarven ring he bore is not still with his body (Not that that was expected at all) and if not to take his skull to use in conjunction with mystical ways of attempting to divine that ring (I'm not sure whether or not Saruman would have the Palantir at this point?). Anyway, in terms of clues they found a throwing dagger bearing a celticy style Dunlending marking.
Technically, Saruman has been in possession of the Orthanc-stone since he first settled into Isengard in TA 2759. It is possible that he did not have direct access to the palantír until he was given complete control of the tower in 2953. However, according to Tolkien's legendarium, Saruman did not attempt to use the Orthanc-stone until about the year 3000.

If you don't want your Heroes to discover Halbrech's involvement for a while, you might need to set up a red herring to throw them off the trail. Maybe a minion who stole Halbrech's map for his own purposes. Or perhaps the wine-merchant frames a rival to distract the party's attention. Or perhaps an apprentice or other underling to the cartographer made copies of the map for his own use, selling them under the table; the underling might be an agent belonging to Saruman or to the Shadow.
"Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he."

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Indur Dawndeath
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Re: Lake Town investigation

Post by Indur Dawndeath » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:21 pm

You could do one of two things to stall the investigation.
1) find a scapegoat who is either dead already, or is forced to take the blame through a Shadow of Fear spell or the Wine merchant (insert plan)
2) jump past the merchant and let the players find clues to the Nazgul getting the document and hope they will follow the lead.
Ex. clues to where information was delivered. Let them do some surveilance of the site and see a robed figure make off with some stuff. Only this time the stuff was from another agent, who they can track and confront. He will go down fighting and they'll think that all is solved. But he was not a merchant, so they'll remember that they got the wrong man when the poisoning starts...

My 2 cents. Cheers
One game to rule them all: TOR

blankrubix
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Re: Lake Town investigation

Post by blankrubix » Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:39 pm

Cheers for your feedback guys, very helpful :)
I think I'm going to combine both of Indurs ideas. Have them gather a few more clues to the effect of 'A Laketown Merchant is the spy', but before they discover his specific identity the party are attacked by a merchant (under the Shadow of Fear Spell) and some hired goons. The merchant will stutter out a confession under the duress of the spell and likely go down fighting.
During their investigation I'm also thinking of having them notice a cat hissing at some unseen presence in a dark alleyway, which'd be the Nazgul lurking invisibly. I see that the three Nazgul are supposed to meet in Dol Guldur the following year, so I figure it's on the way there from some mission in the east or something and is catching up with its contacts in Laketown.

Game is tomorrow, so I'll let you know how it goes :)

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Indur Dawndeath
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Re: Lake Town investigation

Post by Indur Dawndeath » Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:57 pm

Looking forward to hear how it went :D
My group never really followed the lead...
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blankrubix
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Re: Lake Town investigation

Post by blankrubix » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:34 pm

Well, as it tradition with my campaign the game in question was delayed by a fortnight. But yesterday we did indeed manage to get together and play.

So it pretty much went down the way I had planned, with a little more investigation after the red herring; resulting in just the right amount of doubt instilled in the players.
At the onset outside of the Laketown militia house the group saw a black cat hissing angrily at the darkness, the Beorning toddled over to investigate and saw piercing eyes in the darkness and felt a terrible dread try to probe it's way into his mind. He passed his corruption test versus the Black Breath and saw the shadow leave the scene and everything return to normal.. Funnily enough the character is someone who doesn't hold much tuck in magical nonsense, and is far too manly to tell people he was spooked by a shadow. So he doesn't tell the party what he saw until much later.
They follow up the lead from the last game that the Captain of the Laketown guard had one of the maps, but immediately saw his one hanging up in his office; therefore ruling him out. He is understandably concerned at finding out the party picked up an accurate map with annotations on the towns defenses in a dark stronghold, and thanks them for bringing it to his attention.
Unsure of how to track down the Merchant they were told about by the cartographer (He only recalled that he sold the map to a merchant, and had only a vague recollection of his description.. Short brown hair and a neat brown beard) they went back to the pub to consider their options and get a round in.
A the the Tavern (The Timely Talon: Named after by it's owner for a time years ago when he was rescued from an Orc ambush by one of the Great Eagles up in the Grey Mountain narrows) they have a stroke of luck when they are approached by a Woman who says she spotted the group going into the mercs apartment earlier in the day. She's very worried for him as she hasn't seen him since he left for Mirkwood some months prior. She recollects to them that she was with the merc the night before he left, and that someone knocked on his door that night; a wellspoken older sounding gentlemen. From what she overheard of the conversation the speaker paid Boros (the merc) to travel somewhere in Mirkwood to destroy evidence of something.
Shortly after she leaves they hear a scream outside and rush out to find a gang of thugs led by a well dressed man, he stutters out a weak threat to the effect of "You have been meddling in the wrong business" (Itried to make this sound as nervous as I could to hint at the shadow magic compelling him) they soon find out is Oswick Fairweather a local crooked merchant and smuggler. One of the thugs slit the womans throat and a fight kicks off. They quickly kill Oswick and most of the thugs, but manage to take one of the goons hostage.
Their remaining investigations take them to Oswicks warehouse, where they find evidence of his smuggling activities. And then to his townhouse where they find his half eaten dinner, and upstairs his 5 year old daughter who tells them that daddy met with a scary man before he left.. A scary man in a long black hooded cloak.
We wrapped up the adventure there and through the early part of the fellowship phase I told them that their investigation dried up from that point, but that they do speak to a guardsman who reports feeling an eerie presence shift past him and across the bridge departing Laketown.

So I'm pretty satisfied with how it went. They feel like they connected some dots, and that they caught their guy.. But theres enough doubt there that they are aware that something is fishy. I actually don't think they considered the ghostly presence/dark robed strange was actually a full fledged ring wraith. Later in the Fellowship phase at Erebor the Hobbit was reading up on stories about ghosts and wights.. Which is ideal because next years adventure is delivering that helmet for Ceawin the generous to attempt to appease the disquieted dead. So hopefully I can use that as an extra hook for that adventure.

Thanks again for your assistance. I'm glad I went down the scapegoat route :)

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Indur Dawndeath
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Re: Lake Town investigation

Post by Indur Dawndeath » Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:05 pm

That sounds perfect. Very nicely set up!
Thanks for sharing

Cheers
One game to rule them all: TOR

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