The Lorestaves: Causens’ Corner in the Temples

Sign of the Squandering Snail: Causens’ Corner
Written by Fraser Ronald

Causens’ Corner is the Temples writ small. Filled with desperate individuals barely eking out an existence and cursing fate and their own circumstances with equal venom, the Corner is on the outskirts of the Temples. The result of this is that the Corner is not as dangerous as many other parts of the Temples. Individuals with at least some small reservoir of self-esteem and personal integrity might be found in Causens’ Corner. Still, most of the residents would be as happy to deliver a knife in as a slap on the back.

The Red Fisher

The three story building has a stone walled first floor, but its second and third floor are built of wood and project out from the first floor wall a few feet. The windows on the first floor, and there are a few, are all shuttered. The windows on the second and third floors are open and wisps of pink curtains are visible. Dangling from the second floor’s overhang, two pink lanterns flank the doors. The doorway requires a few steps down as it is a foot below the level of the street. Hanging from a bracket beside the door is a crudely painted plaque with a red bird holding a fish in its beak.

Fishmonger Gereslack is the master of this brothel. While somewhat clean and in good repair, this is still a dark and hopeless place for the whores, and even for Gereslack who had some hopes of moving beyond his place as a pimp.

Fishmonger Gereslack, a pimp
38 year old Male Human Rogue 3: CR 3; Size M; HD 3d6+6; hp 22; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; AC 14; BAB +2; Atk +3 melee (1d6+1, shortsword), or +4 ranged (1d4, dagger); SV Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +3; AL CE; Str 12, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 13.
Skills: Bluff +8, Disable Device +5, Gather Information +6, Hide +8, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (Local) +7, Listen +5, Move Silently +7, Open Lock +6, Search +5, Sense Motive +8, Spot +8.
Feats: Combat Expertise, Dodge, Persuasive.
Class Feature (Rogue): Evasion.
Possessions: Dagger, leather armor, pouch with 25 princes (sp) and 5 wrens (gp), shortsword, traveler’s outfit.
Background: It’s not as though a person grows up dreaming of becoming a pimp. Still, Gereslack had few options. He might have become a thug, he could have become a loanshark, but the fact is, he prefers trading in flesh. He pretends it isn’t a crime, that no one is hurt, forgetting that he took women and girls in desperate situations and forced them to sell themselves. He is not a romantic, though he will often say that he is. Along with pimping, Gereslack sometimes involves himself in people smuggling, moving young women and boys to use as slaves elsewhere.

Gereslack always carries his weapons with him and he wears his armor, but under his clothing. He always wears a heavy, large cloak in the hopes of hiding armor and weapons.

Tactics: Gereslack doesn’t like physical confrontations. He will try to talk his way out of any fight, either by bluffing or intimidating. Once the conflict has been avoided, he’ll pay someone to kill or otherwise remove the threat of the individual with whom he was in conflict. If forced into a fight, Gereslack likes to feint. He’ll take whatever advantage is available and fight as dirty as necessary to win. If things look particularly bad, he’ll try to flee, or at least fight defensively if retreat is not possible.

The Cooper

Open barrels are piled one their sides beside this small, squat building. Smoke slowly snakes from the tin chimney reaching up from the roof.

This is the cooperage of Alassorn of Karnhorn. Along with the usual brewers, dry goods merchants and smugglers, Alassorn also sells barrels for other purposes, such as storage for a dead body and rocks, to be dropped somewhere out at sea.

Alassorn of Karnhorn, the local cooper
37 year old Male Human Expert 2: CR 1; Size M; HD 2d6; hp 11; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12; BAB +1; Atk +1 melee (1d6, club), or +3 ranged; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +2; AL CN; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 11, Int 14, Wis 9, Cha 13.
Skills: Sleight of Hand +7, Craft (woodworking) +10, Disable Device +4, Forgery +7, Hide +7, Knowledge (local) +7, Listen +3, Move Silently +6, Profession (cooper) +4, Search +3, Spot +3.
Feats: Alertness, Skill Focus (Craft [woodworking]).
Possessions: Artisan’s outfit, club, dagger, pouch with 30 princes (sp).
Background: Alassorn is something of a success story. Once a career criminal, a turn at the oars of one of the Duke’s galleys killed Alassorn’s anti-social tendencies. Finally released after he had served his time, Alassorn apprenticed with the only craftsman who would accept him, Hesrick, the cooper at Causens’ Corner. Hesrick, unlike Alassorn, knew nothing of the criminal elements in the Temples and worked only for legitimate businesses. While he survived, one could not call him successful. Alassorn, meanwhile, was willing to help out his old criminal cronies by supplying things like weighted barrels to easily dispose of a body in the bay, or false-bottomed barrels in which to smuggle goods. With the money made through his illicit dealings, Alassorn did something completely out of character—he acted honestly and in good faith. He purchased the cooperage from Hesrick for a price everyone had to agree was more than fair. Hesrick went to live with his eldest son who had a fairly prosperous farm outside the city and Alassorn was free to contract with whomever he pleased.

Tactics: It’s been quite some time since Alassorn has needed to protect himself, but he still remembers how to fight. He’ll try to escape from any fight, though, before he’ll willingly engage in one. If forced, he’ll fight defensively while trying to get a feel for his opponent. If he has a few rounds in which he has successfully protected himself, so his opponent has not landed an attack, Alassorn will actually attempt to fight as regular, until he gets hit, at which point he’ll return to fighting defensively. If he has a chance to escape a fight, even one in which he’s doing well, he’ll take it.

The Tailor

A small shack rests against a taller, four storey structure. The shack has a single door and two windows beside the door. Hanging in the window are bolts of cloth. Beside the door is a small plaque with crossed needles over a spool of thread.

This is the abode and workshop for the local tailor, Wesent. As there are so many Wesents in Bowden, this Wesent is known as Wesent Tailor. As most of the individuals of the Temples cannot afford to pay someone to make their cloths, Wesent works mostly for Gereslack’s doxies and those single men who have some small coin in their pockets, such as Murnac, Gereslack himself and Alassorn.

Wesent Tailor, the local tailor
36 year old Male Human Expert 2: CR 1; Size M; HD 2d6; hp 7; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12; BAB +1; Atk -1 melee (1d6-2, quarterstaff), or +3 ranged; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +5; AL LN; Str 7, Dex 15, Con 11, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 5.
Skills: Appraise +7, Craft (clothing) +10, Diplomacy +2, Forgery +7, Hide +4, Knowledge (local) +6, Listen +4, Move Silently +5, Profession (tailor) +7, Search +4, Spot +3.
Feats: Dodge, Skill Focus (Craft [clothing]).
Possessions: Artisan’s clothing, pouch with 10 dublings (cp) and 10 princes (sp), quarterstaff.
Background: Wesent Tailor’s parents were indentured to a rich family who lived on an estate just outside of Bowden. Wesent escaped at a very young age and has not seen his family again. He arrived in Bowdern destitute and afraid. He spent some time running with a gang of young thieves but never felt as though he belonged. He had come to know many people in the Temples, and had only found one man he through he could trust. He became an apprentice to a small, insignificant tailor who only succeeded in keeping their two bellies full. When his master grew ill, Wesent took over the business. What little money they had stashed away, Wesent spent on a funeral for his old master. Now, Wesent does what he can. He is not particularly good, but he makes a living. He cannot see a time when he will have enough wealth to marry and start a family, but he has no other skills on which to fall back.

Tactics: There’s very little that Wesent will fight for, save his small shop. He’d just as soon receive a beating as fight back, hoping that by not fighting back, the enjoyment the bullies and thieves take from beating will be minimal, and that will persuade them to move on. If his life or shop is threatened, he’ll take up his quarterstaff and hope to drive off the attackers with a show of strength. Since that won’t be forthcoming, he better hope they are worse fighters than he.

The Carpenter

This building, though small, is clean and sturdy. It has a door with a handle and its shutters open upward rather than to the side. A plaque on the door shows a hammer, pegs and two boards of wood.

This is the home and workshop of the carpenter, Cessforn. He is known as Cessforn the Younger, as his father, Cessforn the Elder, also lives in Bowden. While he is a denizen of the Temples, Cessforn has some real carpentry skills and he has worked in some of the better sections of Bowden. Because he fears moving his father—whose care would cost more coin than a carpenter could raise elsewhere in Bowden—Cessforn remains in Causens’ Corner.

Cessforn the Younger, the local carpenter
51 year old Male Human Expert 2: CR 1; Size M; HD 2d6; hp 9; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 11; BAB +1 Atk +0 melee (1d6-1, quarterstaff), or +2 ranged; SV Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +3; AL LN; Str 8, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 10.
Skills: Craft (Carpentry) +9, Diplomacy +5, Disable Device +4, Gather Information +2, Hide +2, Knowledge (local) +5, Listen +5, Move Silently +3, Spot +7, Tumble +6.
Feats: Alertness, Skill Focus (carpentry).
Possessions: Artisan’s outfit, pouch with 15 princes (sp) and 5 wrens (gp), quarterstaff.
Background: Like his father, Cessforn the Younger grew up in the Temples. It’s all he knows. He apprenticed under his father and actually has some skill in carpentry. He could likely move out of the Temples, but he has a wife and children and not much actual coinage, rather his wealth is in his business. Finding another place where he could live with his father close by for as little as the Temples would be difficult, if not impossible. As such, Cessforn works throughout Bowden, earning a fair amount of money, but lives and has his shop in the Temples.

Tactics: Cessforn isn’t a fighter, but if his family is threatened, he’s more than willing to use the stout staff he always carries with him. He knows the Temples, which means he knows violence. Not much of a fighter, Cessforn will fight defensively. He’ll try to give his family a chance to escape. That done, he’ll attempt to escape himself. If he is in his own neighborhood, he’ll try to get those people who know him involved, at least to find help. Cessforn has plenty of friends—for a man of the Temples, he’s honest—so there might actually be people willing to help.

Jileforis’ Tenement

This building, made of chipped and marked wood, rises some four storeys. It is girded with many wood staircases and landings. Doors open onto these landings. There are many windows, some with shutters, some with merely the remains of shutters.

This is a tenement, barely still standing. The landlord, Jileforis, lives elsewhere in the Temples, but frequents Causens’ Corner to keep an eye on one of his many investments. Whenever Jileforis is in the area, he has two of his Toughs with him. Residents of the tenement include Cessforn the Elder and some widows making an honest living as seamstresses, doing work for Wesent Tailor. Cessforn the Younger also pays the widows a small sum to help watch over his father, who is slowly losing his mental faculties.

Jileforis, a landlord
47 year old Male Human Expert 3: CR 2; Size M; HD 3d6; hp 14; Init +4 (+4 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+4 Dex); Attack +2 (+2 Base) melee, or +6 (+2 Base, +4 Dex) ranged; SV Fort +1 (+1 Base), Ref +5 (+1 Base, +4 Dex), Will +6 (+3 Base, +1 Wis, +2 Iron Will); AL CE; Str 11 (+0), Dex 18 (+4), Con 11 (+0), Int 14 (+2), Wis 13 (+1), Cha 16 (+3).
Skills: Bluff +10, Diplomacy +10, Gather Information +8, Hide +6, Intimidate +11, Knowledge (local) +8, Listen +6, Profession (landlord) +7, Spot +3.
Feats: Iron Will, Martial Weapon Proficiency (longsword), Persuasive.
Possessions: Courtier’s outfit, daggers (3), longsword (masterwork).
Background: Jileforis came to the Temples as a child. His father was a failed businessman who had lost almost everything, including the family home. As a young man, Jileforis left home with the intent to make money. He remembered the life he had previously led. Jileforis became the practical partner of three, the two other offered money and connections. Jileforis brought the ides and insured their implementation. Soon, Jileforis no longer needed his partners and so he took what he could and left. They soon faded into the Temples, while Jileforis rose to the top. Along with properties, Jileforis owns boats, warehouses, and a trading company. He continues to visit his tenements in the Temples, always bringing some hired muscle.

Jileforis does not carry coins with him because he does not pay for anything with his own hand. If payment is required, one of his toughs will deliver the payment. Jileforis always travels with at least 4 toughs. One of the toughs will have Jileforis’ purse, which will include 35 wrens (gp) and 10 braces (pp). Jileforis always carries his longsword, and is not adverse to using it, though only when doing so presents no danger to him.

Tactics: Jileforis has thugs to do his fighting. He didn’t rise to his position so he could dirty his hands in fisticuffs. He’ll have his toughs level the opposition, or at least screen his retreat. If absolutely forced into combat, Jileforis will fight defensively, all the time attempting to intimidate his opponents, or buy them off. Any opponent that stops his attacks based on threats or promises will have a price on his head the second Jileforis is out of danger.

Toughs, the guards and other toughs hired by Jileforis
Male Human Warrior 2: CR 1; Size M; HD 2d8; hp 12; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; AC 14; BAB +2; Atk +3 melee (1d8+1, longsword) or +4 ranged (1d4, dagger); SV Fort +3, Ref +2, Will -2; AL LE; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 7, Cha 10.
Skills: Climb +1, Hide +4, Listen +1, Move Silently +3, Spot +1.
Feats: Blind-Fight, Power Attack.
Possessions: Dagger, leather armor, longsword
Tactics: These toughs aren’t particularly smart, but they are smart enough to try to flank opponents and to gang up when they can. After two rounds of combat, they might try power-attack, but only if they have regularly hit an opponent.

Swords and A Squandering Snail: The Minstrel and the Prophet

As related in Swords and Meetings, Cade of Galaras, a poet and dramatist opposed to the Church of Herotus, has joined three accomplices to oppose the Church of Herotus: Eam, a sorcerer and ex-mercenary; Drustan, a Half-Orc Barbarian; and Sabrine, an attractive and stealthy archer. The four now find themselves in the Temples district of Bowden, a relatively wretched hive of scum and possible villainy.

In “Dramatic Entrances,” the first episode of Swords and a Squandering Snail, the group is in the city of Bowen to meet a contact of Cade’s. They intervene when a Holy Knight chases an unarmed man into the tavern in which they drink. The three of them face the Holy Knights and his initiates.


Two: The Minstrel and the Prophet

Sabrine loosed, catching one of the Initiates in the throat. He fell to the ground, clutching at the arrow, his life spilling onto the ground. “They haven’t improved their armour any. That’s good of them.”

Drustan traded blows with the Holy Knight as the Initiates surged forward. Cade slid into the combat, covering Drustan’s left. Drustan’s right remained undefended. Sabrine loosed another arrow.

“Eam, get to work,” she said.

I exhaled, reaching inside with my will, seeking the place of power. I envisioned energy in my hands and projected it at the Initiates moving on Drustan’s right. Just as I had seen in my mind’s eye, a bolt of light stretch from my hand to an Initiate. He staggered, raising his arms as though to ward off a blow. Sabrine’s arrow buried itself in his armpit.

Drustan used his spear as though it weighed nothing while the Holy Knight fought as if immersed in water. Each time Drustan’s spear connected, the Holy Knight staggered back another step. Each time the Holy Knight swung his sword, Drustan blocked it with his dirk. Cade did not seem intent on killing his opponents, rather he seemed intent on staying alive.

My magic and Sabrine’s arrows could not protect Drustan’s right. I drew my sword—Frost—and whispered a single word—ice. The sword’s blade covered with its namesake and I darted forward. I had trailed the pike in my day and knew how to use a sword. Still, against armoured Initiates, I had hard work ahead of me.

Then the time for thought and conscious control left. I faced two men ready to kill me. I didn’t want to die. My muscles knew the process. I couldn’t hope to put my blade, long and supple, against those beasts of the Initiates. I focused on deflecting them and not inhabiting the air through which they swung.

The dynamics of the fight all changed when the Holy Knight fell to his knees, blood dribbling out of the mouthpiece of his helm. Drustan ripped off that helm, revealing a head topped with dark hair. The Holy Knight looked up, his lips split, bruises along the sides of his face.

“You’ll burn in the Hells,” he said.

“So be it.” And Drustan removed that head.

The Initiates all stepped back. Cade took advantage and slid his blade through an opening at the hip of one Initiate’s armour. Sabrine caught another in the shoulder joint. The ice of Frost touched another in his elbow joint. Bleeding, disheartened, the Initiates fled the tavern.

We four stood there, panting. Drustan kicked the body of the Holy Knight then turned to the man the Initiates had beaten. “Are you harmed?”

The man rose. Though he moved with stiff caution, I saw no marks, neither bruises nor blood. He looked around, as though confused. Finally, his eyes rested on Drustan. He smiled.

“My thanks. I had not expected help in such a place. But I can see that you have good hearts and strong limbs. I wish I could show my appreciation, but all I can offer is the truth of the moment, which I do not believe you would wish to hear.”

I considered that a rather cryptic statement, but before I could comment the door behind the bar opened. It disgorged a stout man with broad shoulders, dark hair, deep set eyes, and clothes that while not fine, certainly set him apart from the majority of people in the tavern. Following him came five brutes, all armed with shortswords. The dark-haired man crossed his arms.

“I’m Murnac and this is my place,” he said. “You’ve just caused me plenty of trouble, so you’re leaving. Right now. You don’t walk out of here on your own, you’ll get carried out.”

I heard a low growl issue from Drustan. It sounded like he was only too willing to cross Master Murnac and his brutes. The undamaged man touched Drustan’s arm. “Please, let us go. There is no need for further violence.”

In all honesty, I wanted to disagree. I still held Frost in my hand, blood frozen along the blade. Sabrine lowered her bow. “He’s right. Let’s be gone.”

I lifted my sword and whispered the word ‘ice’ again. The frost left the blade, though the blood remained congealed. I reached down and cleaned Frost on the cloak of the Holy Knight Drustan had finished. I saluted Murnac with my sword before sheathing it. Murnac and his brutes made no move to attack us, but let us gather our belongings and depart.

The stench of the Temples assailed me as soon as I stepped out that door. Of the cities I knew, Bowden and its Temples wasn’t the worst. It smelled of rotting fish, too many people, and coal smoke, but I could stomach that. The street seemed close, with the buildings leaning in on it. So early in the evening, the streets of the Temples flowed with a strange mixture of the destitute, the dangerous, and the ignorant. We stood for a moment, unsure where our next steps should take us.

“I thank you for your help,” the undamaged man said. “My name is Incarnos. I have rented a room nearby where I would like to offer you sanctuary, at least for this night.”

“Sanctuary, for those who have killed Holy Knights?” Sabrine offered a mirthless chuckle. “Not a wise decision.”

Incarnos shook his gaunt head. “There is nothing the Holy Knights can do to me they have not already done. Besides, they will not seek for us here. They would not believe ones who have slain those of the Order would remain so near the scene of the slaying.” Incarnos gestured to a four story building made of chipped and marked wood. Staircases and landings girded it like a loose belt. “I have a private room on the second floor of this tenement. I can offer food, drink and a tale that will make you wonder at the very world around you.”

Before anyone made an answer, I heard Cade’s name called out in a sweet, feminine voice. We all turned. The woman approaching strode with confidence, head held high. While I liked everything I saw, her bright hazel eyes and broad, frank mouth drew my greatest admiration.

Cade smiled and gestured to the woman. “My contact.” He took her arm and shook it as a comrade. So, friends rather than lovers. That gave me hope. “This is Carylle of Temelburh.” He then turned to us and made introductions. Perhaps it was simply ego, but I thought her eyes lingered on me and her smile had a suggestion behind it.

“We need to get away from here,” Carylle said to Cade. “If Murnac sees me with you, I’ll be done.”

Incarnos again pointed to the tenement. “Please, we can speak inside.”

Sabrine nodded. “We’ll join you, if only for a moment.”

We followed Incarnos up one of the wood staircases on the exterior of the building. I followed Carylle who followed Cade.

“I hardly expected you’d come,” Carylle said.

“How could I ignore an invitation couched in such mysterious terms?” asked Cade. “You know talk of secrets and conspiracies is enough to draw me in.”

“And I didn’t lie. You won’t believe what I learnt”

We passed through a door on a rickety landing that I couldn’t believe actually sustained the group of us. A large table dominated the centre of the room beyond. Settees and divans rested against the walls while chairs surrounded the table. Tapestries—perhaps once impressive and vibrant, now dull and uninspiring—covered the walls.

As though answering an unheard call, a young man followed us into the room, leading bearers who deposited a variety of food and drink on the table. That done, the young man sent the bearers away and then followed them, closing the door. Incarnos placed a padlock on the door. We all stood silently inside the room. I had the sense I watched some mystery unfold. I almost forgot to breath. Finally, Incarnos sat at the table and sighed.

“So, here we are,” he said. “Do please sit. I have much to tell you. The most unbelievable I will offer first, hoping you believe it. You know my name as Incarnos. It is my name in the tongues of men for my true name would slay you if you uttered it. I am an immortal servant of gods lost centuries ago tied to this flesh by Herotus.”

He placed his hands, palm down, on the table. His eyes moved from one of us to the next. Did he expect a response? What could we say? Had I not seen the lack of marks left from a fair beating by strong men, I would have laughed. I thought him mad. But the Holy Knights sought him out. If he were mad, why would they?

Carylle broke the silence by clapping her hands together then covering her mouth with them. The sound of the clapping made us all start, save Drustan who did not move.

“A messenger of the Old Gods.” Carylle spoke from behind cupped hands. She took a seat and then clasped her hands in front of her. “I had hopes of discovering secrets, but not this.”

She didn’t seem fazed at all by the news that froze the rest of us. Perhaps Incarnos was not the only one in that room hiding secrets.


Swords and A Squandering Snail continues in “These are Not the Myths You’re Looking For.”

Mundus Novit: Is That Opportunity Knocking?

In a game, your players tend to expect their plans to fall apart quickly, for everything to hit the fan, including the brown stuff. That’s why, when things go smoothly, like the plan in “Target of Opportunity,” the players get nervous—just like Scott and Becca. Once in a while, it might be fun to mess with the players’ heads by letting things work out, but there should be a reason why things go well, not just GM fiat.

The reverse holds true—don’t throw spanners into your players’ works just because you can. Everything in the game should follow logically.

If your players have crafted an excellent plan, one that takes into account a variety of factors, the only reason the GM should have to scotch it, is if that is based on the logic of the campaign. For example, maybe the terrorist the characters intend to snatch always has three snipers in overwatch when he’s addressing his followers. The characters may have planned to deal with two of the snipers, but have missed the third. Or they missed the second set of laser sensors inside the safe. Or the badguy doesn’t like cherry sherbert.

All of these are part of the campaign, part of the GM’s plan. It’s unfortunate that they might ruin the characters’ plan, but that’s just how it works. This also means that it’s important that the GM understand the NPCs. For example, if there’s no particular reason why the badguy wouldn’t like cherry sherbert, deciding it is so in order to ruin an otherwise excellent plan by the characters is cheap. If there’s drugs in the pork, and the NPC is Jewish or Muslim, that’s something else.

There’s always luck, or the lack of it. Unfortunately, that might seem too much like—or might actually be—GM fiat. This might be okay once or twice in a campaign, but the success or lack there of shouldn’t be predicated on the GM’s feelings or desires.

If you, as the GM, feels that the players have gone above and beyond in their preparations, or perhaps in their gaming, you might want to cut them a break and call it luck. That’s fine. I don’t think the reverse is true. I don’t think that the GM should punish players by decreeing bad luck for their characters. If the characters are unprepared, there shouldn’t be the need to invoke bad luck to watch their plans crumble.

Invoking bad luck will seem too much like sour grapes to the players. Remember, this is not a competitive game, it is a collaborative game. By using GM fiat to insure the players’ plans fail seems like cheating to win. Whether that is true or not, the perception could arise. That’s going to change the complexion of the game. When a GM loses the trust of the players, the fun suffers.

In the end, you want to challenge the players, not crush them. You want them to be able to be successful, but it should never be easy. When things work out, even when it is due to excellent preparations on the players part, it might actually make them sweat. No one should expect their plan to survive contact with the enemy.

And, yes, once in a while, just to play with their heads, it can be as fun to allow the players’ plan to succeed spectacularly.

The Lorestaves: Bowden and the Temples

Sign of the Squandering Snail: Basics
Morvia and Bowden the creation of Dean Martin
Written by Fraser Ronald

This product was devised both as a generic setting supplement that can be dropped into any campaign and as part of an ongoing adventure series—The Lorestaves. As such, the background information and some of the NPCs are based on the Lorestaves adventure. You can simply remove or ignore anything here that doesn’t interest you and use whatever you like however you like.

For example, while the area is called the Temples, perhaps in your campaign the player characters have already heard of an area in the city of Thatplace called “Dark & Gritty Quarter.” No problem, the Temples becomes Dark & Gritty Quarter in Thatplace. Your players are in a city and decide they want to do some gambling and go off in search of a gambling den. You can use the Snail without using the Temples. You can even use the descriptions of the Snail or the maps of the Snail separately if you so desire.

Bowden, in the Duchy of Algorn
The default setting for this adventure is the city of Bowden in the Duchy of Algorn. The duchy is part of the Divided Duchies in Morvia, which was to be the default setting for SEP’s Arcane Kingdoms line. Bowden is Algorn’s capital city and home to the ruling Duke, Javarre, and his Duchess, Hollis. Duke Javarre rules from within the impressive Stonewell Castle. Bowden is a coastal city of some 80,000 inhabitants and is the centre of Algorn’s powerful navy. The naval dockyards and shipwrights are the foundation of the Algorn economy. This city is also the site of the Divided Dukedom’s first university.

When prices are given, the local coinage will be used with the generic term in brackets. As such, were one to purchase a slab of meat and bread at the tavern, the price would be listed as 5 princes (sp). The gold coins of Bowden are sovereigns, known dismissively as wrens. The silver coinage is the princemark, often called princes. The copper coin is the dubling. Very rare and used only among merchants for large purchases and transfers of wealth, the brace is a platinum coin.

The Temples
The Temples District abuts the naval dockyards. The origin of the name is lost to history, as there is no record of a temple ever existing within the district. However, the Temples was once filled with places of worship dedicated to the elder gods, long before the One God arrived. The adherents of the One God, on their ascension to power, destroyed the temples of the elder gods and cursed the very land on which those temples had been built. They erased from history even the existence of those structures, though the people of the city that became Bowden continued to call the area ‘the Temples.’ Folk knowledge once again maintained that which historic records lost.

The Temples became a shunned area. For almost a century after its razing, only the homeless and the hopeless would venture into the Temples. Slowly, as the city grew, the abandoned area near the docks, avoided by the ‘good folk,’ became home to an underclass, those not recognized officially by the government. From the ruins, these individuals built homes and then businesses. The residents of Bowden found a new reason to shun the Temples—the danger they found there. Criminals of all kinds congregated in the district. While one could find legitimate businesses in the Temples—even criminals needed clothing, shoes and food—most of the prosperous businesses catered to needs and desires frowned upon or openly condemned throughout the rest of the city. The term ‘pink lantern’ and its links to prostitution come from the Temples.

Successive rulers attempted to eradicate or at least control the Temples, but the effort required proved too great. While the city vocally detested the Temples and its residents, many in the city patronized its businesses. Smugglers made their contacts and deliveries through the Temples, assassins found sponsors and whores their ‘mules.’ The Temples housed the underground economy of loan-sharks and coin shavers. The finances of the Temples are an important facet of the economy of Bowden, and this has contributed to the longevity of the district, protecting it to a degree from the campaigns against it.

Duke Javarre has enacted a hands-off approach to the Temples. He officially announced that he would enforce the peace and laws within the district, but at the same time he did not wish to expend the amount of wealth and manpower necessary to bring order to the Temples. However, most of the residents of the Temples feared that if they pushed this duke too far, he would force law onto them. A détente now exists, in which the depravities of the Temples are hidden behind closed doors and the streets are as safe as any street on the dockyards—perhaps not perfectly safe, but the district is no longer a jungle. The duke, for his part, sends his troops to police the district during daylight. While the troops disappear at night, there are plenty nearby should a grave disturbance arise.

Swords and A Squandering Snail: Dramatic Entrances

As related in Swords and Meetings, Cade of Galaras, a poet and dramatist opposed to the Church of Herotus, has joined three accomplices to oppose the Church of Herotus: Eam, a sorcerer and ex-mercenary; Drustan, a Half-Orc Barbarian; and Sabrine, an attractive and stealthy archer. The four now find themselves in the Temples district of Bowden, a relatively wretched hive of scum and possible villainy.


One: Dramatic Entrances

Once again, we found ourselves in a tavern I could call acceptable only with extreme charity. I rested my back against cool stone. It was the only place I didn’t expect to sprout a blade. The few broken and bent people in that establishment had a nefarious look I knew only too well. Woe the individual with coin in purse—that person would likely lose coin, blood, or both.

Beside me sat Sabrine, my cousin. Beautiful, unforgiving and probably smarter than three of me with our heads together, she had wrapped herself in a dark cloak that obscured her shape. It protected her from prying eyes, meaning every male in the establishment who didn’t sit at our table.

A hood and heavy cloak hid Drustan’s features and thick body. Though the quarter called “the Temples” in Bowden had that egalitarian bent I had seen in other slums, we didn’t want to press the acceptance of the mob. He crouched over the table, his arms crossed before him, his face melting into the shadows of the hood.

Cade all but sprawled in his chair, apparently unconcerned with the intentions of those around us. He had his legs stretched out before him and his arm hung over the back of his chair. He had chosen this tavern as he had a connection with whom he wished to speak.

Only a sprinkling of denizens sat throughout the room. They shared the worn, hopeless look of the building itself. The tables, like the patrons, looked as though they had seen many hard years. I could barely swallow the ale and feared attempting any of the wine I had seen others drink.

“You should whip up a spell to remove the bite of this drink,” Sabrine said.

I laughed at that. “I can barely control the magic that touches me. I’d likely turn the ale to oil and leave you with a lantern for a drink.”

“And that’s why you dream of Highstone?” Cade asked. “You think you might find some answers to your magic there?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” I said. “I don’t know much about Highstone, save its reputation.”

“You say this friend of yours studied at Highstone?” Drustan spoke in his usual gravelly croak.

“Studied, though not as a wizard,” Cade said. “She supports herself as a minstrel but has an insatiable curiosity for the ancient and legendary. She sought out answers at Highstone, but really only found tantalizing clues. Those led her here.”

I looked about at the room in which we sat. It rose up some three stories, with stairs leading to a balcony on the second story but not to the one on the third. I wondered how one might reach that. The smoke of the few candles that provided dim illumination rose up to disappear in the darkness above us.

“What could she hope to find here?” I asked.

“Secrets,” Cade said. “Secrets that we can use against the Church.”

“Then it’s worth the risk,” Sabrine said. “But I don’t want to wait much longer. The word has likely spread of the four people lounging in this tavern who don’t look like they are starving and might have some money.”

Cade rose. “She said she worked in the gambling den, which should be somewhere nearby or attached.”

Drustan put his hand on Cade’s arm. “I doubt wandering about on your own would be wise.”

At that moment, a man stumbled through the door. He almost fell before catching a table and righting himself. He wore clothes that may once have been fine, given the embroidery still apparent, but hung like rags from his thin limbs. He had a gaunt face with bright, ice-blue eyes. He gasped as he held the table.

Behind him came seven armoured figures. I stiffened. The lead figure wore the armour of a Holy Knight while those who followed him I marked as Initiates. Could they have found us?

The man turned and began to back away. The Holy Knight pointed at him. “Your terror is at an end. Now you will tell us where you have hidden the staves.”

“Gentlemen, I believe you are mistaken,” the man said. “You do not serve the one true god, only a usurper of gentle gods.”

The Holy Knight surged forward, delivering a backhanded strike to the man’s face. The meaty sound of impact seemed to echo to the rafters. The man rolled with the blow, twisting away. He still faced the Holy Knight. He did not appear injured. His face had no mark on it.

The man smiled. “Ah, the gentle word of the supreme deity, yes?”

The Holy Knight spat in the man’s face. “Your words are as twisted as your masters.”

With that, the Holy Knight gestured toward the man. The Initiates approached, daggers drawn. Cade, still standing, turned to Sabrine. “We can’t leave this.”

“You heard his words,” Drustan said. “He too offers secrets against the Church, and they intend to silence him.”

The Initiates began to beat the man with the pommels of their daggers. He threw up his arms, perhaps hoping to protect himself from the blows, but he faced six men. He shouted, but did not call for help. What help would he expect in this rat’s den?

Without a thought, I stood. The Holy Knight turned and he seemed to notice us. He slid his greatsword out of the scabbard on his back. Like all the blades of those false knights, it had an engraved paean to the god Herotus and a prayer for potency in battle. The etching seemed to suck in the faint light of the room. He let the tip rest on the ground, as though standing guard against us.

“What crime has that man committed?” Cade asked.

“It is not your concern, citizen.” The Holy Knight’s helm muffled his voice, but it still had the force of command behind it.

“It’s our concern if you are beating an innocent man,” I said.

Sabrine frowned at me. I knew her unspoken comment was right. Why would we face seven Knights of the Holy Mount, even if six of them were Initiates? Engaging superior numbers is never a good strategy.

“Are you in league with this servant of evil that you would speak on his behalf?” the Holy Knight asked.

“Servant of evil?” Drustan rose.

I heard Sabrine groan as she reached beneath her cloak. We had come to know that tone in Drustan’s voice. He didn’t like seeing the weak attacked. He didn’t like the Church. He didn’t like sanctimonious, self-righteousness. He had all that within easy reach of that spear of his, and so that is exactly what he drew out from beneath the table.

Spear in hand, Drustan turned on the Holy Knight. “You are the servant of evil, you and your weak-livered cronies. I will bathe my blade in your blood and send you screaming to your god.”

“I know you, Drustan of Teyrs, the Half-Orc.” The Holy Knight went to guard with his greatsword. “You will surrender yourself and your compatriots to trial by the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount in the name of myself, Brother-Sergeant Heston of the Mount. Divest yourselves of your weapons.”

In answer, Drustan drew a dirk, more sword than knife. While I revelled in calling forth the power I had found buried deep in my heart, I knew we had put our feet in something foul that would take a fair effort to scrape off. My magic wasn’t strong enough to tip the scales in this contest. Before Drustan could close with the Holy Knight calling himself Heston, I grabbed the crossbow from beside my chair. I knew the weak point in the armour of the Holy Knights.

The Holy Knight took a step back. “Iolan, Metres, to me.”

And I released. The bolt slammed into the Holy Knight’s breastplate, though not where I had intended. It did not pierce, but knocked him back a step. With a howl, Drustan stepped in, swinging his broad-bladed spear. Off balance, the Holy Knight failed to counter the attack. Drustan’s spear glanced off the armour, but again drove the Holy Knight back.

The Initiates had turned from the beating of the defenceless man and drew their swords.

“We’re in the thick of it now.” Cade had his sword in his hand.

“It would be a fine time for your friend to arrive.” Sabrine nocked an arrow to her bow. “Your friend and about ten others ready for a fight.”


Swords and A Squandering Snail continues in “The Minstrel and the Prophet.”

Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – Target of Opportunity

In “The Stream,” Boyle and his team get jumped in Kathmandu by a crew who may work for the Chinese.

In “The Vault,” a special section of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is monitoring Kathmandu, which has gone dark to all electronic and parapsychic traffic. Madison and Heather, two agents from the Vault, joined their international spec ops team in “Meet & Greet.” While on the trail of Boyle, the team is ambushed  by a group of parapsyches able to break through the Kathmandu silence. The team foiled the ambush, but at the end of “Dirty Hands,” they were facing the business ends of more firearms.

In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle. Off the record and off the reservation. Alex then goes to meet a contact in Burma in “The Russian.” Rudi the Russian agrees to supply both equipment and information for Alex’s forway into Nepal.

In “The Bedouin,” Kyle and Meredith from the Prospero Group contract the intelligence broker known as the Bedouin to get them a lead on what is happening in Kathmandu. The Bedouin returns to old haunts in “From Delhi With Indifference,” only to be ambushed by hit teams led by a man with a Nepalese name but an American accent.

Now, Alex and Becca try to make contact with a prisoner in Kathmandu allegedly connected to Tangible Stream.


Nine: Target of Opportunity

Alex watched Becca walk with feigned uncertainty toward the woman’s prison. He really thought calling that place a “prison” was a bit of a stretch. Anyone half-way competent could move through the guards and into the compound with ease. A chain link fence? One evening with Becca to watch his back, and Alex could be in, get the target, and get out. Sure the compound had a back-up generator, but Alex had a Knight’s Armament SR-25 sniper rifle back at the safehouse that could take care of that once the power lines had been cut.

So why did the Stream allow one of its operatives to rot away in there?

He glanced at the the thick-set Gurkha beside him, all neck and shoulders and barrel chest. “So tell me again how we know this Jane Doe is Stream.”

Jane Doe. Nobody knew her name.

The ex-Brigade of the Gurkhas, ex-private military contract, and present fixer lined up by Rudi the Russian named Gurung shrugged. “We don’t know for certain. The SR-25 I got you? I got one for Boyle also. It was presented as Jane Doe’s murder weapon. I would say that puts her on his team.”

Mr. Gurung had set Boyle up with equipment as well. Not through Rudi, but through someone else. Gurung couldn’t say much, but he admitted to working with the Stream before. No names. Alex wouldn’t expect any. He had no way to verify, no way to ascertain the facts. He had to go by instinct. Instinct told him to trust Gurung.

Becca spoke to the guards. She had a bag of toiletries that she would pass on to the Jane Doe if allowed. The toiletries really were toiletries, no files in the bar of soap. Becca was bait. Anyone watching would see the hand-off. Then they’d be on Becca. The hope was that Alex would be on them.

“You talk to your commando buddy again?” Alex watched Becca rather than Gurung.

“Yes, and he’s asking about Boyle,” Gurung said. “I couldn’t give him anything, but I told him about Jane Doe. He didn’t require confirmation, he just asked for me to arrange a meet.”

Confirmation? Was that a dig? Alex glanced at Gurung. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him that I would work on it.” Gurung offered Scott a tight grin. “That got him excited.”

Becca continued to converse with the guards. She didn’t speak Nepalese, so Alex assumed someone there was speaking English to her. Maybe they were talking past each other, each one speaking a different language, talking louder and louder as if that would help with the translation. Becca didn’t seem ignorant enough for that. What about the guards?

“This team your Kiwi comes from sounds a touch strange,” Scott said. “A Kiwi, a Yank, a Brit, and two Canucks? Who put that together?”

“I know the Limey,” said Gurung. “He goes by Flick. Used to be SAS, then Increment. These days, I don’t know.”

“He’s black ops.” Alex left it at that. As he scanned the surroundings, he noted a single figure watching the prison, possibly watching Becca. “Son of a bitch. Check him out, black coat, over by the broken wall.”

Gurung did it nice and subtle. He rubbed his nose. “He certainly appears to be surveillance.”

“Look again. I mean really look.” Alex slid out his Para-Ordnance LDA, keeping it close to his body, almost hidden.

“Is he talking on a cell phone?” Gurung asked.

“He’s apparently got a hell of a provider, since that’s likely the only cell working in this city.” Alex sought his target’s back up. He couldn’t find it. “I can’t believe this guy is going solo. Are you armed?”

Gurung pulled back his loose shirt to reveal a Browning Hi-Power autoloader. “Always.”

Showing Gurung his back put Alex in a hell of a position. If Gurung wasn’t all he said he was, if he was playing the other side of the street, he might take the opportunity to end Alex. Still, there was no way for Alex to get Becca on board without alerting the target.

“This guy is in on something.” Alex started moving. He needed to be in position to become a shadow when the target moved. “Give me five metres. And watch my back.”

With a wink, Gurung patted his shirt where it covered his Browning.

Alex had the nonchalant, discrete move to position down to an art. He knew what speed he could make without getting marked, how to watch without looking like he watched, and where and when to slow and stop to be ready to move again. Usually, moving unseen through a foreign country could prove difficult for someone with the wrong colour of skin. Fortunately, Kathmandu had attracted more than the usual number of visitors since going dark. Alex could count at least ten other people in close proximity that looked American or European.

The target didn’t seem local either. Alex would guess Chinese. That would make sense, given the victim of Jane Doe’s alleged murder was also Chinese. Still, Rudi had said the Chinese weren’t involved. Taiwan didn’t make much sense—not that any of it did. It looked like someone wanted fingers pointing at China.

Alex found himself a comfortable perch, a place to watch Joe Target until he began to move. Alex slid off his rucksack and took out his handy guide book. His silenced MP7 hid in that rucksack, which now rested against his leg. So did a thermos of milk and a sandwich. Lunch.

Becca left the prison without passing on the package. She actually gave it to the guard. Playing the naive traveller?

Joe Target closed his cell phone and was in motion. He lacked any kind of subtlety. It was like watching a bad TV episode. Becca must have noted him, but she knew her part. Lead him into a carefully chosen cul de sac, where they could hopefully take him alive.

Or, if necessary, kill him without attracting much notice.

Alex couldn’t check to see if Gurung followed him. Doing so would alert any opposition. He just hoped that Gurung lived up to his reputation, that he could spot Joe Target’s support and put himself in a place to intervene should the situation get kinetic.

Another 200 metres, and Becca would turn left into a small alley. A few steps past that, and she’d turn left into a small courtyard. There, she’d get the silenced Steyr TMP sub-machine gun out of her backpack/fashionable purse. Joe Target would hopefully surrender when faced with the business end of a firearm. If not, Alex would take him from behind and flex cuff him. Worse came to worse, if he tried to throw down, Becca would simply air him out.

Nice plan. Simple plan. Everyone expected it to completely wash once the actors were in motion.

When one initiated a snatch-and-grab, one needed to consider all the possibilities. One always over-estimated one’s opponents, expected third parties to interfere, prepared for exfiltrations and evacuations. One rarely expected one’s plan to come to fruition exactly as laid out.

Becca turned left. Joe Target, barely three metres behind her, did the same. Knowing the action would paint him for surveillance, Alex hurried to a quick jog. Already making himself obvious, Alex risked a quick glance to try to pick out opposition.

He saw Gurung, still playing the nobody. He saw no opposition. No reaction to his movement.

Is this guy really going solo?

Alex met Joe Target at the mouth of the alley, running away from Becca. The look on his face told Alex this man didn’t expect a complete wash, didn’t plan for eventualities, and only over-estimated himself.

This man was no professional.

Alex cracked him on the bridge of his nose with the butt of his automatic. Alex was already supporting Joe Target when he started to collapse. Using his momentum, Alex pushed Joe Target’s limp body back into the alley, and into Becca’s waiting arms. They cuffed him, then deposited him in the courtyard.

“That was weird.” Becca held her Steyr in one hand, her eyes on the mouth of the alley.

“It’s more than weird,” Alex said, “That guy has a cell phone that works. I marked him as someone involved, but now I’m starting to wonder.”

“Maybe he was just playing?” Becca considered the groaning Mr. Target. “Maybe he’s delusional or something.”

“Delusional or not, he was following you.” Alex held the Para-Ordnance autoloader down by his leg, inconspicuous. “Gurung’s likely watching, and I don’t hear fireworks, but I’m going to eyeball it before we go.”

Becca nodded, and moved to stand half in the courtyard, able to watch the alley and its mouth from cover.

The twisting fist in his gut that told Alex everything was wrong yanked a little harder as he inched toward the mouth of the alley. He had no idea what to expect. Nothing was what he got. Absolutely nothing. Gurung stood across the street. He met Alex’s eyes and shrugged. Normally Alex would consider that unprofessional, but this time he just did the same.

What the hell was going on?

Taking a big risk, Alex crossed the street to speak to Gurung. He couldn’t feel eyes on him, didn’t sense any surveillance. Maybe Joe Target honestly had no back up. Totally solo.

Fucking insane.

“Listen, this is making me sweat,” said Gurung. “Do you have the right guy?”

“Our problem,” Alex said. “I’ll be in touch with you. I have a feeling I’m going to have some requests, maybe something to pass on to Rudi.”

“I’ll be waiting by the phone.” Gurung gave a little half-smile. “If they arrest you, I promise I’ll bring you a thermos of milk and a nice sandwich.”


Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “A Cat’s Reward.”

Lorestaves: the Knights

The Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount
Concepts by Dean Martin and Fraser Ronald
Written by Fraser Ronald

The Knights of the Holy Mount, often simply called the Holy Knights, are no longer a religious order at all. They have become a military unit rather than a militant arm of the Church. While still considered a branch of the Church, the only member of the Church that has any influence on the Holy Knights is the Patriarch.

While all members of the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount are commonly called Holy Knights, the Order only encompasses 100 Knights. The other members of the Order are Initiates. In order to join the Holy Knights as an Initiate, an individual must renounce all worldly wealth and connections. One must sever ties with one’s family and one’s friends. An Initiate of the Holy Knights has no personal wealth. Even the armour, weapons, and mount of the Initiates are the property of the Order.

The centre of the Holy Knights is their Grand Temple. The Grand Temple of the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount is found, as one might imagine, at the Holy Mount in Bordeleaux, Eresbor. The Grand Temple is the home of the Abbot of the Order and his Monastic Council, made up of the three Brother-Generals of the Order. The Abbot is a life-long post, and when an abbot passes, the Brother-Captains hold a secret vote to choose a new Abbott from among the Brother-Generals. The Brother-Captains then elect a new Brother-General from amongst their numbers.

While there are only three Brother-Generals, there are numerous Brother-Captains. Many cities have chapterhouses, which are bases for the Holy Knights. Each chapterhouse is commanded by a Brother-Captain. Beneath each Brother-Captain is a Brother-Sergeant. Brother-Sergeant is the lowest rank held by a Holy Knight. While the Brother-Captain is responsible for all the business of the chapterhouse and acts as a representative of the Order, the Brother-Sergeant is charged only with leading the Initiates.

Initiates are divided into Initiate-Novice, Initiate, and Initiate-Brother. When an individual first joins the Holy Knights, he is an Initiate-Novice and acts as the personal servant of a Brother-Sergeant. After a year of service, he begins his military training as an Initiate. Most, but not all Initiates, have had martial experience or training, however some are simply peasants or serfs. Some Initiates never graduate their training. Those who do not perform to the expectations of the Brother-Sergeant have the choice of remaining with the Order as an Initiate-Novice, a servant to a Brother-Sergeant, or to leave the Order. When an Initiate graduates to Initiate-Brother, he receives his sword, armour and bracers.

The sword, armour and bracers are the mark of the Holy Knights. All martial members of the Order bear a greatsword in imitation of the twelve chosen knights of Herotus, whom they seek to emulate. Each greatsword remains the property of the Order, and they are fashioned in the armoury at the Holy Mount. The greatswords of Initiates are engraved with a paean to the god Herotus and a prayer for potency in battle. The armour of the Initiate is a suit of scale armour Initiate-Brothers all wear Bracers of the Initiates, fashioned of steel and bearing the mark of the Holy Knights.

When a there is an opening among the Knights, the Brother-Captains elect a new Brother-Sergeant from among the Initiate-Brothers. It is usually the case that only those Initiate-Brothers who have accomplished some deed of note are ever considered for admission into the Knights. Should there be no Initiate-Brother of note, it usually falls to political machinations and influence. It is in this manner that many Initiate-Brothers who have little martial ability are promoted into the Holy Knights.

When an Initiate-Brother joins the ranks of the Holy Knights, he gains the blade, bracers and armour of the Holy Knight whom he replaces. The Bracers of the Holy Knights are similar to the Bracers of the Initiates, save that they are fashioned of silver. The armour of a Holy Knight is a breastplate and greaves.  When an Initiate-Brother becomes a Holy Knight, he travels to the Holy Mount, accompanied by the Brother-Sergeant who commands him. At the Holy Mount, the armour of the knight whom he replaces is fitted for him, and is then presented, along with the bracers and sword, by the Abbott in a grand ceremony. It is at this time, the Initiate-Brother learns many of the secrets of the Holy Knights, including the legend of the twelve greatswords which the Order seeks.

The marks of the Holy Knights, the sword, armour and bracers, are protected by the Order. If an Initiate or Knight falls, that individual’s armour, bracers and sword must be recovered. Should an individual outside the Order acquire any of these items, the Holy Knights will undertake a quest to retrieve them. As with most actions of the Order, the end justifies the means, so in pursuit of lost items, the Order will undertake any stratagem, regardless of morality. The death of the individual who has the item(s) is usually the result of such a quest.

Any member of the Order, Knight or Initiate, entering a city in which a chapterhouse operates, must register his presence immediately with that house. All chapterhouses are required to provide full hospitality to any travelling member of the Order. Laypersons are absolutely forbidden entrance to any chapterhouse, though visiting dignitaries have been housed in the Grand Temple. Holy Knights are prohibited personal wealth and are expected to hand over any excess funds beyond that needed for personal maintenance to the nearest chapterhouse or Church. Therefore, a member of the Order may have excessive money in his possession only if there is neither a chapterhouse nor church nearby. There has been a problem within the Church of defining what is excessive, and certain members of the Order have asserted that the maintenance of a castle, personal guard and entourage are “necessary” for the proper maintenance of duty.

The Order has taken great lengths to maintain the secret of its true purpose. The Abbott and the Brother-Generals are aware of the true nature of their search for the Lorestaves. They know that Herotus vanquished older powers whom the world calls demons, and that the Lorestaves will release those older powers into the world. The Abbott has sent the Holy Knights to seek out Incarnos and the Lorestaves. He wishes the Lorestaves returned to the Holy Mount, though what he will do with them what he has them in his power, he has not yet decided.

News Hooks: Somali Snatch and Grab

A very interesting and public use of US military assets for a direct action mission. It’s totally a guess, but I would say 160th SOAR and Delta. This is exactly the kind of stuff I would run in a Covert Forces campaign. Maybe the CSRS were involved? In my game, they would be!

nabhanBut let’s extrapolate a bit from this, make it juicier. If I were running this in Mundus Novit, I could add in a few details, make it something out of the ordinary. Now, honestly, buzzing an enemy convoy, disabling the vehicles, and performing a snatch and grab in hostile territory doesn’t need anything more to make it exciting, but if you are running a reality plus game (based in the real world but with some SFX elements), how would Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan fit into this?

First off, if I were writing this, Nabhan would be captured rather than killed. A Voice of America article indicates the US took “his body into U.S. Custody.” What is special about Nabhan?

If you want to go with minimal SFX, Nabhan is a human incubator of a new super-virus. He’s been somehow immunized against its effects, but the virus is breeding in his body. The clock was ticking because the virus doesn’t go live and virulent for a set period of time. Let’s say the team has intel from a defector (or a previous target of another raid), that the new virus will be viable in 48 hours. The clock is ticking and the team has to find and capture Nabhan within that timeframe. A kill is acceptable, but the virus might still be growing. Further, they need samples of the virus to synthesize an vaccine, given that the terrorists could just make more.

Bigger SFX with a horror element could have Nabhan as the nexus of a lycanthropy infection in Somalia. That’s kind of a riff on the virus problem, because when he’s loose, Nabhan could start infecting others. I choose lycanthropy rather than vampirism because werewolves need a full moon, which gives us a countdown as well. Nab Nabhan before the next full moon or things are going to get messy.

Nabhan might also be an agent of the alien infiltrators that run the shadow government. They’ve now begun to replace terrorist leaders in order to get a grip on that—at this time—unregulated danger. For the group opposing the aliens, Nabhan will have important information on the alien project to replace people. He might know who has been replaced, which till give the PCs an idea as to whom they can trust.

Ah, the news—the sum of it and my imagination is so much greater than those parts.

Swords and Meetings: the Bar

In “The Alley”, Cade of Galaras, a poet and dramatist opposed to the Church of Herotus, faced a group of Holy Knights. Three warriors came to his aid: Eam, a sorcerer and ex-mercenary; Drustan, a Half-Orc Barbarian; and Sabrine, an attractive and stealthy archer. The four escaped the Holy Knights, and we now rejoin them as they relax in the comforting environs of a tavern


Two: The Bar

We sat in a small tavern, a place Drustan knew well. The owner owed him some debt, as so many did. Across from me, the man I had come to know as Galeris of the Valley and Casrid of the Feather held a cup of wine and watched me silently. Sabrine sat beside him, talking of some inconsequential event or another. She liked to prattle around pretty men.

I don’t know what I had expected of the writer of the broadsheets and tracts against the One True Church of Herotus, but the man in front of me did not meet any expectation. When I had heard that he might be in the city, we had sought him out. Sabrine had thought it a waste of time. Drustan didn’t make any comment. Both as I had expected.

There, in the theatre, after a presentation of the satire “the Priest of Wry,” the man calling himself Galeris of the Valley addressed the crowd. Most, like us, had grievances against the Church, so he had a receptive audience. Of middling height and small stature, ‘Galeris’ had the telltale ears and sharp features that marked him as not quite Human and not quite Elven. I hadn’t expected that. It didn’t change anything.

The arrival of Holy Knights interrupted the oration and precipitated a small riot. I applauded the citizens for that, if for nothing else. The problem was that we lost Galeris in the confusion. Luckily so had the Knights. No one, though, escaped Drustan for long. Even in the city, Drustan followed the trail until we found the man I then came to know as Cade of Galaras. He had some Initiates and a few Knights with him, but we had faced that difficulty before.

“So Eam said we needed to find you, see if you needed our help,” Sabrine said. “I guess you did.”

Cade’s eyes moved from me to Sabrine. “So I did, but I still don’t understand who you are.”

I frowned. “We’ve given you our names and our purpose. What more do you need?”

Sabrine waved away the question. “I think my cousin’s a little upset finding that you aren’t some wise old man who can show us the path to overthrowing the Church.”

Drustan chuckled beside me. I gave him an accusatory glance—some ally he. Truth was, Sabrine was right, Drustan knew it, and so I really shouldn’t have expected anything more. He only offered support when I was correct, so not too often.

“To help your understanding, I will introduce myself to you.” Drustan spoke from under his hood. In public places, he always disappeared beneath stooped posture, huge cloaks and hoods. He had reason to fear anyone seeing his face. “As you know, my name is Drustan of Teyrs. I was a scion of a noble branch of an illustrious tribe until the Holy Knights came. My people do not accept your Church.” He paused, then touched his palm to his forehead, his gesture for apology. “I mean the Church of Herotus. Some king or other coveted the caravan routes through the mountains which my tribe controlled. I cannot tell stories, but I will say the war was long. Then the Holy Knights came. They killed warriors, elders and waifs. They burned the sick in their hostels and those who offered to kiss the feet of the Knights’ god received the quick death of the sword rather than the pain of the flame.”

“But you survived,” Cade said. “If you faced all the Church, how did you survive?”

“I learnt that war is not glory, war is will.” Drustan placed both hands on his chest. He spoke truth. “My people fight for glory. We mark ourselves with our totems and our victories. The Knights only fight to win. They do not care for glory and they do not care for honour, they love only their god and blood. I learnt to defeat them, I must live. I can kill one or I can kill twenty, but in the end they triumph if I die. So I left my land and my tribe.”

“Drustan and I met years ago.” I tried to keep my voice even. I think I failed. “When I was younger, I marched with Alder’s Free Blades.” Cade didn’t ask about Sherasvale, as most everyone did. Maybe he didn’t know about it. Whatever the reason, I appreciated not relating once again the story of losing everyone for whom I had cared. “When I left VeBrance, I needed someone who knew these lands, so I sought out Drustan.”

“Fate led him to me.” Drustan tapped my shoulder with his fist, as he always did when marking our sworn kinship. “And I led him to his cousin.”

Cade glanced over at Sabrine, and I could see the interest in his eyes. My cousin was a young woman who had the strength of a soldier but the appearance of a princess. Men tended to abase themselves to her. I was man enough to see her beauty and cousin enough to bemoan it. Still, she always seemed to understand the situation better than I, so I never intervened. I waited for the day when she came to me crying and I would need to spill the blood of the man who had robbed her of her virtue.

That or she would get married and have eighteen children. With Sabrine, one never knew.

“My family came from VeBrance just after my birth,” Sabrine said. “I knew I had family there, but I had never sought them out. Then Eam came and found me.”

“Found her marching with Tersit’s Legion.” Eam held Sabrine’s eyes as they shared the memory. “A scout and spy that Captain Tersit figured was his best asset. She only had to say a word and Drustan and I had a commission.”

“Well, Drustan had a commission as soon as Tersit saw him,” Sabrine said. “I don’t think there’s a captain alive who wouldn’t want Drustan in his company. Now Eam, well that took some pleading.”

“That is all very interesting, but it really doesn’t explain anything,” Cade said. “What are you doing here? And why are you seeking me?”

Eam pointed to his own chest. “The man who sold out Alder’s Free Blades was a prelate of the Church.” Eam touched Drustan’s arm. “The men who killed Drustan’s tribe were of the Church.” Eam waved to Sabrine, his hand loose. “And Sabrine just wanted to do something different.” Eam leaned over the table. “I am sentenced to burn because I’m a heretic. Drustan is sentenced to burn because he’s apparently a demon. If Sabrine gets caught with us, she can expect pretty much the same. Do you see what we have in common?”

Cade still played with his cup of wine, though he hadn’t drank from it. “So we’re all against the Church. You seem all capable with physically confronting the Church, but that is not what I do.”

“You have skill with your blade,” Drustan said. “I could teach you to be better.”

“That’s just it, I don’t want to be better with my blade.” Cade tapped his head. “I want to be better with my head. I want to write something that will make people see what has happened, what is happening all around them. If the people don’t turn against the Church, it’ll never fall. You can’t kill the Church.”

“That’s why we’ve come for you,” Sabrine said. “Like Eam said, I’m in this because he is. Family is important to me. But I can see what the Church has done. I can see what it’s doing. Eam says you’re the man who can make people see the truth. The truth I see is that you’ll be dead long before that happens.”

“The Holy Knights almost had you today,” Drustan said. “Next time may be the day your fate meets you.”

Cade shook his head. “So you’re going to be my bodyguards?”

Sabrine guffawed, as loud and deep as any soldier. “Is that what you need? No, we’re offering you a place with us. We know people, probably different than the people you know. We figure getting the pen and sword together would be a good idea. At some point, people like you will need people like us.”

“So I continue doing what I’m doing?” Cade asked.

“And we continue what we are doing.” Sabrine said. “We just have one more horse, and hopefully one more rider.”

“How can I trust you?” Cade asked.

Eam leaned forward. “Look into my eyes, listen to me when I tell you that I live to see this Church fall. I honestly think your words can help topple the Church, so I want to keep you alive. Sabine and Drustan have deferred to me on this. That’s pretty rare, so consider that a good omen. We move a lot and we travel light, but there are people we know who can take your letters or whatever you have and deliver them where they need to go.”

For the first time, Cade smiled. He leaned back and raised his cup. “If I am to die, I will die in this company. I salute you, my new company. Not actors, not playwrights, not orators or minstrels, still a good company with hope and vision. Let us prosper.”

We all took up our cups and joined the salute. I drank deep, emptying my cup. Sabrine, Drustan and I slammed our empty cups down onto the table, as was our custom. It seemed to startle Cade.

“Your cups are loud, but mine is quiet.” Cade put his cup to his ear, as though listening to it. “I hear it whisper of a butcher in Terrisdale who runs a common house we might like to visit. His brother is a priest of the Church and passes on such interesting rumors.”


Eam, Cade, Drustan and Sabrine return in “Dramatic Entrances,” a part of  Swords and A Squandering Snail.

Mundus Novit: Kathmandu Campaigning

Running a campaign similar to Dark Horizons is a tough one. All of the characters act pretty independently. Granted, there is a goal presented to them—find Boyle. How they go about that goal is strictly left in their hands. It’s interesting to consider Dark Horizons as a campaign.

Now if you were to ask me how you could run a Dark Horizons campaign, I couldn’t tell you. I could tell you how I would run it. I’d do it just like I did the Khorforjan Gambit.

The Khorforjan Gambit—like a Dark Horizons campaign—is a kind of hybrid sandbox game. It’s a goal-oriented sandbox, in that the characters are presented with a goal, and then left to their own devices, as in a sandbox. While the characters deviating from the goal in Dark Horizons is unlikely, given that it is a work of fiction, in an actual campaign, deviation from the goal would lead to them losing their patrons and creating powerful enemies, but it would not be forbidden.

Deviating from the goal in the Khorforjan Gambit also has some pretty hefty penalties, but there’s nothing actually stopping the PCs from ditching their mission.

So how do I run such a goal-oriented sandbox game? I create a time-line of events and a collection of well-rounded NPCs. I have event locations prepared with boxed text, NPC stats etc, usually written down on index cards. I have some extra locations ready—a couple of bars or coffee-shops, residences, offices, that sort of thing—also on index cards and tagged for ease of access. The locations don’t need to be heavily developed, just enough that I’m able to wing it should the PCs enter.

With these in hand, I set the PCs loose and see what happens.

The time-line of events is important because this is going on in the background while the PCs are doing their thing. Each event needs a few paragraphs of description. A couple of examples from the Khorforjan Gambit are presented at the bottom of this post to give you an idea what I mean.

The NPCs need to be developed in much more depth than usual. I include sections for personal history, goals, motivations, what he knows, what he will tell, and tactics. An example from the Khorforjan Gambit is again included at the bottom.

Detailed NPCs linked to events in the time-line allow me, as the GM, to figure out what these characters would do when the PCs begin to impact on their plans. It is not always the smart thing. Given a character’s background, goals and motivations, the character’s reaction to PC actions might not be what you, yourself would do, but it’s consistent with the character. If you, as the GM, understand your NPCs and their plans, the PCs changing the time-line won’t be a huge concern. You’ll be able to judge NPC actions on the fly, just as you judge a lot of things on the fly.

And there’s the rub. You must be comfortable adjudicating on the fly. That’s true of any sandbox game. With goal-oriented sandbox, as I prepare it, the GM has a lot more resources at hand to address PC actions.

I shouldn’t have to say/write this, but I’m going to, because it is really, really important for a successful goal-oriented sandbox game (and any successful RPG session, really): you, the GM, are not out to win. When the PCs trip up your carefully prepared time-line, that’s what they are supposed to do. If they find and eliminate the Big Bad well before you expected, they shouldn’t be punished, they should be congratulated. The whole point is for them to win.

If you are the kind of person who is upset when the players act in a way you didn’t expect and throw a spanner into your works, stop GMing. Seriously. The GM facilitates the game, the GM doesn’t run it. It is not the GM’s game, it is the entire group’s game, and the point is for the players to have fun as well as the GM. If one or the other party is not having fun, you aren’t doing it right.

Also, be aware that the players will likely not have the chance to admire your impressive time-line, nor to marvel at the craftsmanship of your NPCs. It is highly unlikely that the PCs will encounter every event and location you have prepared. All that preparation isn’t for the players’ edification, it’s to make your role easier. Anything that isn’t used in this game, use it in the next. Recycle like a mo-fo. It’s the only way to work.

Running a goal-oriented sandbox game can be a daunting task, but the more you run, the more resources your compile that can be re-used. That’s why I use index cards. Infinitely portable from one game to the next. I print out the stats, locations, what have you and tape or glue them to the index cards rather than hand write them. That way, I have all that on file in case the index cards are lost.

So, ready to run a goal-oriented sandbox game? Pretty soon you’ll have an awesome campaign setting in which to do so.

Examples follow:

Time-Line Example 1: Kamilov the Messenger
Abbas decides, after hearing of Kamilov’s difficulties around Camp Parker, that the plan needs to be changed. While an authoritarian, Abbas does appreciate the input of his subordinates, so he sends Kamilov to contact the main players in his plan. Abbas will need Kamilov’s eastern European sedan, so Kamilov takes his moped. He departs the office at 1055 after having a short, light meal.

At 1130, he arrives at the small apartment complex in which Boboyev lives. Boboyev is not at home but is actually working in his office, at Boboyev Construction, conveniently located in the main square beside the apartments. Kamilov arrives there around 1140. He has a short discussion with Boboyev, which leads to an argument, as Boboyev is not particularly happy that Abbas has changed the plan unilaterally. He agrees to meet at the New Office that evening.

At 1155, Kamilov leaves the Boboyev Construction offices. By 1205, he arrives at the Old Sadirov Office, where Hasanov is working at this time. Hasanov greets him cordially. Muzaffar Hameed, the main contact for the HMA and the rogue SIG faction, is the manager and is also in attendance. Kamilov, whose first loyalty is to Hasanov, explains the situation and also explains that Boboyev is already angry regarding Abbas’ decision, taken without consultation. Hasanov is more understanding, recognizing that the HMA is not a democratic group. Hasanov decides to visit Boboyev and calm him down. Kamilov does not venture an opinion. Finally Hasanov indicates that he will make the meeting.

Kamilov leaves Sadirov Holdings at 1245. He knows that contacting Iskanov, a colonel with SIG, is dangerous. At 1310, Kamilov arrives at a small coffee house that borders the Blue Zone. It has no name but is run by a widow, Imenaz Salimov, whose husband was a supporter of Marat Burhonov in the civil war and was killed by government troops. He leaves a message with her that “the Wolf must meet the Shephard in his hut at the appointed time.” Salimov has no idea who the code names refer to, but she knows enough to pass the message on to Senior Lieutenant Yaqub Rakhmonov, who frequents her coffee house.

This done, Kamilov heads back to the office. By the time he arrives, 1325, Abbas has left for the Ashanjube Internally Displaced Persons camp. Kamilov has a nap in the unused bed in the guest room.

Time-Line Example 2     No Refuge, No Refugee
At 1300, after having a small lunch, Abbas will leave the New Office with his two Committed Guards. They will take Kamilov’s Eastern European sedan and drive to the HMA Rendezvous camp just outside of the Ashanjube camp. They will arrive at 1400 and from there, Abbas will send an HMA Runner to contact Saparmurat.

Saparmurat will arrive at the Rendezvous camp at 1435, along with the HMA Runner and two Camp Toughs. Saparmurat is in awe of Abbas and will agree whole-heartedly that the plan to attack Camp Parker was foolish. His reverence for Abbas partly colors his opinion, but it is also based on what he has seen of the CASFOR-A operations in the area. Knowing that Saparmurat is one of his best, local assets, Abbas is pleased to have him on-side, and invites him to the meeting at 2300. Saparmurat assures Abbas that he will be present.

After sharing tea, at about 1525, Abbas heads back to Khorforjan and Saparmurat returns to Ashanjube camp. Abbas arrives at the office around 1600.

NPC Example Saparmurat, leader of HMA element hiding in the Ashanjube Internally Displaced Persons camp.
Smart Hero 2/ Strong Hero 2/ Tough Hero 2/ Soldier 2: CR 8; 47-year old Male; HD 2d6+2 and 2d8+2 and 4d10+4; hp 52; MAS 13; Init +2; Spd 30 ft.; Def 18, touch 18, flatfooted 16; BAB +5; Grap +6; Atk +6 melee (knife 1d4+2), or +8 ranged (2d8+2, AKM), or +8 ranged (2d6, M1911A1); FS 5 ft. by 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; AL HMA; SV Fort +7, Ref +4, Will + 2; AP 4; Rep +1; Str 13, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8.
Skills: Craft (pharmaceutical) +7, Craft (structural) +10, Disable Device +10, Forgery +7, Handle Animal +2, Intimidate +7, Listen +5, Knowledge (current events) +8, Knowledge (streetwise) +9, Knowledge (tactics) +7, Knowledge (theology and philosophy) +5, Navigate +7, Repair +6, Search +5, Speak Language (Arabic, Russian and Tajik), Spot +5, Survival +8
Feats: Advanced Firearm Proficiency, Brawl, Educated (Tactics and Theology & Philosophy), Personal Firearms Proficiency, Quick Reload; Weapon Focus (M1911A1)
Talents (Smart Hero): Savant-Knowledge (streetwise)
Talents (Strong Hero): Extreme Effort
Talents (Tough Hero): Robust
Talents (Soldier): Weapon Focus (AKM), Weapon Specialization (AKM)
Occ: Rural (Handle Animal, Survival)
Possessions: AKM assault rifle, 6 AKM magazines, combat knife, M1911A1, 2 M1911A1 magazines, worn clothing.

Background: Saparmurat comes from a small farming community in what is now the Autonomous Province of Qurghon Khujand. He was born Akezhan Saparmurat. Frustrated and aware that his family would always remain poor, Akezhan left Albenistan and joined the Mujahideen, becoming known simply as Saparmurat. He remained in Afghanistan after the Soviet pull-out and even after Albenistan gained independence. Only the civil war drew him back.

During the civil war, Saparmurat joined the Albeni People’s Liberation Army (APLA). While the leadership was not as capable or ruthless as Saparmurat would have liked, they often spoke of their high regard for him and his accomplishments. The flattery worked.

After the civil war, Saparmurat began to work with weapons smugglers moving Russian armaments through the Central Asian republics. Many of his contacts from his days in Afghanistan remained active and they trusted Saparmurat, so he flourished. He also met Bahrom Hasanov. While Hasanov wasn’t much of a fighter, he had a quick mind. Through Hasanov, Saparmurat met another Mujahideen veteran, Abbas. Abbas’ vision of Albenistan infected Saparmurat, and he becomes an adherent of Abbas’ Albenistan Motherland Army (AMA). Saparmurat returned to Qurghon Khujand to lead AMA operations there.

When the AMA became Holy Motherland Albenistan (HMA), Saparmurat returned to the border region with Afghanistan. Refugee traffic offered the HMA a fertile ground for recruitment, and Saparmurat traveled among the various refugee camps and routes recruiting young men and criminals.

Goal: While Saparmurat professes the same goals as Abbas and the HMA, he wants a certain amount of chaos to remain. He has thrived amidst conflict and anarchy and he is not certain he could survive long in peace.

Motivation: Saparmurat retains his farmboy dream of making a difference, of shaking the corridors of power with his actions. He enjoys attacking authority literally. He also enjoys the adrenaline rush of combat.

What He Knows: Since he is involved in its planning, Saparmurat knows everything about the HMA timetable. He is also familiar with all the leaders of the HMA and knows Colonel Iskanov leads the rogue faction of SIG. He commands the HMA element in the Ashanjube camp and so knows everything about the HMA adherents there.

What Will He Tell: He won’t talk willingly. Even under threat of torture and death, Saparmurat will remain silent. Drugs might work on him but extreme duress is unlikely to succeed. In Afghanistan, Saparmurat was questioned by the Soviets and he didn’t crack.

Tactics: While one of the most experienced combat veterans in the HMA, Saparmurat has had no formal training. He knows enough to attack from surprise, and to withdraw from a superior force. He loves his autofire and this is his preferred mode of attack. He will lead from the front, but will not open himself to attack unnecessarily.