by Brax, with apologies to Robert Lewis Stevenson.
Reposted from Ur-Braxa (archived site)
Desert Mutiny is an adventure that can be tailored for characters of any level from 3 to 12, as long as the PCs do not have access to easy psychoportive powers. This adventure is most challenging if the party includes multiple races, especially if one of the PCs is a half-giant.
After the Messenger-Comet's failure to arrive, Urikite and Drajan astronomers scoured the nightly skies for signs of what might have happened to the missing comet. Hence, astronomers in both Draj and Urik recently observed the great shooting star, and traced a rough map to where they believe it might have fallen.
Because Meteorites frequently contain metals, including iron and even steel (some claim that steel was manufactured by the ancients, but everyone with any sense knows that this incredible metal only comes from the stars), locating and salvaging a shooting star would be a feat worthy of a merchant House's attention. House Stel of course has the resources for such an enterprise, and puts together an impressive flotilla of armored caravans, kank-mounted cavalry, defilers. Hamanu has even lent a few templars for the task-in exchange for a cut of the gains, of course. The total number on the expedition: 60, including 20 slaves and 10 seasoned mercenaries.
Only four officers in the caravan know what the purpose of the mission is, although rumors are flying. But as the caravan passes by Tyr, the twenty slaves mysteriously escape, and a fleeting elf attack takes out most of the cavalry guard. The caravan is forced to stop in Tyr and recruit, and to make matters worse, while they are in Tyr, some of the guards take sick and others go AWOL. But the capitain and templars are determined to succeed, and so they recruit Tyrians to fill the ranks.
- The PCs are recruited in Tyr. (only if they have a good vouch for their honesty and capacity).
- The players are asked to pursue a merchant caravan to "rescue" a young noble who has run away from home by joining the caravan as a mercenary. The PCs are given a purse of 50 silver to help pay off the caravan. As they are about to leave the city, they are told not to come back to the city unsuccessfully. When they reach the caravan, they find that it has been attacked, and the youth that they came to seek is dead. The Captain offers the PCs good money to accompany the caravan.
The Plot Thickens:
After spending a few days defending the caravan, the PCs become aware of the many tensions among the crew. The four top officers are distant, arrogant, tight-fisted, and closed-mouthed, and generally alienate the rest of the crew. Because of the missing slaves, the top officers frequently demand backbreaking and demeaning work from free men that are not used to such treatment. But if the PCs show their worth to the expedition, the officers will treat them well and may even take them into their confidence.
As time goes on, each of the PCs is shadowed by a "buddy", a personal wannabe friend whose personality seems well matched to the PC's. Each "buddy" shows reasonable kindness to the PC, and demonstrates considerable "race-savvy". For example, the "buddy" to a half-giant will be gentle and charismatic, the buddy to an elf will perceptively pass all "tests" of friendship, etc. Any dwarf PC will be befriended by the Dwarven cook named Gretchen. Gretchen is calm, steady, and sympathetic to all, and she cooks damn good food; she ends up being the only pillar of stability that the expedition rests on. Gretchen is one of the few surviving Stel non-officers; the officers trust her even when it comes to hiring new crew members. After the caravan reaches the shooting star, and loots it, a great monster seems to attack every day. Due to this unbelievable bad luck, and the fact that some of the new recruits seem hesitant to put themselves in harm's way, most of the Stel-faithful warriors are eventually killed.
Time for mutiny.
What is really going on:
Gretchen is a House Tlalaxa spy that has bided her time for decades. She has used her leverage to hire several other Tlalaxa agents after freeing the Stel slaves near Tyr, and poisoning the strongest of the Stel Faithful. The Tlalaxa agents are very savvy and will try to obtain the PC's friendship in order to involve them into the mutiny. These NPCs are very bright and well trained and DMs should use their full Role-playing and manipulative abilities to sway the PC to become friends with their "buddy". The NPCs will also try to separate the PCs if possible (divide and conquer).
Gretchen possesses a Jewel of Attacks, which she normally keeps in a thick lead container that blocks its effects. She uses this to lure the terrible monsters, to facilitate the attrition of the Stel faithful. No one trusts a traitor, so the agents will probably dispose of any mutineers once their usefulness is expired, according to theTlalaxcan philosophy. They will first try to get as close to Draj as possible, saying that they have a good chance of selling it in Draj.