Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Smugglers' House

Although the "Savage Krevborna" game I ran was intended to be a one-shot, the way things ended up gave me some ideas that were so compelling that I wanted to follow it up with another. It helps that the characters my players came up with were extremely cool.

The Characters

Doctor Pendleton Torst, a sinister surgeon and anatomist

Countess Catarina Redmoore, a young and mysterious widow


Three years had passed since Doctor Torst and the Countess had revived the "goddess" revered by a cult in Lachryma and turned a tome known as the Song of the Nightsea over to a mysterious woman named Belle Silvra. Things are different now in Lachryma: the Children of the Nightsea cult has effectively pushed the Church of Holy Blood to the sidelines, fishfolk from Fathom's Reach now walk openly in the town, and Belle Silvra has assumed control of the area in a decidedly unelected capacity.

In the interim, Countess Catarina used her wealth to found a rather unconventional convent dedicated to the being worshiped by the Children of the Nightsea.(1) Unfortunately, two of her novices had recently disappeared from the convent, leaving their belongings behind. Doctor Torst returned to Lachryma just in time to help Catarina search for the missing girls.

The pair's first stop was The Sick Rose, since they figured that the tavern might be a hotbed of gossip and potential clues. The Sick Rose had also changed in the intervening years; where its clandestine operations were once confined to the tavern's secret basement, the tavern was now openly a gaudy den of sin. The trip did yield results: they learned that teenagers in Lachryma had recently been daring each other to spend the night in a supposedly haunted house found further up the shore. Some of the adolescents thought to have spent the night at the house never returned. Could it be possible that Flora and Anabeth, the missing novices, had absconded from the convent to dare the unknown at the isolated house?

Pendleton and Catarina engineered their time of arrival so that they could explore the house by daylight.(2) The house was much as they had expected: a two-story building in a poor state of repair, perilously perched upon a chalk cliff overlooking the sea. 

Inside, the house was also much as they expected. They encountered mold, mildew, and disrepair. They nearly fell through the rotten floor of the upper story at one point. They found decaying clothes and evidence of vermin. However, they also discovered signs that indicated that the house had been occupied recently: new boots in a wardrobe, a stack of clean dishes and cutlery in the dining room, a copy of The Book of the Saints that was not waterlogged like the other books in the house, a suspiciously dust-free desk. 

Interestingly, the hints of habitation had a religious flavor to them; aside from The Book of the Saints, they also found one of the Church's holy symbols on a chain  and a cloak that had a religious insignia sewn into its lining.(3) 

Also interesting: from the house's widow's walk they spied a ship skimming the coast--though there was no discernable reason for a ship to be traveling this stretch of sea. In another chamber they found a signal lantern hanging outside a widow that faced said sea.(4)

Further in the house, they found a bound and gagged man who, when released, told them his name was Nedric Tull. Nedric claimed that he was merely a treasure hunter looking for valuables in the house and that he had been struck from behind, knocked unconscious, and left in restrained in the room. After his clothes were fetched, Pendleton armed Nedric with a iron poker from the fireplace.(5) Nedric didn't want to leave on his own, so he agreed to help them search the house for the missing novices.(6)

The group had put off searching the cellar because they knew that's always where the worst things lurk, and they were entirely correct. Down in the house's wine cellar they found the corpse of Flora.(7) Flora had been stabbed to death by a variety of blades, apparently as she tried to flee from person's unknown. Opening the hidden door from which Flora had fled revealed a makeshift barracks--currently occupied by three "smugglers" and a captive Anabeth who was being forced to serve the smugglers as a maid!

Combat immediately erupted, of course. Unfortunately, at this moment Nedric turned on his liberators and began bludgeoning Pendleton with the iron poker. While battling it out with these ne'er-do-wells, another figure emerged: a man wearing churchman's robes with wild hair and an unkempt beard.(8) This figure called forth the light of the heavens, which speared through the air to impale Catarina and Pendleton in the desperate melee.

The duo was ultimately triumphant. A combination of dagger stabs and shots from Catarina's pistol felled all but one of the smugglers, who fled to another hidden door. She tried to escape down into the caverns below the house, but was stopped in her track with a well-placed bullet. Down in the caverns, Pendleton and Catarina found the spoils of the smuggling operation: the "smugglers" were actually agents of the Church who were smuggling holy books to the faithful and arming an insurgency movement with swords!(9)

Anabeth was able to fill in the other gaps: she and Flora had dared each other to spend the night in the supposedly haunted house, but discovered that the house was being used as a front for the Church's operations. The signal lantern could be used to send messages to the ship out at sea. Flora and Anabeth has been taken captive by the Church's agents, and Flora had been killed during an ill-fated escape attempt.

But now the duo know that the Church is planning a counter-offensive against the Children of the Nightsea. What will come of this?


(1) - Catarina's player came up with this idea at the end of the first session. Look, if one of your players hands you a hook like "My characters starts a creepy convent," you run with it.

(2) - In my experience, players will always opt to explore a location during the day. Cowards!

(3) - The players correctly deduced that the hidden insignia could be flashed to identify other conspirators as aligned with the Church.

(4) - The signal lantern and the ship they saw were connected, of course.

(5) - As he handed the poker to Nedric, Pendleton's player remarked that he would probably be bludgeoned by it later in the adventure. He was, in fact, correct.

(6) - Nedric's purpose in staying with the characters was to take any opportunities to convince them to leave the house. When the group encountered a "spectral voice" telling them to leave (actually a pre-programmed spell effect) he tried to impress upon them that fleeing was the right course of action.

(7) - Why have Flora be dead? If you want to light the fire of bloodthirst in a player, have them find the body of a character they feel responsible for.

(8) - This guy was actually a Church inquisitor.

(9) - No mundane smuggling operation here; in Krevborna, the bad guys smuggle Bibles and swords intended for the hands of fanatics.