Eversink Villain #09: The King of Harbor Approach

Harbor Approach

No one considers Harbor Approach hip. Or, at least they didn’t until Tano Ghezzo started buying up the place and transforming it.

When people say “Harbor Approach,” they mean Eversink’s warehouse and boatbuilding district. This dirty warren of wharves and docks is best known for its lovely fishy aroma. Arguably the most “island on a lagoon” part of the island on the lagoon, Harbor Approach is home to Eversink’s storied fish markets, the endless goods warehouses, annoyed foremen, government officials, and the tax collectors. Harbor Approach is also home to the Arsenal, Eversink’s Naval boatbuilding, mustering, and supply depot. Rumor has it — an enterprising adventurer can find the best seafood restaurants in Eversink down in Harbor Approach.

What it isn’t is swank.

The Swankiest Place to Be

Tano Ghezzo made his fortune in salt. Salt is not a sexy business, but it’s a profitable one with the right contacts and sailing at the right times. Food perishes without salt. Doctors prescribe it for what ails you from heartburn to eczema. People bathe in salt. It’s a good business, salt.

It’s a pretty boring one. And Tano Ghezzo does not like to do bored. He likes to do rich. So he took his salt fortune and plowed it into a cluster of warehouses that came up on the market for sale (although not a surprise to Tano, for reasons involving long and sharp knives and the application of a bag of ready cash.) Warehouses don’t often come up on the market in Eversink. The land is so scarce in Eversink some families pass their warehouses down from father to son through the generations. But these came up, and Tano bought them in cash.

Then, he tore them down. He hired a crew, and he built the most beautiful luxury townhouses where the warehouses once stood. He built a high metal fence around the townhouses, decorated them with the highest-end landscaping, paid armed mercenaries to keep out the hoi polloi, and then put them up for lease to the up-and-coming rich as the New Alderhall.

“For those who the dying snobs in Alderhall shun,” went the pitch, “but are rich enough to afford Alderhall luxury, come to New Alderhall! Where we are building a new paradise on Eversink.”

Tano rented to anyone who could pay his exorbitant prices. And they sold! Yes, they sold because Tano only built a few units where the old warehouses once stood, and now they were rare, new, expensive, and very exclusive.

Next up was to buy more warehouses to expand. But, again, no one wants to sell their warehouses in Harbor Approach. The land is scarce, warehouse space hard to come by, and everyone needs space to load or unload their trade. The families don’t want to sell out because warehouses are their lifelines to the sea. And the guilds and companies don’t want to sell because that’s how they operate.

But, in Tano’s mind, everything is for sale in Eversink, one way or the other. Maybe he’s the ultimate disciple of Denari, the final incarnation of a man who understands that everything in Eversink has a price and everyone wants to sell. It takes a little blackmail, a few threats, a little torture, even a little murder to get his point across that he’s a man with cash, and he’s ready to buy – at rock bottom prices.

Meanwhile, as Tano buys up warehouse space, tears it down, and builds new warehouses for the newly rich who want to live like those in Alderhall in their enclosed private enclave (now with restaurants and shopping!), warehouse space is getting scarce. Those who need to do business in Eversink are running out of room to load and unload their goods. There’s talk now of ejecting people from their homes in Sag Harbor to build new warehouses down there, but that means Eversink will flood with homeless. Angry fights break out among the nobles, the companies, the guilds, and the military around storage and shipments right in the streets.

And if anyone attacks Eversink while the ships cannot adequately prepare and load out, well, the City is, in a word, screwed.

Mercanti Tano Ghezzo, Homebuilder and Visionary

Confident, Greedy, Persuasive

Defense – Health: Hit Threshold 3, Health 1
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 2, Grit 2 (entitled), Morale 9
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +2 (unshakable confidence)
Abilities: Malus 15
Special Abilities: Allies (cost – 3), Flashback (cost – 5), Summon (cost – 3, Thugs)
Misc: Alertness Modifier +1
Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: Tano Ghezzo is a standard Mercanti with a massive bank account. What he brings to the table are his connections. He ran quite a bit with the Eversink underworld when he was into salt. Salt can be a dirty business, and he did a little body smuggling in his time to help out a newly found friend or two for some cash and a pile of later favors. He can call in a set of thugs or an assassin or two as needed to protect his financial interests. He’s also a meticulous planner — he always has some plan up his sleeve or some idea hatching.

He’s only interested in money, and his entire plan is to move from very rich to fabulously rich with a string of real estate development deals.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. Undercutting the Guild’s Business: The Shipwrights Guild of Eversink has hired the PCs to look into a problem they have. A dark cloaked figure started approaching their members recently, offering to trade a fortune for the deed to one of their warehouses. After universally turning the dark figure down, the figure is back, turning up the heat with threats and violence. Now, one of the shipwrights is missing, nowhere to be found. The others are terrified to go to the warehouse to load badly needed ship goods onto the trade ships leaving for the season. The PCs must get to the bottom of this!
  2. A Fire at New Alderhall: A fire broke out at New Alderhall! Was it just the side effect of a clumsy drunken party? Was someone tricked out of their land wanting to get revenge? Or was it another developer muscling in on Tana’s territory and pulling the same act around developing Harbor Approach? Or all three? All anyone knows is that fires on Eversink are dire indeed. One stormy wind and the whole city will burn down. The Watch wants the PCs to get to the bottom of the fire, figure out if it was arson, and track down the perpetrator in the twisty maze of Harbor Approach warehouses!
  3. Ousting the Poor: With the pressure on Harbor Approach, business owners are getting creative around where to house their goods as they come off the boat. Loss of space forces the business owners to go down to Sag Harbor, where the people who work on the docks live. The current plan is to buy up the townhouses, apartments, shops, stores, and lean-tos and fill their goods. And by “buy,” they mean “hand over a tiny nominal amount of cash and throw the current resident’s possessions into the street.” The PCs get involved when a friend, a loved one, or even themselves are handed a small bag of cash and then forcibly thrown out into the street. Will the PCs save the day and Sag Harbor?

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #08: the Vampire of the Opera

The Hook

Eversink is famed for its Opera.

The City takes great pride in its cultural achievements, and the Opera is the Queen of the City’s Pride. It’s downright patriotic to memorize all the words to the latest big stage smash. Opera singers are beloved and treated like City heroes.

Eversink’s Opera is housed in the Eversink Opera House in Alderhall. Beautiful beyond words and covered in gold filigree, the Eversink Opera House shines in the lagoon-like a brightly lit marble. The opera house will sink into the lagoon in a few generations but meanwhile, the rich and famous from the entire world flock to hear the newest season.

The season-opening is a big City to-do. The rich throw their doors open and hold lavish salons. Nobles, diplomats, government officials, and spies dressed in lavish costumes wander from party to party backstabbing, stealing secrets, getting drunk, and speculating on this year’s shows. The not-so-rich wear masks and pile into the bars across the City to drink and gossip. They utter words of hope that when the shows roll into the cheaper theaters later in the season, they still contain a spark of the Opera House’s magic.

Tickets are scarce, scalpers scalp, people scheme, and the season opens.

Over the last few years, the quality of new Operas on the Eversink stage degraded. The music used to be magnificent. Such soaring melodies! Such lovely harmonics! Oh, the story, it would stir the breast of the most hardened criminal to tears! Now the Operas are merely… good. Some Operas are mediocre. A few are outright bad. Discordant notes. Boring tales. Not a single grand rising arpeggio!

Rumor has it from outlanders and tourists who wander from City to City that Operas staged in other cities of other nations are better.

The City glitterati wrings their hands. Eversink may lose its position as the grandest culture center in the world! What can be done?

Meanwhile, the City Watch is investigating a noticeable uptick in murders. Someone is hunting Eversink’s prostitutes. Many were found exsanguinated, but not all. Several were murdered by brutal violence of one kind or another — throats slit, stab wounds—all the murders cluster in Sag Harbor around the downtown warehouses and docks.

The murders started a few years ago, and whoever is hunting the girls doesn’t do it year-round. The murders begin in the early spring, a few months before the Operatic opening season. They increase to a crescendo of blood in the early summer. Then, the murders suddenly cease as if the killer had his or her fill of death. Then the killer returns to hunt next season.

The City Watch has no leads and no witnesses. All it has is bodies. The City has a serial killer problem and no way to solve it.

The Two Problems are Linked

Lord Leonello Acordolo was the scion of a grandly noble Eversink family over 500 years ago. He was turned by a Vampire, and he has been lurking under the City ever since. His Spire sank under the city hundreds of years ago, but he still lives in it. He still wears the same clothes he wore in life. He has been enjoying his unlife.

Leonello Acordolo has all the power, influence, and raw cash of a vampire who has lived hundreds of years. For decades, he slept in his underground lair. When he woke, his human thralls scrambled to tend to his every need, guarded his home, and brought him victims as snacks. The human thralls prefer hunting Sag Harbor due to fewer eyes for witnesses and fewer tongues to wag. They’ve murdered many a witness. They do like to dump bodies where they hunt, though, which will one day be their biggest mistake.

But Leonello Acordolo cares not for where his lunch comes from. He has awakened, and he is eternally hungry. Hungry for art! Hungry for the experience! Hungry for music! Hungry to fill men’s hearts with the warmth he can never feel, not ever again, through stunning musical passages and soaring soprano solos! Also, he really is quite hungry for blood.

Leonello considers himself quite the artist. He was a famed art critic in life, he says. And now he has risen. He is pursuing his unlife-long dream. Using all his unnatural charm, hundreds of years of resources, and his Vampiric powers, Leonello recast himself as Eversink’s Greatest Opera Producer.

And, as this is Eversink, that would probably be okay, actually. Even with murdered prostitutes, if the outcome was good for the City, the Alderhall rich would turn their heads. Except Leonello has deeply, unbelievably terrible taste in music. His taste in music in life was awful. Still, unlife has magnified his inability to know what is good by a thousand.

The Vampire is subtly warping the Eversink music scene and destroying Eversink’s cultural dominance. His funding mediocre-to-bad operas and manipulation of the Eversink Operatic gatekeepers with unnatural charm is forcing much better works off the stage.

Leonello Acordolo, Vampire of the Opera

Self-Centered, Well-Mannered, Thirsty, ‘A True Artist,’ Monologue-y

Defense – Health: Hit Threshold 4, Armor 5 (0 when confronted by a bane), Health 10 per hero
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Grit 3 (0 when confronted by a bane), Morale 10 per hero
Offense – Warfare: +1; Damage Modifier +3 (sharp fangs)
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +3 (insinuating voice)
Abilities: Malus 25
Special Abilities: Fearsome Blow (cost 3), Insubstantial (cost 6), Monstrous Ability (cost 3), Magical Charm (cost 3), Regenerate (fully by next dusk if not fully destroyed), Strength
Misc: Any Health damage inflicted to a Dazed, Charmed, Unconscious, or Paralyzed target heals the vampire’s Health by 1 point for every damage point inflicted. Sunlight, however, acts like Fire to a vampire. Vampiric Armor and Grit are reduced to 0 by the sound of a glass armonica. Heroes best come armed with custom-blown wine glasses.
Refresh Tokens: 5

Description: Leonello Acordolo was roguishly good-looking in life. Already a long, tall rake, undeath has made him unnaturally handsome. He has tried recently to dress in the most recent fashions, but he tends to fall back on his ancient rotting formal silks. Luckily for Leonello, most Ancient Nobility down on their luck dress in ancient rotting formal silks, so he’s not entirely out of place. He speaks with the strange accent of a creature who learned to speak 500 years ago and has quickly caught up to modern “lingo.”

He throws money around like he has an infinite amount of it (he has quite a bit), which opens up the doors of Alderhall to him. He loves to mingle and “make connections” with the rich at salons and parties and easily charms his way in. He will never eat any of them, since first they’re his friends, and second, he does not hunt where he likes to party.

Like all Vampires, Leonello Acordolo burns in sunlight. His lair is in a sunken Spire deep under Alderhall and built over with other Spires. His lair is full of human thralls who worship him like a God.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. Hunting the Hunter: There really is only one major plot seed for the Terror of the Opera: hunting the hunter. The PCs can enter the story in two directions:
  2. Recruited by the Watch. Someone is murdering prostitutes in Sag Harbor. Many of the bodies found are exsanguinated, but not all. Some look like they’ve been in a fight or even tortured. The pattern is the time: early spring. There are no witnesses (at least none who have come forward) and few clues. This should lead PCs to the human thralls, but getting to the Vampire will mean chasing him through High Society.
  3. Recruited by Spurned Rich. Someone is warping the Eversink Opera scene, funding these terrible works of music crimes, and destroying Eversink’s reputation as a cultural center. It could simply be some Mercanti who struck it rich and his busy putting ill-found corporate cash into the Opera and ruining it. Or it could be something worse. The best place to start is the Alderhall salons — if the PCs can land invites.

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #07: The Nautilus

Introduction

Anything anyone could ever desire is up for sale in the Eversink Grand Marketplace: piles of luscious embroidered silks, aromatic spices, glittering well-cut jewels, fragrant woods, rare magic items, forbidden tomes, foreign weaponry… and, most sought after of all, secrets.

Like everything else, information has a price. Deep among the pavilions, beneath the billowing flags and canopies, a smaller, dark tent marked with a squid in a circle, bright white on a field of midnight blue lurks. The sign of the Nautilus. No sign advertises these brokers; no hawkers stand on the street corners beckoning in customers. One must know to look for the symbol on the precisely correct time and day. The tent is never in the same place twice.

Inside, a dark-clad merchant waits to buy and sell for the right price. The information for sale isn’t cheap. This isn’t general street gossip or rumors passed around in bars or salons. Anything for sale in the tent is authentic, verified, and oh so very damaging. The merchants deal with anyone who can pay: the Eversink powerful, the Eversink powerless, diplomats, foreigners powers, thieves, murderers, and the corrupt. People will commit murder — have committed murder — laying hands on the merchandise or getting it pulled from the inventory.

The Nautilus merchants don’t deal only in gold. They’ll ask for land, for businesses, for contracts, or for horrible acts of treason and betrayal in return for their secrets. While cash is good, and they’ll take money, secrets is their trade. The Nautilus merchants broker in misery and pain, the more verifiable, the better. They buy, too: top dollar for damaging secrets with complete documentation.

Sometimes, rarely, very rarely, the Nautilus merchants hold an information auction. The wealthiest and most powerful, wearing masks and robes, come to bid top dollar for each other’s worst secrets. Full Spires have changed hands in exchange for a single, damaging secret in these events. A man can walk into an auction with a single destructive secret for sale and leave a Duke.

Not all the information sold in that tent comes through pure information trade. Much of it comes from a sprawling criminal network of second-story men, assassins, spies, and moles placed all over the city. These spies operate in cells with no knowledge of each other. Information about the Nautilus is also valuable information, and, in keeping with the teachings of Denari, it’s not for free.

These spies and thieves are well-compensated — even better than from their own Guilds. Their only contacts are figures wearing hooded robes sporting a bright white squid in a circle on a field of dark blue. Those who leak the existence of the Nautilus are found dead, floating face down in a canal with the sign of the Nautilus pinned to their shirts. The Nautilus has no patience for those who give away information for free. Cells are compensated very well as long as they play by the rules, dead if they do not.

One could say the Nautilus network is almost a religious ritual if it didn’t end in murder, suicide, and acts of sheer desperation.

The Nautilus network is shadowy, secretive, and hierarchical. One person sits at its peak controlling the whole show. Most people believe the Nautilus is an extension of the Triskadane. But this is not true: the Triskadane has its own state-sponsored intelligence network, often in a pitched shadow war with the Nautilus. They’re deeply entrenched enemies, and when they cross, agents die. Competition is stiff for secrets, especially state secrets.

No one in Eversink suspects the puppetmaster. The Nautilus, Eversink’s most feared information broker, is a frail old lady. She’s there, standing on the Promenade in Alderhall, bending over to give the children sweets.

Background Story

It doesn’t much matter how Dame Isabetta Fioranati morphed over time into the Nautilus. Perhaps Isabetta was always the Nautilus or inherited the network from her dead husband, her dead eldest son, or her dead parents. Maybe the Nautilus network has existed for generations.

Regardless, Isabella Fioranati, around age 90, is the Nautilus. She puppets her spy network from the comfort of her Spire in Alderhall, surrounded at all times with assassin-stewards. She has no husband, no living children, and a whole mess of scheming and backstabbing grandchildren. It’s unclear if any of the grandchildren are part of the family business. If any are, they aren’t letting on.

Isabetta is very old. Having outlived her husband and her children, she has no clear biological heir. It could be the eldest son of her eldest son. Maybe she selected someone outside the family to inherit and left them in her will. Whoever it is, she’s playing her cards close to her chest.

Her death will set off a massive power struggle.

Dame Isabetta Fioranati, the Nautilus

Calculating, Cunning, Painfully Noble

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 3, Health 14
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Grit 2 (accurate sense of own self-importance), Morale 10 per Hero
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +2 (she knows your blackest secrets)
Abilities: Malus 35
Special Abilities: Mastermind, Flashback (cost – 5), Allies (cost – 3), Summoning (cost – 3, assassin stewards), Persuasive (cost – 3), Warded (cost – 6)
Refresh Tokens: 5

Description: Dame Isabetta Fioranati presents like a frail, shriveled old woman of High Eversink Nobility who cannot walk down the Promenade without leaning on her steward’s arm. She’s yet another matriarch past her prime, waiting to die. Swathed from head to toe in silks and glittering jewels, the Dame looks like she’s only a danger to the Grand Salons of Alderhall. Her only weapon is a still-sharp cutting wit. She will stop strolling to hand candy to the children. She also has the reputation of being very religious, and she’s often at the local Temple.

This is a ruse. The Dame is the Nautilus. Dame Fioranati doesn’t get up in the morning or go to sleep at night without a bloody plot or scheme on her lips. The assassin-steward she leans on is well-armed with sharp knives. The Dame can call upon her allies with the wave of a hand, and they will come when she beckons because they are bound to her in contracts of secrets.

The Nautilus has tentacles in every corner of Eversink. Anyone Dame Isabetta needs to know, she knows. Anyone she can get a hook into, she has hooks. She has her hands on all the political blackmail. She is the Triskadane’s enemy, but uprooting her is a nearly impossible task.

No PC will get even near the Dame Isabetta Fioranati without her already knowing the PC’s background, family history, current occupation, top-10 acquaintances, and the last thing they ate. The PCs are tools until they are enemies. Most PCs will not deal with Dame Isabetta but will instead deal with the sprawling tentacles of her Nautilus network.

Assassin-Stewards

Silent, Precise, Unswerving Loyalty

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 4, Armor 1, Health 20
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Morale 20
Defense – Warfare: +2, Damage Modifier +2 (very long and nasty knives)
Abilities: Malus 15
Special Abilities: Armor-Piercing (cost – 3), Disguise (cost – 1), Defense Boost (cost – 6), Extra Action (cost – 3), Extra Damage (cost – 3), Lightning Fast (cost – 3), Seize Initiative (cost – 3)
Misc: Alertness Modifier +1, Stealth Modifier +3

Refresh Tokens: 5

Description: Dame Isabetta Fioranati’s assassin-stewards are brutal and precise. They escape hard fights fast to stab another day. And, they are polite in Eversink assassin fashion and often well-educated. Some say they’re the sons and daughters of Ancient Noble houses fallen on hard times.

Dame Isabetta also uses assassin-stewards as messengers, managers, and the central nodes in the Nautilus network. They’re the ones who appear in dark robes to pay cells for work and hand out assignments.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. A Job: A shadowy figure in a midnight blue robe with a Nautilus sign appears to the party and offers them a job. The figure will pay in a sack of gold if they break into Judge Farnese’s bedroom (on the second floor) and retrieve papers hidden within. No one needs to get hurt in the job. — not themselves, not the Judge, not the Judge’s house staff. In fact, quieter is better. The PCs must do this work to preserve the future of Eversink. Should the PCs return in three days with the papers, this contact will offer future work. Interested?
  2. The War in Darkness: More bodies are floating face down in the canals than usual when the Triskadane approach the PCs with a job. The Nautilus network has stolen the ultimate state secret: the identity of a member of the 13. If that information is sold at auction to a foreign power, it could jeopardize the safety of the entire City, depending on what (and who) it is. The Triskadane needs the PCs to help track down the Nautilus cell with the information and eliminate them. Their leads are all the identities of the bodies floating in the canal. Can the PCs track down the thieves and retrieve the secret before it’s dramatically sold at auction in the Grand Marketplace?
  3. Who will be the heir to the Fioranati? As powerful and cunning as Dame Isabetta Fioranati is, she is not immortal. She sits at the head of her family, yet she is without an heir. Her direct children are all dead — she outlived them all. Could it be grandson Feo Fioranati, the rake, and lazy noble gadfly? He is the eldest grandson, after all. Or Feo’s younger brother, Puccino Fioranati, who is diligent with numbers and money? Or not yet married Great Granddaughter Adrianna Fioranati, Feo’s odd daughter interested in powders and books and brews of all sorts? Or a different grand or great-grandchild? Or will it be trusted associates of the Nautilus Network who will murder for power? Her death will send them setting them upon each other in an orgy of murder that will… cull the herd.

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #06: Clive the Barbarian Attacks!

Introduction

The first anyone saw or heard about Clive the Barbarian, he was down at the docks in Harbor Approach, picking fistfights in bars.

“Come fight me, you weaklings!” he bellowed at the longshoremen sitting at the counter trying to have a drink. “Prove to me Eversink men aren’t feeble puny cowards!”

When no one got up from their drinks (and someone in the back yelled ‘we’re not all men, you twit’), Clive grabbed random people by the shoulder, spun them around on their stools, and punched them. The bartender shouted, and the fight was on! Bottles flew in the air. A table was crushed under writhing bodies. The longshoremen piled on, and Clive went down under flying fists. The Watchmen showed up and carted a bloodied Clive away.

Clive popped up at a few more bars along the waterfront. He picked fights, and the longshoremen fought back. The Watch hauled him away every time. The dockworkers wrote Clive off as one more weird Eversink freak. Last week the threat was mind fungus, and the week before that, the threat was some Sorcerer. This week, it’s Clive.

After a period of Clive acquiescence, he popped up at bars in the Tangle. Clive now ran with a posse of barbarian thugs. He pulled the same nonsense he pulled in Harbor Approach. Clive strolled into a bar. He yelled at people for being weaklings, and he picked fistfights. This time, Clive’s gang jumped in and assisted. Fists flew, and faces were punched. One bar nearly burned down – nearly.

Clive was more successful in creating chaos and mayhem this time. It took entire Watch stations of Watchmen to get Clive under control. As the Watch dragged Clive and his goons away, he yelled back at gaping onlookers: “I will toughen Eversink up! You’ll see!”

The law was tired of Clive and his gang. The local Tangle magistrate threw Clive and his crew out of Eversink. They’re not citizens, don’t have any rights, and Eversink doesn’t need Clive to tear up local establishments, the local Magistrate said. Either be civil or go home. Go home, Clive. As the Watch dropped Clive and his gang off on a far shore, Clive shouted: “You haven’t seen the last of me, you lazy jerks!”

Then, Clive was gone for a while.

Word just reached the city. Clive returned to Eversink. This time, Clive has an army, and they want Eversink to toughen up.

Background Story

Clive comes from one of the many unknown, unnamed, forgotten towns in the rolling scrub wastes of the Border Lands. Where he came from, the men were men, the women were women, and the cows, well, they were cows. He worked on the farm growing crops and tending the animals. He learned to fight dirty with a sword from his Da and helped defend the homestead from those murderers and horse thieves.

When Clive was old enough to seek out his fortune, he took his Grandfather’s sword and headed off to the nearest town looking for wealth and adventure. Finding none in the next town, Clive kept wandering until he ended up at bigger towns. He found some adventure on the Deserted Plateau, enough adventure to hone his fighting skills and make a little cash.

That cash paid Clive’s way to Milktown. From there, he hitched up with a Mercenary crew and traveled the world. With the Blue Demons, Clive fought in random wars (sometimes on both sides). He hired out as a mercenary bodyguard for dubious wealthy nobles, killed for money more than a few times, and delved into some dungeons. He was a pretty amoral guy and formed a viewpoint about how only the strong survive on the plains.

In his travels, Clive heard about Eversink and how amazing a place it is. A golden city on a lagoon. A place everyone is rich. Blessed by the Swan. Go, and they hand you a trunk of cash on entry. Eversink is a fabulous sea-faring Empire of spices and silk full of adventurers and swashbucklers and doers of deeds.

Clive figured he’d go and check out Eversink. He left the Blue Demons and joined a trade caravan headed in that direction as a bodyguard. When Clive arrived at Eversink, he was just very disappointed in the city. He could make it better, stronger, and more confident with his fists.

Clive the Barbarian

Muscle-Bound, Ultra Confident, Kind of Annoying

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 4, Armor 1 (well-made leathers that cover shockingly little of his body), Health 12
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 3, Grit 2 (barbarian rage), Morale 8
Offense – Warfare: +1; Damage Modifier +2 (punch) or +4 (big two-handed longsword)
Abilities: Malus 15
Special Abilities: Allies (cost – 3), Bolster Morale (cost – 2), Extra Damage (cost – 3), Armor-Piercing (cost 3), Strength (cost 3)
Refresh Tokens: 5

Description: Clive is a big dumb meathead. He hates Eversink. Everyone who lives there is soft. They’re a bunch of soft, febrile merchants. No way this city is an Empire. He could do better. Clive decided – he will invade Eversink with his barbarian army, knock over the Triskedane, make himself its King, and force everyone to ‘toughen up.’ Pushups for everyone in the lagoon. Twice a day!

Clive is a ‘lead from the front’ military commander. He’s the kind of barbarian who leads the charge with the army at his back, hacking and swinging his big two-hander. He’s first to leap into the fray with his allies at his back. Taking him for granted or underestimating him is a mistake. In hand-to-hand combat, he can be deadly.

Barbarian Horde

Unimaginative, Violent

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 3, Health 6
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 3, Morale 6
Offense – Warfare: +1; Fixed Damage 4 (choose one of: sword, spear, mace, flail)
Abilities: Malus 10
Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: These are half-dressed violent goons covered in war paint who don’t think very hard. Not very good conversationalists.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. Diplomacy, Barbarian-Style: So… there’s a barbarian army coming in Eversink’s direction. The Triskedane would like the PCs to “do something diplomatic” about it. Like many orders from the Triskedane, details about how to “do something diplomatic” about it are a little lacking. In fact, that’s the contents of the entire order. Added complication: the barbarian army is coming overland through the swamps. Yet Eversink designed her defenses for sea battles. And while the swamp might eat some of the barbarian army, it won’t eat the whole thing. The PCs better develop a plan before Clive gets here and figures out a way to sack the place.
  2. The Great Arm Wrestle: The intelligence says Clive wants to see Eversink strength. What better way to show strength than to ride out to Clive’s army and challenge him to a duel? And what better contest than an arm wrestle? As the Triskedane send the PCs out to, well, arm wrestle an army, they’re not alone. Word has gotten ‘round Eversink that an exciting competition is going to take place. They’re already selling tickets. Half of Eversink is going to watch. Will this be an actual test of strength? Or will this descend into an Eversink-on-Barbarian brawl?
  3. Breached the Walls!: Clive’s past adventuring experience taught him to look for secret ways into – and out of – places. An ancient tunnel, long forgotten, led Clive’s barbarian army under a lengthy stretch of the lagoon, through the underbasements, and up into the Tangle! Now the battle is on, street by street! Clive will teach Eversink strength with his fists and his entire army! Are the PCs enough to stop him! Can they rally the city to stand against this invader and keep the city from falling into Clive’s hands?

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #05: The Cult of Vetyx, God of Riches and Honor

Introduction

From the outside, the parish temple in Sag Harbor looks like a bog-standard Temple to Denari. The temple has all the trappings. It has reminders that nothing is free, paeans inscribed in the walls to Eversink’s glorious past, and paintings of great white birds in soaring flight over the lagoon. It’s like the Church of Denari picked a Temple layout from a catalog, ordered one up from the Temple factory (TM), and delivered it here fully formed on this quiet street corner.

If one looks closer at the walls, one will see the paintings of the great white birds aren’t swans. They’re giant egrets. The grand poems to Eversink’s glorious past make Eversink more glorious-er than it ever was. A war or two slipped into the lines that never existed. Even the lessons about gold and commerce are more about building wealth than building business. One can see the scratched-out swans underneath all the other religious literature on the walls if one looks closer.

This is not a Temple of Denari. This is a Temple of Vetyx, the Great Egret (so it claims), a glorious (small) God of Riches and Honor (so it also claims). The temple deacon is Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari, and the small God Vetyx lives in her head. Every morning, when the Marketpriestess rises for the day, Vetyx whispers sermons into her ear. Every day, she goes to the Temple and ministers to her flock. Every day, the believers return. Every night, she prays to Denari to get this damned thing out of her mind.

To the believers, Vetyx is an improvement. Where Denari promises great wealth from commerce and trade – work – Vetyx promises great wealth and honor from great heroic deeds. Vetyx promotes knightliness, going on an adventure, fighting for a cause, amassing piles of wealth, and tithing it back to Vetyx. The (small) God talks its believers into believing the impossible is possible. With extraordinary acts of honor, mountains of gold will spontaneously appear. Believe, and act within Vetyx’s strict code, and wealth will follow.

And, Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari’s sermons are much more engaging and exciting than before. They used to be the same old droll Denari this, Denari that. Now they’re full of codes of honor, war, adventure, and promises of gold, gold, so much gold, such riches! And the storytelling — wow.

The cult is gaining in popularity and growing under the Church’s nose like a weed. Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari (under Vetyx’s influence) convinced the other Marketpriests at her Temple and other local Temples to follow Vetyx. Soon other Temples in this corner of Sag Harbor will flip. The cult will grow, and as the cult grows, so will Vetyx.

Vetyx is invading Eversink. Vetyx’s plan is to hollow out faith in Denari from within until faith collapses. Once collapsed, Vetyx will reap all that faith and worship and grow. Once big enough, it will eat Denari and use Eversink as its burrow. A new God is in town, baby, and Vetyx will eat and eat and eat until it eats the world.

Vetyx will never be satiated because Vetyx is, in truth, a small god of starvation and the flesh. It has no other body than a hungry maw with infinite twisting teeth. It’s a glutton, and its hunger is bottomless.

Background Story

Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari was a regular, unassuming, run-of-the-mill Marketpriestess of Denari. She had her little Temple on the corner and her flock. Elizabeth lit the candles, sang the songs, prayed the sermons, and tended to the souls of the locals. She was unmarried and lived with her mum in a small apartment over the local florist.

The Marketpriestess was shopping for a birthday present for her mum in the Grand Marketplace. She spotted a new tent she’d never seen before. No surprise, new tents appear in the Grand Marketplace all the time. This one sold beautifully polished seashells. The Marketpriestess, delighted, held the beautiful conch shells up to her ear one at a time so she could hear the ocean.

The third conch held Vetyx. When the Marketpriestess pressed the conch to her ear, Vetyx crawled into her ear canal. She screamed, dropped the shell on the ground, and fled.

The next few weeks were a grand battle between Vetyx and the mind of Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari. Slowly, Vetyx ground down her resolve and then set up shop. Then it remade the local Temple in its own image and forced the Marketpriestess to build its cult.

Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari (With Vetyx in Her Head)

Elizabeth: Kind, Humble, Thoughtful
Vetyx: Silver-tongued, Plotting, Hungers

Defense – Health: Hit Threshold 3, Health 6
Defense – Morale: Hit Threshold 4, Grit 2 (Vetyx’s faith), Morale 15
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +2 (Vetyx’s convincing scripture)
Abilities: Malus 15
Special Abilities: Allies (cost – 3), Summoning (cost – 3, local worshippers), Mastermind, Persuasive (cost – 3), Warded (cost – 6)
Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: The Marketpriestess is an unassuming priest of the Church of Denari. She does not look much different than other priests of Denari — same frock, same hat, same plain look and plain speech. She is educated but middle class for Eversink.

Special Abilities come courtesy of Vetyx. It will speak through the Marketpriestess’s mouth. It will use Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari’s powers of persuasion to protect itself, whip up followers and hurtle them at PCs. Attacks are sway attacks, and attack morale. While Vetyx has the power to teach Marketpriestess Elizabeth Vasari Sorcery (Spheres: Hunger, Fear, Flesh), it has not yet, as it does not trust her with its power. It finds her an impure vessel, and it hungers for a better one.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. The Inquisitors have a Job for You: The Church has gotten wind that something’s not right at a Temple in Sag Harbor. They’re not sure what, though. The attendance at one of the Temples is through the roof — they haven’t seen attendance to services like this in years. Instead of rewarding the Marketpriestess who leads the congregation, the Church instead employs the PCs to check it out.

  2. Dark Dreams of Denari: The PCs receive disturbing dreams of swans ripped apart by massive jaws. The swans scream as the jaws close around swan bodies and wings and slowly mash the swans into a bloody pulp while the PCs watch. The dreams feature the sound of smacking lips and tongues and horrific slobbering. And then, a black blot grows to blot out the entire world. At the end of the dream, a female voice whispers, “Look for my priestess, Elizabeth.” The dream becomes more vivid each night.

  3. The Schism Riots of Sag Harbor: While many in Sag Harbor flock to Vetyx, some locals are still hard-core believers in Denari. They’re not changing their ways no matter what anyone says. Tensions build in Sag Harbor until they boil over one day in a fruit market. The PCs are caught in the fray as rioters pelt each other with fruit, flip over carts, scream religious slogans at each other, punch each other and light the place on fire. As the PCs escape, they run into a rioter who tells them, “Some new God over on seventh and silver streets,” and then dashes off again. These tensions will grow unless the PCs get to the bottom of this problem.

Possible Changes to the Story

It’s entirely possible Vetyx is the Great Egret, the God of Honor and Wealth, exactly like his claims. With such fervent belief in wealth creation into the lagoon, fishermen fish up small gods of wealth from the lagoon all the time. Denari absorbs them and the world moves on without anyone noticing.

If the story you want to tell is one of politics instead of horror, make the following minor changes to Vetyx:

  • Instead of starvation and horror, Vetyx is a god of wealth and honor.

  • Vetyx does provide Sorcery to people he inhabits with the same Corruption as any other Sorcerer. His spheres are now Gold, Crusade, and Rampart. Crusade charms anyone in range and persuades them to pick up their weapons and fight for the cause of Vetyx. Rampart is a variation on an Earth sphere — shields, summoning giant earthworks, reinforcing stone walls, and the like.

  • Otherwise, the story is still the same. Vetyx is invading Eversink, the Church (and Denari) wants it removed. It’s up to the PCs to decide what to do next – keep Vetyx around, find a middle ground, expel him from the city, destroy it completely, etc.

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #04: Ventura Rotunno, the Prince of Pants

Quick note: you can use the Prince of Pants in any urban setting with a political bent with minimal tweaking, especially the excellent Blades in the Dark from Evil Hat. You say you don’t have a copy of blades? Why, that link will take you to a buy now link!

Introduction

An implacable despot holds the Eversink fashion industry in his unshakable grip.

Every season, the Prince of Pants descends from his shining Spire to cast aspersion down on the new fashion trends. Flanked by lackeys, the Prince of Pants takes his seat in a place of prestige in the Glass Garden. With a wave of a hand and a toss of his flowing golden locks, he coerces Eversink’s designers to show off their newest designs. A sniff of a nostril or a raised eyebrow can end a brilliant career or start a new one. A finger here, a gesture there, he peers, he coughs, he chooses, and this season’s fashions are set.

Once Ventura Rotunno makes his choices, the fashion industry jumps to life. Mercanti ply the seas for in-fashion textiles. Weavers, glass blowers, fullers, furriers, jewelers, embroiderers, cordwainers, corsetiers, lapidaries, milliners, cobblers, perukiers – oh, even the perukiers! – leap into action. The rich must have the look of the season. Nothing less will do!

When supplies run tight, as they do every year, Eversink craftsmen get into ugly tussles while trying to dress their clients in the season’s best. Last year, a raucous fistfight broke out in the Grand Marketplace over a rare wooden button. People ended up in jail. Blood ran in the streets. Mayhem broke out. A cordwainer punched a peruskier into a fruit stall, causing a mango to sustain a bruise.

Connected tailors know to slip Ventura Rotunno’s lackeys “little gratuities in thanks” before the season begins. In return, these tailors receive a preview “of the Prince’s thinking.” They avoid the rough-and-tumble side of the Eversink fashion business. The gratuity is a combination of bribe, graft, and an extortion scheme rolled into one. Without it, the tailors cannot get their orders in on time. The Prince is rich for a good reason.

One the Prince of Pants launches the fashion season, the rich go to war on one another with their judgmental cutting-wit as their favorite weapon. They insist they all conform to the look of the season. To be out of fashion is a soft criminal act in Alderhall, as one cannot be seen on the Promenade out of style. To wear clothing unapproved by Ventura Rotunno is simply offensive.

The rich will cast fashion offenders out of their midst. Nobles rescind party invitations from under-dressed. Take that frock off. Last season’s dress will not do!

And oh, the rumor mill. Should anyone cross Ventura Rotunno or dare lift a finger against his reign of terror, the rumors will run free in Alderhall. His lackeys are everywhere, like horrible gossip moles, ready to dish on a whim. Terrible rumors fly about inbreeding or sex life or not actually being that rich. These insidious rumor bills have brought the mighty low. Be afraid — be very afraid!

Then, after the rich are finally well-dressed and the parties are over, Ventura Rotunno comes down from his Spire. He makes decisions about next season’s fashions. The whole circus begins again.

Some would say the Prince of Pants’ decisions has become more outlandish in the last few years. See-through shoes. Enormous glittering faux face spiders. Meat knee pants. Double meat knee pants. Taxidermied baby alligator handbags. But maybe he likes to be challenged.

As for the ordinary people, once the Prince of Pants makes fashion decisions, the city mystically updates all its sumptuary laws. No peasant may so much as show interest in this season’s fashion. If striped pants are in this season, peasants cannot wear striped pants. Penalties run from mockery to fines.

Peasants can wear last season’s fashions. That’s appropriate for the little people.

Background Story

Ventura Rotunno was born rich in an Alderhall Spire. Scion of a Noble Eversink family, he will die rich in that same Spire. He was raised in Eversink, educated in Eversink, and now lives in Eversink.

Ventura Rotunno was always that rich bully, so it was natural to surround himself with lackeys. Upon graduating from school, he looked upon his life and realized he could either:

  • Go to War (boring)
  • Go into Trade (boring)
  • Go into Politics (very boring)
  • Live off his family fortune like a barnacle and blow a thousand years of prestige in the Eversink underground gambling halls (also boring) .

What sounded exciting was a lifetime of messing with other wealthy people. And, he could run graft and extortion schemes to keep his bank account full. A good study of character, Ventura Rotunno found what his people cared most about was peacocking. He could work with that.

Getting into fashion was easy. All Ventura Rotunno had to do was… show up. First, he attended salons, made comments, visited prominent tailors for tips, and appeared at fashion events. Ventura let his lackeys run rumors about his fashion and etiquette expertise. Soon, the rich invited Ventura to the best fashion events, where he let his cutting wit do its work. Before long, he was the expert on Eversink fashion.

Now, he’s an Alderhall Despot. Being a ruthless despot who can crush souls in his hand is, yes, entertaining.

Ventura Rotunno

Smugly Self-Satisfied, Cutting Wit, Terribly Rich

Defense – Health: Hit Threshold 3, Health 14
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Grit 2 (self-satisfied sense of own self-importance), Morale 10 per Hero
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +2 (cutting wit)
Abilities: Malus 20, can use Malus for Laws & Traditions
Special Abilities: Allies (cost 3), Flashback (cost 5), Mastermind, Persuasive (cost 3), Summoning (cost 3 – lackeys), Warded (cost 6)
Misc: Alertness Modifier if not 0, Stealth Modifier if not 0; any unique advice needed to run the creature

Refresh Tokens: 5

Description: Ventura Rotunno is a beautiful man and very rich. He’s of old money, and he likes to tell you so. Often. He never appears out of fashion, even when that fashion makes little sense. If Ventura has blessed fishbowls ensconced in hats as the fashion of the season, he’ll wear the biggest fishbowl with the tallest hat. He appears in public as often as he must to make cutting comments about another Noble’s clothes, as everyone’s clothes are all so last week.

His main power is his political pull in the city, which is unquestioned. He’s a mover and shaker of Eversink, and drives the fashion industry. He will use Laws & Traditions to make the fashion landscape into anything he desires.

Ventura Rotunno is not a fighter. He will rely exclusively on sway attacks. His favorite weapon is Eversink wealthy society. He’ll use his clout and cutting wit to drive PC morale down to 0. He’s also followed by a flock of gossipy henchmen at all times (allies) whom he can summon at will.

Rotunno’s Fashion Lackeys

Toadying, Gossipy, Conceited

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 3, Health 1
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 3, Grit 3 (cringing acquiescence), Morale 8
Offense – Warfare: -1; Fixed Damage 2 (confused about this ‘fighting’ thing)
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +2 (fashion gossip)
Abilities: Malus 8. Malus may be spent on skill spends.
Special Abilities: Booster Morale (cost varies), Invigorate (cost varies)
Refresh Tokens: 1

Description: Rotunno’s sniveling wanna-be famous toadies. All the toadies are second or third sons of various Ancient Nobility families. Their favorite hobbies are passing damaging and horrible gossip while peacocking in this season’s best fashions. Much like Ventura Rotunno, they attack with sway, and they use their power of gossip to attack PC morale. They collapse when punched and the PCs can easily defeat them with a stiff breeze.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. These are Not the Pants of the Season! The PCs have been caught not wearing the fashion of the season. This is a scandal. This is THE scandal. The PC’s Alderhall contacts dried up, the salons shut their doors, and the party invitations disappeared like dried leaves on the wind. If the PCs want to get back into the Alderhall salons, they’ll have to go begging the Prince of Pants himself to absolve them of their sins. But will he do so? And what horrible price will the Prince of Pants demand to allow the PCs to make amends and be re-accepted into society?
  2. The Prince of Pants vs the Princess of Hats: This season, a challenge appears on the scene: the Princess of Hats! Catalina Barozzi, scion of the Barozzi family, wants to show Ventura Rotunno up at his own game. Now, two despots fight over the fate of Alderhall’s salons! Both have their own gangs of militant gossipers! Both are fighting over the right to define what is in or out this season. With connections to both Ventura and Catalina, the PCs are caught in the middle of this gossip-laden, fashion-critique brawl. The denizens of Alderhall demand to know; Who will the PCs support? Who will fall to this infighting? And can the PCs twist the situation to their advantage to free Alderhall of these two despots once and for all?
  3. The Great Tailor of Alderhall Extortion Plot: The PC’s favorite tailor tells the PCs the Prince of Pant’s lackies are extorting her. She’s paid them in the past to get the hot tips about the next fashion season, but they jacked their prices so high, she has to take out loans to keep the shop. If this persists, she’ll drown in debt, or lose her business. And if that happens, who will stitch the PCs up in her back room when they come in all bloody? Can the PCs help her out?

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #03: Insanity Forrest, Mad Mage of the Sea

Quick note: With some work, a GM could turn Insanity Forrest’s story into a full Sword of the Serpentine campaign.  She’s my current choice of turning from a 1K splat into a 10K story.  But that’s an investment in building NPCs and Port Gazi.  Maybe worth it… -ekd 

Introduction

A lagoon-based, sea-faring, mercantile Empire’s greatest foe is bloodthirsty pirates. Also, so are ancient Serpentine sorcerers, murderous small gods, hungry ghosts, other nations, wars, disease, politics, general bad choices, and random acts of enormous, ship-sinking octopi. But also, pirates.

Pirates are bad. They make trade unsafe and unpredictable. Anything that disrupts Eversink’s business threatens the city’s lifeblood. Eversink wants to control everything that drives safe and predictable business – including Eversink-controlled ports of call.

Eversink and the pirates of Min have been locked in a power struggle over the far-flung galaxy of small-to-tiny island ports of call across the sea for hundreds of years. The tiny islands are worth their weight in gold to both nations. An excellent safe harbor means hundreds to thousands of miles of trading opportunity. Each country is trying to protect its own trade networks while sinking the competition with fire and grapeshot. Capitalism is literally cutthroat on the high seas as they board each other’s ships and cut each other’s throats.

The Pirates of Min aren’t so much have a country as a loose confederation of murderers held together by a Strongman autocrat. The current autocrat is the Black-Witch Queen. On the Rose Lust, the Black Witch-Queen controls the Min with threats, murder, dread, and iron-clad fist. Cross her and die. She brings all threats to their knees and then sends them to their fates among the fishes. No one has attempted to give her a run for her money and lived to tell the tale.

Until now.

Captain Insanity Forrest of the Last Dagger is giving the Black-Watch Queen a hell of a fight. She appeared with no warning. Now, the seas boil with blood. Min Captains hedge their bets, and ships flock to the Last Dagger’s banner with her show of force. Times are changing.

Usually, this wouldn’t be an Eversink matter. Eversink doesn’t care who rules the Min, as long as Min pirates die by Sinkish hands, preferably after handing over all their trade goods. Except, Captain Insanity Forrest also attacked Eversink harbors and sunk Eversink ships. She’s building a network of safe havens for her fleet.

Recently, a critical island port, Port Decine, fell to her henchmen. Her thugs brutally murdered ‘Sinkish citizens. And not just with violence. The rumors from recent trading expeditions tell tales of hideous sea sorceries and the rising tide of undead.

“She can raise the waters,” one Captain said, who barely escaped with her life. “And with it, she can bring the horrible black Leviathan…”

“My men died and then got back up and started attacking us,” another Captain said. “We could barely throw our own men overboard so we could flee.”

This is bad for Eversink. An uncontrolled Mad Mage is on the loose with a black armada. If Captain Insanity Forrest manages to wrest the Pirates of Min from the Black-Witch Queen, she could command the entire Min fleet to descend on Eversink’s lagoon. If that happens, it’s war.

Background Story

Magda “Insanity” Forrest was nobody before she found the cache of Serpentine artifacts in the sunken wreck. She grew up an orphan in Min. Her parents died at sea, like everyone’s parents. She ran with her gang and lived by cunning, brutal cruelty, and dodging violence in and around the barnacle-covered shipwrecks of the Min Cove. She procured a handful of valuable contacts doing little jobs for the pirates.

Magda and her friends had a big enough score on a heist. One day she could afford a small ship. With that ship, Magda and her friends went hunting for treasure. She murdered more than a few captains in pubs for their rumored treasure maps. They were all fakes until one day, one wasn’t.

Three of Magda’s friends died trying to reach the shipwreck in the old Lagoon of Shivers. One friend was killed when their ship ran aground of the rocks, and two more were eaten by unspeakable dreads on the land route to the ancient beached ship.

Magda and her remaining friends found the locked cask down deep in the hold of the crumbling shipwreck. Inside the cask were a serpent-shaped ring and a strange book. Magda almost left the book behind. But, when she slipped the ring on to admire it on her hand, the book sang to her. When Magda opened the book, the ring whispered into her mind all she needed to know.

Magda murdered her remaining living friends so they couldn’t murder her for the ring and the book. Then, with the ring’s urging, raised them all again. Undead crew at her fingertips, she left the Lagoon of Shivers behind. By the time she returned to Min to start raising more crew, Magda had devoured the book. Armed with Sorcery of the Serpentine, she was ready to raise an undead fleet and clear Eversink and Min alike from the Seas. A pirate captain now, Magda felt she deserved a pirate name and left her old name behind.

All on the High Seas would bend their knee to Insanity Forrest.

Captain Insanity Forrest

Arrogant, Ambitious, Quick to Anger

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 4, Armor 3 (uncanny resilience), Health 15 per Hero
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Grit 3 (extreme arrogance), Morale 15 per Hero
Offense – Warfare: +2; Damage Modifier +2 (Insanity’s duel-wielded sabers)
Offense – Sorcery: +3; Damage Modifier +1 (Necromancy, the Sea)
Offense – Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +1 (terror and dread)
Abilities: Malus 40
Special Abilities: Allies (cost 3), Extra Damage (cost 3), Flashback (cost 5), Mastermind, Spellcasting (cost 3 – 2 uses), Warded (cost 6)
Misc: Insanity has access to two Sorcerous Spheres: Necromancy and the Sea. Necromancy allows her to raise undead armies, rot the flesh of the living, cause wounds and rotting, manipulate corpses, suck life from the living and causes diseases. The Sea allows Insanity to summon great waves, call forth any great creatures of the deep (if they’re nearby), change the wind, and manipulate storms for her benefit.

Refresh Tokens: 7

Description: Insanity Forrest is tallish, dark haired, and has an intense stare. She wears a huge (and amazing) black pirate captain’s coat, a red velvet vest, a white shirt, black and white striped hose, and black boots to the knee. She wields a saber in each hand.

Before combat, Insanity will rely on sway attacks with terror and dread to drive down PC morale and break their spirits. She prefers to break people mentally before breaking them physically.

In combat, Insanity will call allies (pirate thugs) to her side first before engaging PCs. Once her allies are dispatched, she’ll rely on necromancy to raise the bodies of pirate thugs to engage PCs. Once the PCs fight through the undead, or prevent Insanity from raising the bodies, she will either use the Sea to summon a Leviathan from the depths, or full press attack with her dual-wielded sabers.

On her right hand, a metal gauntlet covers the ring, making it difficult to dislodge. The ring contains an entrapped Serpentine Sorcerer mind. Upon wearing the ring, the Sorcerer invaded Insanity’s mind. Since their goal — infinite power — 100% align, Insanity and the ring get along great. Should Insanity lose the Serpentine Ring, she will lose access to her Sorcery, and the Serpentine Sorcerer in her mind will dissipate — leaving almost no discernable personality changes. She is as evil as he is.

If PCs manage to lay hands on the ring, and attempt to wear it, the PCs will be subject to the Serpentine Sorcerer’s soul in the ring invading their mind through sway attacks to drive morale to 0 and full-press invade (use Insanity’s stats.) The ring is very evil, and will use the PCs body for Sorcery.

Min Pirate Thug

Thieving, Bloodthirsty, Murderous

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 3, Health 6
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold 3, Morale 6
Offense – Warfare: +1; Fixed Damage 4 (saber)
Abilities: Malus 10

Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: The Min Pirate thugs look exactly like run-of-the-mill pirates. They will attack (Warfare) with sabers, and have no special moves or properties.

Zombie Pirate Crew

Empty, Relentless, Rotting

Defense – Health: Health Threshold 3, Health 1
Defense – Morale: Morale Threshold nil, Grit 0 (zombies are immune to Morale attacks), Morale nil
Offense – Warfare: +0; Fixed Damage 6
Offense – Sway: +1; Fixed Damage 4 (fear)
Abilities: Malus 5 S
pecial Abilities:
None. Spends Malus on Warfare Attack.
Misc: Zombies use their Sway attack at a distance, groaning and moaning in a terrifying way as they slowly advance.

A zombie typically uses all of its Malus at once and adds it to a single Warfare attack, briefly giving it a +5 attack and a 50% chance to score a Critical Hit on its target. If it scores a Critical Hit, it rips fleshy bits off the target and stuffs human bits into its maw. The target and any human observing loses Morale Fixed Damage 4 out of horror.

Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: Pirates, but undead. These Zombies are full of Insanity’s Corruption. They do monotonous, repeatable tasks as ordered. They are not fast, nor stealthy, nor disease-ridden, but they do come in large hordes. These undead will consume any living flesh, not just brains. Hit them and they go squish. These zombies do not summon more zombies, and can be destroyed normally.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. The Alliance: The Triskedane sends the PCs on a secret mission to broker an alliance with the Black-Witch Queen onboard the Rose Lust. They’ll need to travel to the cove city of Min, pretend to be Min Pirates, and convince or fight their way into an audience with the meanest Pirate Lord of the Pirate Lords. Also, a coterie of black sorceresses protects the Black-Witch Queen, and she has her own sorcery. Getting close to broker an alliance won’t be easy, but what’s a little diplomacy without some swashbuckling?

  2. The Spy Mission: The Triskedane needs to gather information before the Thirteen can plot Eversink’s next moves. They send the PCs on a perilous spying mission to infiltrate Insanity Forrest’s fleet and get closer to her commanders. The PCs must pose as Min Pirates and join her fleet. If they’re found out, Insanity or her hordes of murderous pirates will feed the PCs to the fish. Will the PCs find out where Insanity will strike next and report back to the Triskedane without being discovered?

  3. War! Defend Port Gazi! It’s too late! While the PCs were on a stopover at Port Gazi to refill water and food on their ship, Insanity attacked! Hordes of undead boil off her vessels and cut down the townspeople. Murderous thugs sack the towns and light them on fire. Things boil out of the seas to drag the ships in the harbor down to watery deaths. Can the PCs rally the local watch station and mercenary company and face Insanity’s hordes before Port Gazi is lost!

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #02: Gaspar Bruni, Lord of the Hermitage Mailroom

Introduction

Eversink’s unofficial motto is “…for Honor and Profit! But mostly Profit!” Wherever the Swan of Eversink flies, armies of merchants stand behind it armed with their accounting books and contracts. The shining city on the salty lagoon is a city of business people. The jingle of coin motivates the people of Eversink, not wars for God or Country.

The business of the businesses of Eversink flows through the Hermitage, the soaring marble Government building flanked by Court and Guild Houses on Effigy Square in Ironcross. While it is best known for housing the Triskedane, Denari’s hand-picked thirteen mysterious rulers of Eversink, the Hermitage is more commonly the home of the city’s day-to-day business. As merchants know better than to trust the word of other merchants, that business is meticulously hand-written and conducted on paper. Treaties, contracts, licenses, deeds, petitions, charters, indentures, and office memos circulate through the Hermitage. Entire forests die to fulfill Eversink’s paper trail needs.

Eversink’s business paper flows through one centralized location. In the second sub-basement, two floors down, is the mail sorting room. It’s a maelstrom of insanity-laden, paper-based chaos. Flurries of letters are sorted, stored, shoved, and squished into buckets, bins and cubbies as the paperwork makes its way through the city’s arteries from point A to point B. They say the fate of entire nations has died down in the mailroom. Wars broke out, cities were sacked, countries scourged, and the fortunes of men rose and fell because a crucial peace treaty was sorted accidentally into bin B instead of bin A.

(However, despite being in a second sub-basement and lacking windows, the enormous room is quite pleasant: cool in the Eversink hot summers, easy to heat in the frozen winters, and surprisingly dry.)

The sorting room’s master is a tall, thin, balding, dour, spectacle-wearing man who sits on a stool at the mail and package acceptance window. His name is Gaspar Bruni — not of any particular family or famous line. He just is, like he arose out of the dark blackness of the lagoon one day and ensconced himself in the mailroom to make everyone’s life miserable.

See, Gaspar Bruni is, like everyone else in Eversink, a businessman. His business is the delivery of paperwork from one side of the Hermitage’s office to the other. And Gaspar Bruni is openly corrupt. He’ll speed up some mail or slow down others on a whim. Gaspar has no politics except coinage. He accepts small, medium, large, or extra-large bribes, and he prefers hard cash in small leather bags. Gaspar will accept the bribe right at the window. He even has a pricing menu. Want 10x speed delivery of your paperwork? That will be 5 cygnets, please. Want to 10x slow down the delivery of a rival’s paperwork? Also, 5 cygnets, please.

Since Gaspar Bruni also rebuilt the entire mail sorting system when he joined the bureaucracy decades ago, he’s impossible to dislodge. No one knows how to route the mail around to the correct Hermitage rooms anymore. Only he can orchestrate the odd dance of Eversink inter-office business mail. Kill him and the entire business of Eversink halts.

Gaspar Bruni’s iron grip over the mailroom is very annoying to everyone who does business in Eversink. Villainous — maybe?

Background Story

Gaspar Bruni was born and raised in Sag Harbor in Eversink. His parents hoped he’d become clergy and sent him to the Church to be educated. But, Gaspar was mediocre in school and had little interest in the Church or ecclesiastical life. After he graduated, he wandered from job to job. He eventually picked up a low-level administrative position in the Hermitage penning and delivering inter-office mail.

Over time, Gaspar saved enough money to pay the bribe to get the promotion to the mailroom itself. One of Gaspar’s first assignments was to organize the mailroom to make it more efficient. So, Gaspar “organized the mailroom” to “make it more efficient.”

That was Gaspar’s a-ha moment. Now that he knew how the mail was routed, he could control it. A combination of bribes and carefully engineered promotions to much better roles removed his rivals. Bribes kept the other mail room clerks on his side. Over time, he became “that guy” who runs the mail office.

Gaspar found himself controlling the vital flow of Eversink’s paperwork in an iron fist. As no one really… cares… about the vital flow of Eversink’s paperwork, until they absolutely do. He set up shop and no one stopped him.

Gaspar’s biggest challenge is to never get promoted because if he gets promoted, he’ll lose his entire mail-based empire. So the mailroom under Gaspar always runs just well enough that he’ll keep his job and just poorly enough that no one wants to see Gaspar with more responsibility.

Gaspar Bruni

Corrupt, Bureaucratic, Weasley

Defense — Health: Health Threshold 3, Health 1
Defense — Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Morale 15
Offense — Sway: +2; Damage Modifier +1 (bureaucratic babble)
Abilities: Malus 10
Special Abilities: Allies (cost 3 – clerks)
Misc: Use Malus on Servility, Laws & Traditions, and City’s Secrets
Refresh Tokens: 1

Description: Gaspar Bruni is a tall, thin, balding, dour, bespeckled middle-aged man who can be taken out with a punch or a stiff breeze, and he has an incredibly punchable face. He’s annoyed by anyone (especially PCs) and doesn’t care about anyone else’s opinions or feelings. He’s sleazy, annoying, and will absolutely make things hard for PCs unless he’s paid. Then, suddenly, he’s all smiles and friendliness. He has a few clerks in the mail room who do his bidding.

Killing him is “bad” for varying definitions of “bad.”

Gaspar lives with his mum in a townhouse in Sag Harbor. He was never married, and does not have children. Gaspar likes to eat his lunch outside in the square, and he’s adamant about always going home on time.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. Gaspar’s Murder! Gaspar Bruni’s body was found in an Ironcross park. Strangled! Who did it? Was it Ancient Nobility Gaspar pissed off when he ‘lost” the deed to their Spire? A Mercanti who missed the fall sailing season because he couldn’t get his license to build a new fleet on time? Angry Outlanders who blamed Gaspar for the fall of their city due to a mislaid treaty? Or was it his loyal Lieutenant and fellow Mail Clerk, Tina Avino, who eyed the mail sorting bribe business for herself! And now, the city is in chaos and business is grinding to a halt, since no one knows where anything is at! CHAOS!
  2. Gaspar Gets Promoted: The worst has happened. Gaspar finally got promoted. Someone up high in the Hermitage noticed Gaspar hit his 25 years with the Government and the promotion automatically triggered! He’s been promoted to oversee the Courts! Now Gaspar is fighting to get demoted and return to his mailroom! He’s ordering the courts to refuse to see any cases unless they pay Gaspar a direct bribe. The inter-office mail system in the Hermitage is in chaos and the Courts have stopped hearing cases. Will Eversink screetch to a complete halt before Gaspar Bruni is demoted? And what about that pirate army waiting to invade? Wait, what?
  3. The Rival Mailroom: Frustrated with the slow mail and the expensive bribes, Aniello Diano, Mercanti in Harbor Approach, sets up a rival mail office. For a nominal printed and fixed fee, Aniello Diano’s mail service lets anyone in Eversink send messages and inter-office business mail. It’s fast! It’s reliable! The rival mail service is instantly an Eversink sensation. Gaspar Bruni will not let this business rivalry stand. Gaspar, alone, controls the flow of office memos in Eversink! He arms his Mail Clerks and sends them into the streets to clash with Aniello Diano’s army of well-armed thugs. Rival gangs of mail clerks break out into violence in the Hermitage! It’s all out mail-based gang war! Who will control the fate of Eversink’s inter office mail? Will the office memo about expensing lunch ever be delivered?

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Eversink Villain #01: Silvio Langella, Enemy of Stephanos Everywhere

Introduction

Last week, the Streets of Eversink teamed with people named Stefano. Everywhere you went, you bumped into a guy named Stefano. The baker down the street. The local cobbler. The friendly neighborhood pickpocket.

Then, they began to disappear. One by one, the Stefanos of Eversink… vanished. Most were renamed less Stefano-like names and carried on as if nothing happened. Others blipped out of existence, and existence knit itself back together over the hole they left behind.

Other than being obviously weird, this really messed with the people of Eversink, especially the Stephanos. Some went into hiding. Some wept. Some begged the City Watch to “do something” (they did not). Highly placed Stephanos fled the City, terrified they were next, and no amount of cash could protect them from this terrible scourge.

Soon, no one named Stephano would be left in Eversink. And when that happened, what next?

Background Story

Silvio Langella wasn’t thinking about becoming a Sorcerer when he picked the ornate box open. He was thinking about becoming fabulously wealthy and blowing gold on hot girls and rivers of alcohol. Getting to this box was no simple feat, and whoever hid it didn’t want it stolen. Whatever was inside was worth bank.

But Silvio Langella became a Sorcerer when the wrought gold lid of the box popped open under his cajoling and his expertise with lockpicks. Granted, it took Silvio all night to scale the outside of the Old Perla Family Spire in Alderhall, slip past 5 death traps, avoid the house guards, slay the house pet giant spider, find the secret locked door, and pop the complex set of locks. He also willfully ignored the letters that spelled out “DO NOT OPEN THE BOX VERY BAD” in old Eversink on the lid.

As Silvio peered into the box and saw a strange hyper-condensed ball of black light, a tiny alarm went off in his head. But then, he was consumed by blackness. A moment later, the world was back to normal. Silvio blinked and peered back into the box. Then, he heard someone yawn, stretch, and then say: “Hiya.”

After the initial hilarious misunderstandings between newly-created-Sorcerer and Demon, the Demon Maguuk offered Silvio power over his enemies and endless terrible advice that Silvio instantly followed to the letter. All Silvio had to do is draw on the Demon’s power, and great power would be his. Well, hell, mystical power was almost a great as mad riches! Not quite, but almost.

Silvio knew something something from Church when he was a kid, something bad about Demons, but he couldn’t quite remember. And Maguuk seemed like his kind of Demon. Silvio uttered his first, last, and main desire: to “get rid of that bastard Stephano who cheated me at cards last week.”

One bastard Stephano gone, so many more to go. It was all downhill from there.

Silvio Langella

Hungry, Foolhardy, Sarcastic, Loathes Stephanos Everywhere

Defense – Health: Hit Threshold 3, Health 8
Defense – Morale: Hit Threshold 4, Grit 1 (sarcastic wit), Morale 10
Offense – Warfare: +2; Damage Modifier +1 (razor-sharp dagger)
Offense – Sorcery: +1; Damage Modifier +1 (Memory, Shadow Teleportation)
Abilities: Malus 18
Special Abilities: Dodge (cost varies), Spellcasting (cost 3 – Memory, cost – 3, Shadow Teleportation), Warded (cost 6)
Misc: Stealth Modifier +2; Use Malus on Burglary, Skullduggery and Athletics. Shadow teleportation allows transit through Maguuk’s realm and imprisonment there.

Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: Silvio Langella was your run-of-the-mill thin, tweedy, slightly sleazy second-story man, the kind that are 3 to a copper eel in Sag Harbor. Now, he has the Demon Maguuk living in his head, merrily pointing out people named Stephano and helping Silvio wipe them from existence. Silvio, being Silvio, is not very good at controlling Corruption. He’s internalized a fair amount of Corruption every time he has used Memory or Shadow Teleportation magic. It twisted his body horribly – redding skin, horn stubs protruding from his forehead, gnarled fingers and toes – slowing turning him into the likeness of the Demon. Now he bundles himself in clothes and hides in the shadows, hoping no one sees him for what he’s turned into.

Villainous Plot Seeds

  1. Plot Seed #1 – Running Out of Stephanos: Silvio wants to remove everyone named Stephano from Eversink, never to return. He’s declared war on Stephanos, wherever they may hide. While most of Eversink might shrug its collective shoulders and change its name to Marcos, the Corruption crawling around the City is a real problem. And it’s only a matter of time before Eversink runs out of Stephanos! Silvio might go after some other name. And another, and another, until Eversink is a city of the nameless! Orders coming down from the Church of Denari itself: something must be done to stop the Sorcerer before it’s too late!
  2. Plot Seed #2 – The Demon Children of Sag Harbor: Silvio is internalizing much of the Corruption he’s generating every time he casts a spell, but not all of it. Some of the Corruption is splashing around his kip in Sag Harbor, causing buildings to fall, pregnant women to miscarry, and the local children to start growing small stubbing horns, stubby wings, and forked tails. Something in the neighborhood is turning the children into actual demons, and that must be stopped.
  3. Plot Seed #3 – The Demon Maguuk’s Extradimensional Lair: Not all those afflicted by Silvio’s magic suffer a sudden change of name. Some blip out of existence entirely… and end up the Demon Maguuk’s lair out of space and time. The Demon Maguuk feasts on the souls sent to him by Silvio’s magic, and consumes them for power. As Silvio wreaks his revenge, Maguuk feeds and grows stronger. It’s not just Silvio who must be stopped. It’s Maguuk, who may one day once again soon grow so powerful it rips out of its dimensional prison and menaces Eversink directly.

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

Villains! Villains? Why not. Villains!

So.

My brain turned off during the coronavirus lockdown. My interest in writing (except for long, ranty blog posts) took a major plunge, and my creativity was at an all-time low. I had no interest in writing and even less interest in returning to the world of Eversink. I had no desire to walk along the canals at night sniffing the fishy air. I did not want to haggle over a slightly broken plate (still good! still plates!) in the Grand Marketplace. I certainly did not want to be accosted by a specter who wants vengeance on its friends for costing it its life on a foolish bet involving giant lagoon eels.

I wasn’t interested in the concept of words. I quit reading. Writing was right out.

When my brain turned back on a month and change ago, I wanted to write entire one-shot quicky adventures. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, I realized my brain was on, but not actually on, and writing adventures was pushing my luck. My pre-pandemic output of 2K words in a shot when I sat to write Dungeonomics was a non-starter. This might be a longish-term effect of the 15 months of lockdown — my interest in anything “not watching tv” is shockingly low. I’m positive it will drift away in time, but not for a while yet.

Exasperated, I gave up on the whole idea of writing adventures and wandered off to work on other projects for a while.

But then, I had this idea. Instead of writing complete adventures, I’d write up the fragments of adventures I thought up and focus all my energy on the penultimate villain behind the adventure. Every good story needs a good villain. Villains are the percussive force behind adventures! Without a villain, why, Eversink becomes nothing but a rom-com!

Honestly, a good GM can spin a good adventure from a good villain. No canned adventure is needed. It’s a thought experiment. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and I’ll write building descriptions until I feel the need to break D&D again in terrible ways.

I’ll post a few, and we’ll see if this works. I’ll also be using the adversary builder to roll stat blocks because automation is my friend.

(Total aside: I love the idea of Eversink romcoms. She’s a half-fungus, half-mammal creature from out of time who boiled up from the horrors of the underbasements. He has an unspeakable God living in his head who urges him to kill when the moon is waning crescent. Together, they make a great pair! Comedy ensues when they try to date!)

Disclaimer: These posts are unaffiliated with official canonical posts or printed materials about Sword of the Serpentine. “Swords of the Serpentine” is (TM) Pelgrane Press. For more information on Eversink, visit the Pelgrane website.

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