Now that I’ve created a Scarlet Hero, I ran through an urban adventure. Unlike previous efforts, I decided to rely on the oracle tables as much as possible and try to fashion a narrative from the procedural generation. For the most part, this worked well despite a few complications. I set the adventure in the Imperial city of Xian and tried for a bit of a noir feel.
Weather: Wet season (concealing downpour)
Plot: An Antagonist seeks the assassination of a Target
Draw or choose either the Antagonist or the Target, whichever your hero is most likely to care about. Draw the unknown actor only after a successful Investigation scene spent discovering their identity. Scenes revolve around identifying the assassins, learning when and how they are to strike, and protecting the Target from one or more attempts on their life.
Antagonist: Relentless bounty hunter
Xue hears a rumor that a feared bounty hunter has arrived in the slum neighborhood of Naozishan and decides to investigate further. Perhaps this will help him find a patron to latch onto.
Scene 1: Investigation
An allied Actor can get you a Clue at great personal risk. Skill check to help them succeed.
Actor: Crime victim, human, numerous piercings, compassionate, desires cure for sickness.
Wu Song is a city magistrate responsible for the market in Virtue Square. She recently had to spend considerable resources to repair the market area after a bounty hunter damaged it apprehending a fugitive. During the cleanup, she was warned that the bounty hunter remains in the area on another job. Xue asks her for assistance in identifying the hunter.
Check: 2d8 + Charisma (+0) + Knows a city magistrate (1) vs difficulty (9) = 9, success.
Song identifies the bounty hunter as an Eshkanti man named Habib al-Qattan, staying at the Secluded Cloud Hotel.
VP: Xue 1, Habib 1
Scene 2: Investigation
Search a Location related to past events where a Clue can be found and face a Fight.
Xue decides to investigate the Secluded Cloud Hotel. Knowing he is going into a potentially dangerous situation, he prepares the spell Amber Cloud of Somnolescence and makes sure his “ornamental” dagger is concealed but easily reachable inside his robes.
Who does he talk to? a Promising Artist
What is the Promising Artist’s general reaction? Flat refusal
Check: 2d8 + Charisma (0) + Strikingly Attractive (1) vs difficulty (9) = 13, success
Xue strikes up a conversation with a young artist painting a mural in the hotel. At first, she wants nothing to do with his questioning, but after some flirtation, she finally gives him a clue.
How far away is the hunter? The other side of the room
She points out Habib, drinking tea in the lobby. Hotel guards notice the conversation and tell him he needs to leave immediately.
Hostile NPC reaction: Qualified consent
“We won’t beat you this time, stranger, just leave.” Xue decides that discretion should win out, since now he has confirmed Habib’s location and knows his face.
VP: Xue 2, Habib 2
Scene 3: Investigation
Stake out an Actor or a Location. Whether or not you win the check, your opponent gains a VP due to delay.
Xue leaves the hotel but doesn’t go far. Instead, he sets up across the street in a tea house to keep an eye out. The rain has slowed to a light drizzle.
Oracle: Has traffic started to resume (likely)? No
Does Habib leave (unknown)? Yes, but a twist to the relationship between the people in the situation.
Check: 2d8 + Intelligence (+2) vs 9 = 11, success
Xue observes Habib talking and then paying the young artist woman with whom he himself conversed earlier. She thanks him very politely.
Oracle: Does she point to anything (unknown)? No
Does she give Habib anything (unknown)? Yes, but an adjustment to the physical environment
Does the adjustment relate to the painting (likely)? Yes
Habib pays the young woman and follows her to the mural, where she makes some changes to the painting in progress. He nods affirmatively before leaving.
VP: Xue 3, Habib 3
Scene 4: Investigation
Bribe an Actor to give you a Clue. Pay a reasonable bribe or fail the challenge.
After Habib leaves, Xue motions for the artist to talk to him in a private alcove in the hotel.
Reaction: Unfriendly NPC – Considered refusal
She informs him it would not be in her favor to tell him her business with the bounty hunter. He offers to pay her 5gp (minor bribe) and promises not to ever tell anyone. She finally accepts.
Does she know the target (unknown)? Yes
Actor: Exiled pretender, Dwarf.
The artist, Ushi, points out a place on the mural where a dwarven underking is blessing two of his children. “One of them eventually took the throne, but the other lives here. Underking Pyotr has many friends in Xian…”
VP: Xue 4, Habib 3
Scene 5: Action
Pass an incriminating or disgraceful Clue to an Actor who can make sure important people learn of the evidence.
Xue returns to Song, the city magistrate, to inform her of what he’s learned: the bounty hunter-cum-assassin has been sent to eliminate the brother and rival of the dwarven Underking Pyotr. He doesn’t know where or when, nor indeed who has sent the killer, but perhaps she might be able to make something happen.
Check: 2d8 + Intelligence (+3) + Knows a city magistrate (+1) vs 9 = 16, success
Oracle: Can Song do anything about it (likely)? Yes
Do her contacts want the pretender protected (unknown)? Yes, but an adjustment to the physical environment
Do they want the pretender moved to a different location (unknown)? No, but an adjustment to the physical environment ((this oracle is getting frustrating, heh))
Oracular Adjectives & Motivations: Forgetfulness
Song indicates that her contacts would like something more complicated and sends him to meet with a contact.
VP: Xue 5, Habib 3
Scene 6: Action
Bring in an outside authority or useful Actor to oppose the foe.
Actor: Feared court blackmailer ((now we’re in the thick of it))
Reaction (NPC stranger): Qualified consent
Memorable trait: Tends work constantly
Ruling temperament: Garrulous
Immediate desire: Destroying evidence
Xue is sent to Peace Blossom Manor to meet with “Nuwa,” a Ravenmistress. She runs a significant espionage operation and is known to be connected in some way to the Imperial Court. Rumors swirl about the specific connection, but in the cloak-and-dagger world of Xian, what appears clear one day fades into the shadows the next.
He is ushered into her garden, finding her trimming flowers while periodically interrupted by servants who bring her parchments to read and sign or otherwise give the briefest of directions. At his approach, she stands and smiles. “Ah, the neophyte has arrived and a new stone is laid on the board. You’ve found something useful to me, something I will appreciate.”
Check: 2d8 + Charisma (0) + Scribe Background (1) vs 9 = 17, success!
Xue gives a concise recount of his experiences at the hotel with Habib and Ushi. Nuwa nods. “We can turn this to a benefit, but first we must find out how and when Habib will strike. In the meantime, I will have additional protection placed around Fyodor – another stone on the board, after all.”
VP: Xue 6, Habib 3
Scene 7: Investigation
Infiltrate a Location where the activities relate to a Clue. On a check failure, face a Fight.
Xue returns to the Secluded Cloud Hotel and looks for a way into the room to see what he can find in the way of targeting information.
Check: 2d8 + Intelligence (3) + Scribe (1) vs 9 = 13, success!
Oracle: How far away is a thing (distant)? The same community
Urban location: Urban palace
Does the pretender live there (unknown)? Yes
Is Habib already on his way (likely)? Yes
The pretender resides in a small palace – really, a villa – in a neighborhood not far away. With no time to lose, Xue heads that way.
VP: Xue 7, Habib 4
Scene 8: Action
Rally an Actor and their comrades to oppose the foe.
Actor: Foreign Diplomat
Race: Human, Kueh
Reaction (NPC stranger, -1 for risk): Bribeable
Check: 2d8 + Charisma (0) + Knows a City Magistrate (1) vs 9 = 9, success
As Xue approaches the palace, he finds a Kueh diplomat and her bodyguards arriving. He informs them that there is an imminent attack and requests her assistance. She raises an eyebrow and starts to object, until he whispers about the Ravenmistress. She blanches and orders her guards to assist in watching for anyone else arriving.
VP: Xue 8, Habib 5
Scene 9: Action
Sabotage a tool, evidence, or ally of the foe so that it betrays their attempted use of it.
Oracle: Does the assassin know the pretender’s specific location in the palace (likely)? Yes
Xue heads directly to the pretender’s suite and finds several capable-looking rogues sent by Nuwa plus two dwarves attending Fyodor. He directs one of the serving dwarfs and Fyodor to change clothing as a misdirection, intending to then slip Fyodor into another part of the palace.
Check: 2d8 + Charisma (0) + nothing vs 9 = 11, success
Reaction (Friendly NPC, -1 for risk): 7, Hesitant Agreement
Oracular Adjective: Pride
Fyodor hesitates. “You are meaning that I am to dress… as a servant?” Xue convinces him that his life is worth demeaning himself for a bit.
VP: Xue 9, Habib 6
Scene 10: Action
Convince an Actor ally of the foe to betray them. On a failure, face a Fight.
Actor: Instructor to nobles
An elven tutor is wandering the halls, suspiciously given the late hour. Xue narrows his eyes and explains to the elf about the pain and suffering he’ll have inflicted if he doesn’t come clean.
Check: 2d8 + Charisma (0) + nothing (0) vs 9 = 10, success
The elf goes pale at the mention of flaying and stammers quietly that he was supposed to distract the guards for a moment when the assassin arrives.
Oracle: How far away is a thing (same place)? A few paces away
VP: Xue 10, Habib 7
Climax Scene: Action
Face the foe’s best warrior- or the foe himself if this is a climactic battle and they’re fit for combat. Face a Fight instead of a check.
Habib steps out from behind a curtain and unsheathes a dagger, moving quickly towards Xue and the elf.
(using Brute statistics):
Brute: HD=T+2=3 || AC=6 || +Hit=+T+2=+3 || Dmg=1d10 || Morale=10 || +Skill=+2 || Move=20’
Oracle: How far away are the guards? In the next room, 1d4 = 2 rounds before they arrive.
Not an Ambush because Xue is here for exactly this, therefore he goes first. Cannot cast Amber Cloud of Somnolescence because the opponent has 3 HD.
Xue unsheathes his dagger and moves closer without considering that the assassin is far more skilled at combat.
Attack: 1d20+Atk(0)+Dex(-1)+AC(6) = 10, miss
Fray die: 1d4 = 2, 1 point of damage
As combat is joined, Xue only makes incidental contact with the assassin as they struggle in the hallway.
Attack: 1d20+Hit(3)+AC(9) = nat 20, automatic hit
Dmg: 1d10 = 2, 1 point of damage
Habib whirls his sword for a moment, then lunges and grazes Xue.
HP: Xue 3, Habib 3
Xue circles warily. His school taught him the rudiments of hand-to-hand combat but he prefers to spend his time reading…
Attack: 1d20+Atk(0)+Dex(-1)+AC(6) = 15, miss
Fray die: 1d4 = 1, no damage
Habib easily dodges the clumsy slash and counterattacks.
Attack: 1d20+Hit(3)+AC(9) = 21, hit
Dmg: 1d10 = 2, 1 point of damage
Xue cries out as Habib gives him a cut to the arm.
HP: Xue 2, Habib 3
The magic user grits his teeth, trying to hold the assassin off until the guards arrive.
Attack: 1d20+Atk(0)+Dex(-1)+AC(6) = 24, hit
Damage: 1d4 = 4, Habib is killed
The sounds of boots thudding out momentarily distract Habib. Xue sees his opening and plunges his dagger into the attacker’s chest, ending the threat. For now, at any rate…
Partial Victory (news of the failed attempt will reach Pyotr), 1 experience!
Favor earned with dwarven pretender Fyodor and Ravenmistress Nuwa. Earned 1 Heat (Xian) and 100gp.