You’ll find this is the lengthiest scenario thus far and really ideal for a sand-box approach to play – which of course means a little extra work on the part of the Dungeon Master. The Murder in Baldur’s Gate adventure is required for play. If you can order a physical copy you’ll get the DM’s screen which might prove useful. You don’t have to set the adventure during the Sundering – late 14th century will work fine.
The story hooks suggested in Escape to Baldur’s Gate will really come into play here and ideally, Player-Character aspects should reflect that along with a couple of game aspects. May the gods grant ye favour!
N.B. Here Be Spoilers!: The information detailed below is for the eyes of Dungeon Masters only. Prospective players should click away now!
– Murder in Baldur’s Gate –
Founder’s day – and it is with no little irony that you find yourselves returning to the city of Baldur’s Gate on this most patriotic of days. Centuries ago the legendary explorer Balduran sailed west past the elven isles of Evermeet and returned with a treasure of mythic proportion. The walled town that he settled in eventually became the city you see today.
Having settled a little business to the north, routing highway-men who had been preying on the merchant roads that run by the fields of the dead, you, like the city’s founder find yourselves returning feeling somewhat like heroes, albeit less burdened with treasure.
Because it is Founder’s Day, you don’t have to pay the usual toll to enter the city but that’s small consolation for the high boarding fees the crowds create. You’ve been waiting in line for an hour when you finally leave the stink and noise of the outer city and pass through the first portion of the Black Dragon Gate. In the muddy courtyard between gates, the rattle of smithies, the stench of beasts and the barking of dogs fades somewhat. Leering balefully down at you, mouth agape, is the sculpture that gives this gate it’s name: a stone carving of a black dragon’s head, said to be enchanted. As you at last pass under the dragon, guards in crisp black livery look you over and point you towards a row of iron boot scrapers. Once you’ve cleaned off the worst of the muck, another guard nods approval and waves you through to make room for the next group of pilgrims.
Players may take this opportunity to buy milestones for their characters or purchase items in the old city. On this day the Wide provides almost everything they may desire:
On most trading days the enormity of the Wide means that it is rarely ever full but today, with so many visitors thronging to the great stage on the east side of the bazaar, the Wide is struggling to accommodate the crowds. About the stage, officials mill about screened by a line of soldiers. It won’t be long until the hour is rung in by the Gondsmen at the High House of Wonders.
DM’s Note: A vast array of goods fills the stalls in the Wide. When the characters are shopping or crashing through them, consider the following contents in addition to any standard equipment they might buy. The Wide may also be the source of certain expensive, unique items that may be classified as extras in their own right; masterwork gear (see the Freeport Companion), or finely wrought, even magical items that adventurers can procure, e.g. a fold-away wooden ladder that’s neat …In A Jiffy!, providing a free invocation or two to would-be cat-burglars. These items will cost more than average and be warned – Baldur’s Gate is notoriously expensive, facing little commercial competition for many miles around. DMs might find the Baldur’s Gate entries in Volo’s Guide to the Sword Coast useful here.
Here are some examples of what might be found among the trade stalls: Scrimshaw from Icewind Dale (small sculpture – 8 sp to 2 gp; dagger with scrimshaw hilt – 3 gp), Exotic birds (parrot from Chult – 30 gp; toucan from across the Sea of Swords – 40 gp; peacock from Durpar – 50 gp), Silks and dishware from Kara-Tur (silk per square yard – 20 gp to 40 gp; dishware by item – 5 sp to 20 gp) and fine leather footwear, made here among the western heartlands (low boots – 4 gp; riding boots – 7 gp; sandals – 2 gp; slippers – 2 gp).
Running the Crowd: During the events of this adventure, dangers erupt here and there, and mobs of people push against one another. Nearest to danger, the crowd is a heavy press of bodies. A melee battle will have a clear space around the combatants as the crowd attempts to stay out of reach of any of the fighters, but movement outside these areas means forcing a way through. Bear this in mind when establishing situation aspects (see Quick & Dirty Story-Based Gear, Extras, Fate Core System).
Optional Events: As the characters engage enemies in the Wide, all sorts of things are happening in the crowd around them. Pick ideas from those described below or improvise your own, and sprinkle them into the combat encounters. For example, you could pick two events at the start of an encounter and roll initiative for them, describing them for everyone when their initiative counts come up. Or you could randomly select a character and describe the event as something only that character notices in the heat of battle.
✦ A halfling scamp is taking advantage of a merchant’s distraction to fill her pockets with jewelry from his stall.
✦ A crying child has been separated from her frantic mother who is trying to hold her ground against the surging crowd and call for her (“Elspa!”). Neither sees the other. As a character takes this in, someone in the crowd unwittingly knocks the little girl over.
✦ A merchant’s stall filled with lit oil lamps and lanterns is pushed over. The stall and two bystanders catch fire. Unless aided, the bystanders die after 1 exchange. At the end of each exchange, unless the fire is squelched, it spreads to any stalls within 10 feet, and an additional bystander catches fire.
✦ A noble is cutting his way to safety by having his house guards stab anyone who presses too close, but many can’t help being pushed in his way.
✦ An aged halfling trips and falls next to a stall, and as he tries to push himself up, someone uses his back as a step to vault over the stall to a clear spot in the Wide. Someone else who sees this, leaps upon the halfling’s back before he can stand up and repeats the action. If someone doesn’t intervene, he will soon be trampled into the cobbles.
1. Thieves!: At some point while the characters are looking about, one of the characters is drawn into an argument. Read or paraphrase the following, targeting one of the characters:
Suddenly, a shout breaks the happy mood. A bearded merchant grabs your shoulder. “That’s the second time you’ve stepped on my cloak, sir,” he yells. “You’re either doing it on purpose, or you’re the clumsiest oaf I’ve ever seen!”
This staged argument is an operation by the Guild. It is a deliberate distraction for two cut-purses (apprentice thieves), working the crowd. The bearded merchant tries to draw out the argument as much as possible, responding to the characters insultingly.
“This cloak is fine silk, and see how you’ve frayed it! I expect that you will compensate the cost.”
The shouting and insults continue as the bearded man seems increasingly indignant and prone to violence. Despite the characters’ best efforts, the man seems bent on having it out no matter what.
Allow the players to involve their characters in the argument if they like.
At some point, if a character makes a successful Marksman action, he or she spots one of the two cut-purses stealing a bag of coins from someone watching the argument. A quick glance around reveals the other. If no one spots the cut-purses, each character is a target in turn until someone notices: If the heroes still don’t notice, the thieves get away with the characters’ money, after which point the arguing man gets into a physical fight that is shortly broken up by one of his friends (more Guild members); eventually, they all fade into the crowd.
If confronted in the act, the thieves make a run for it. The arguing men start fighting and try to get in the way of pursuers, if it won’t seem too unnatural. And if all else fails, the thieves hurl stolen coins into the air behind themselves to make the crowd cluster. You can handle this scene either by way of a challenge or a contest (see Optional Events above).
If the characters succeed, they catch the thieves (their accomplices have long disappeared into the crowd). A thief has a number of purses on his/her person, each containing 20 gp. The thieves struggle to escape if captured but they won’t attack. A Watch member then approaches, grabs the hand of any captured thief, and cuts off a finger, after which the cut-purse is escorted away, bound for ejection from the Upper City. A few folk who had their money stolen reward the characters for their trouble with money amounting to 4 gp each.
2. Murderers!: A hush slowly falls over the crowd. On stage a man wearing a sash is apparently introducing someone. When that someone steps onto the podium and raises a hand to the gathered crowd a wild, uplifting roar sweeps over the sea of people; Grand Duke Abdel Adrian.
“You’d hardly believe it would you?”, says a man by your shoulder, “the Duke has over a century of years behind him and he looks not a day over sixty! They say he was blessed by the gods themselves!”…
The Duke’s words struggle to reach your ears, such is the frenzy of noise. Despite his position and commanding presence he looks uncomfortable delivering his speech. Platitudes concerning civic duty and pride are rolled out. Abruptly, the Duke’s words cut short. He leans forward slightly on his pulpit, as if recognising something in the crowd.
There’s a scream somewhere off to your left! Then a low, ominous whistle as a hail of dark bolts arc over the throng of people. At the front of the stage, a shield of the Watch drops to his knees, joining his fallen comrade. In less than a second, another drops dead, then another…
City Officials: On stage, city officials in all their finery are scattering about, some clambering down to the ground, assisted by bodyguards. Others simply leap onto the bodies of fallen Watchmen leaving the impassive figure of the Duke behind them.
Vigilar Lenta Moore: Not far from where you are now, a young lieutenant begins furiously barking orders at a squad of Watchmen. The shields have barely reached her when she starts ushering them forward, leading a press through the crowd towards the buildings by the stage.
Duke Torlin Silvershield: A finely dressed man (a priest maybe?) lingers by the foot of the stage. He is accompanied by a darkly handsome gentleman, dressed like a southerner with a fez hat and a thin, curling moustache…
On Initiative count 8: The man you’ve been watching leans into his accomplice, whispering something in his ear before withdrawing.
And later on: You can’t help but feel that southerner’s eyes on you; watching, from some point in the crowd.
4. Assassins!: Duke Abdel Adrian holds his own against Viekang for three exchanges, after that he begins taking one shift of stress per exchange unless a PC comes to his aid. The Grand Duke will offer passive opposition on defence and can offer a PC a teamwork bonus on his/her exchange. Only roll for Viekang.
Statistics for these Non-Player Characters can be found at the bottom of the page.
5. Transformation: Compel any PCs witnessing the transformation to defend against madness. The Slayer provides a major trigger (Fair, Mystic).
6. Invitations: Out from the thinning crowd a figure approaches you. A tall, black man with a shaved head and an imposing frame. You know just by looking that he’s a military man and the tabard embroidered on his tunic confirms this – a clenched gauntlet wreathed in fire; the Flaming Fist. He looks you over, nods in thanks – “You risked your life for the sake of this city and the Duke. For that I thank you. The Watch were posted here to safeguard his life but someone…” he says, looking around; “Someone sent them all to the town-houses, away from the stage.”
Cont’d. “My name is Blaze Ulder Ravengard, Commander of Wyrm’s Rock and as of now, the Flaming Fist. Duke Adrian had been our Marshal.” He pauses, looking even more serious than before. “Come meet me later on, at Wyrm’s Rock.”. He sighs, “The city won’t recover from this overnight. I need eyes and ears on the ground; and, you’ll be paid well. Gentlemen…”. As Ravengard walks away a dozen plain-clothes mercenaries melt away from their positions, shadowing the marshal, their eyes prowling the crowd, stalls and eaves.
Meeting Duke Silvershield: In a sombre meeting chamber, against panels of darkened oak and oil paintings of past rulers sits Torlin Silvershield, serving Duke and High Artificer of the temple of Gond. He rises as you enter…
On the Assassination: “I was in danger! I asked Imbralym to watch and report back to me. I needed to know what was happening and who was responsible.”
On the Guild: “You know there is a brotherhood of thieves in this city known as the Guild, although I take that name in jest. They claw at our most vaunted institutions, manipulating markets, shipping and they have powerful cronies in the courts and; even among the Flaming Fist.
Basilisk Gate: To reach Wyrm’s Rock you must first pass through the gate that pierces the city’s eastern wall – Basilisk Gate. Events being as they are and with the working day drawing to a close hundreds of pedestrians are forced together, packed into one long queue that bottle-knecks up ahead where it reaches the tax concession at Basilisk Gate.
Reaching the checkpoint: The walls and battlements around the gate are crowded with statues and relief carvings, not the work of a basilisk but more likely the indulgences of the rich patrons of the old city. Nearby, inside a striped canopy a balding dwarf sits, diligently making notes of the goods being brought through and deducting fees. In the candle-light, the dwarf’s face appears as a death-mask. Outside the tent Fists perform stop and search duties. A Buldurian nearby spits on the ground and complains, pointing out the dwarf “There he is, the Basilisk, ’tis a pity he wouldn’t turn to stone. ‘Twouldn’t affect his conscience much, mind you.”
Rael’s Invitation: “See how they treat us; and those mercenaries are employed to protect the citizens here. You cannot trust them, not the patriars and not the Flaming Fist. You do not know the politics of this city. Meet me tonight, at Little Calimshan; at dusk.”
(To a rogue): He signs off with a secret gesture, suggesting honour among thieves.
This encounter assumes that PCs make their way to Wyrm’s Rock to rendezvous with Blaze Ravengard early in the scenario – though the invitation to meet with Rael may be offered at some other point.
Meeting Rilsa Rael: You rendezvous with your contact outside the main gate to the walled ghetto that is Little Calimshan.
Following: You follow, up a set of stairs and onto a walkway that winds along the district walls, bringing you level with the minarets that top the enclosed buildings. The dusk air carries the soft tones of reeded instruments.
Rael’s Interview: “How far are you willing to go to bring justice to Baldur’s Gate? Will you lend me your blades?”
Dealing with Nant Thangol: “We are targeting toll collectors; and first, we hit the Basilisk. We need to send out a message. Can I count on you?”
Search and Seizure: The lady captain has been keeping a low-profile in the wake of Duke Adrian’s assassination and consequently, the Low Lantern has been mooring away from it’s usual haunts. Determining it’s current location will depend on a challenge – first learning it’s typical points of anchor, then a process of elimination to guess it’s current location.
Continuing the Story: Ultimately the alliances your players choose to make are going to determine the story’s path. It is here that you’ll find the Fate rules really come into their own – spurring the drama forward with compels and allowing PCs to add and reveal aspects to the city and it’s notable inhabitants.
With a little imagination you could rework characters from the preceding scenarios into this tale, e.g. Dimitrios will likely have some input and perhaps Aporcus Beedle and the cursed, emerald dagger will turn up again? For DMs incorporating the Rats in the Undercellar adventure (found in Dungeon #217 – dmsguild.com), there’s even the possibility that the twin were-rats Joren and Belken might become embroiled in a turf-war with Thurgo Songbuckle as rightful lords of the city’s rodent population. The possibilities are literally endless but crucially – let the players tell the story!
Aspects: Natural Medium Armour; Bestial Agility
Professions: Good (+3) Acrobat; Fair (+3) Brute; Good (+4) Warrior
Stunts: Jumper – The slayer can ignore any attempts made by normal-sized creatures attempting to block it’s movement between zones.
Slavering Maw – If the slayer succeeds with style when biting an opponent, the target gains the aspect Stunned and takes an additional shift of mental stress.
Melee Attack: Claws and Fangs, Good (+3), +2 slashing/piercing dmg
Physical Defence: Claws and Fangs!, Good (+3), Natural Medium Armour
Physical Stress: ❏❏❏ +1 mild physical consequence
Mental Stress: ❏❏
- Non-Player Characters:
-Grand Duke Abdel Adrian-
Aspects: Bhaalspawn; Imperiously Tall; Too Old For This
Professions: Good (+3) Acrobat; Brute; Mystic; Warrior; Fair (+2) Aristocrat; Marksman
Melee Attack: Gauntlet, Good (+3), bludgeoning dmg
Physical Defence: Good (+3), Ceremonial Armour
Physical Stress: ❏❏❏❏ +1 moderate consequence
Mental Stress: ❏❏❏❏
Aspects: Bhaalspawn; Blood Vendetta; Light Armour
Professions: Good (+3) Acrobat; Warrior; Fair (+2) Brute; Average (+1) Mystic;
Stunts: Blade in the Dark – Viekang gains a +2 whenever he makes an attack in the dark.
“Let’s Finish This!” – Whenever a PC takes a consequence from Viekang, Duke Abdel takes one shift of stress as the assassin’s intended target.
Veil of Shadows – For a fate point, Viekang can create a Magical Bloom of Shadow (with a free invocation), covering him and one other creature as a free action. Darkvision, natural and/or magical light cannot penetrate this veil. The aspect lasts until the end of Viekang’s next turn or his next attack.
Melee Attack: Short Sword, Good (+3), +1 slashing dmg
Physical Defence: Good (+3), Light Armour
Physical Stress: ❏❏❏ +1 moderate consequence
Mental Stress: ❏❏