Click to get a PDF of all the maps needed for this session.
- Map of Stonesperth. You know Stonesperth well and you wouldn’t need a map to get around. This map is for you as a player.
- North of the River Laif is mostly military. You have spent plenty of time in the military compound and know it very well. The center of the complex is for the King’s Guard and entry is forbidden to all other military personnel.
- The lands around the military compound are kept purposefully empty except for the area around the ferry dock.
- South of River Laif is the commercial and residential center. Stonesperth is the center of government, trade and politics for the known, civilized region. It attracts many people and is a very bustling and busy town.
- Stonesperth Palace basement – all the maps of Stonesperth Palace are given to you by Merkin during your conversation.
- Stonesperth Palace grounds and ground floor
- Stonesperth Palace royal court
- Stonesperth Palace King’s quarters
- Stonesperth Palace prince’s quarters
- Stonesperth Palace tower tops
A Meeting with the Guild
The invitation requests your attendance to night at quarternight. You are instructed to go to the Toad Stool, which is on the very south end of Stonesperth. You’re a bit bothered by this as you will have to pay tolls to cross the river. Normally, military would not pay but you are not in uniform and you have been asked to conceal your identity. “Too many citizens know you by sight,” the note says. “Take care that no one sees that it is the Great Graegel Fur Beast making his way through town. Hide your visage to others!”
You arrive at the Toad Stool at the appointed time and enter the small tavern to a small crowd. Upon your entry, all activity stops and every person – all of them men – turn their gaze toward you. After a pause that feels eternal but is more likely just a second of time, the room erupts into a buzz. Men jump from their seats and bound toward you. You’re met with a barrage of handshakes and pats and hurrahs. Several people wish you luck. Many claim great pleasure in meeting you. After a moment or two, one voice grumbles above them all, “Alright, alright, alright! You’ve had your moment to gawk. Every one of yous need to disperse in the normal manner and post haste. We mustn’t raise notice to our being here. And for Lathander’s sake speak none of this!”
The men begin to gather their belongings and exit the tavern via it’s many exits. On their way, many continue to assail you with quiet but laudatory remarks. As the room empties, you discover the source of the commanding voice that vacated the crowd – a large, grizzled, imposing human man. His gaze has been set upon you despite the traffic of men between you. He stands, beckons you over, opens a door nearby and gestures for you to enter.
“Thanks be to you for the appearance this night, sir!” he politely grunts as you walk by. His voice is gruff and sounds as if it must pass many obstacles before escaping from his frowning mug.
After descending stairs and passing a long hall, you settle into what appears to be a storage room lit by a single lamp on a table. You both sit at the small table, he offers you drink and imbibes some himself then begins to speak.
“It was only a matter of time before we saw you here. I think you know who we are. I am Merkin – Commander Merkin.”
A Private Army
As you suspected, you have been invited by the Merchant’s Guild Black Arms. The Black Arms is a secret military, a private police force. The influence and reach of the Merchant Guild extends beyond the borders of Graegelowd. Their interests and needs do not always match those of the king and so there have been times when the king did not prioritize military resources for issues that the guild considered of great importance. That being so, the guild created their own force, many years past.
In the beginning, the Merchant Arms, as it was called, was not secret. The mercenaries mostly protected trade routes and the assets of guild members. But over time, the guild’s influence, power and geographic reach began to grow. As the merchants brought new wealth to the kingdom, the Rossang Family saw the benefit of protecting trade and commerce. Instead of disbanding their privateers, the guild utilized their military resources to pursue “innovative business strategies.” In pursuit of those strategies, it became important for the merchants to make their militia a secret.
Members are added by invite only and many are initially suggested by contacts within the military. Once initiated, some members have public roles like bodyguard or security officer. But other members keep a hiding-in-plain-sight profile. When not on assignment, secret members live what appear to be menial lives: farmers, furriers, fisherman or some even “retire” from the military and live simple, quiet lives with their families. This “front” allows private members of the force to move through the public, unnoticed.
“It’s important to note,” Merkin says, “that we are still the Merchants Arms. Rumors and innuendo have added the “Black” to our title.”
Your present meeting is to discuss initiation into the Merchant Arms. “We understand your skill set very well, sir. But our little group requires more than military prowess. We must have proof of your loyalty – not loyalty to the merchants but loyalty to the JOB! You must also know that – despite the welcome you received upstairs – there are many who are against your presence here today. You are not exactly the kind of chap that can blend into the crowd. But your reputation forces us to consider you. It’s not just that you are a beast in battle – pardon the pun, sir – but you have a considerable amount of successful solo mission experience. That is precisely how you will be utilized. The consequence of that role is that you will never have our public support were you caught, injured, imprisoned, killed or any variation thereof. If you fail a mission, you’re on your own…and let me tell you, if a bugbear were to be caught, that could be a mighty discouraging predicament.”
Merkin continues, “I think you understand, sir. I have to ask you now if you wish to proceed. Any additional information I give you requires total commitment or exiting this fine establishment on a slab. You must understand the grave seriousness of this transaction. You do not back out of it. Do I have understanding?”
You nod quietly.
“Do you wish to proceed?
And you nod again.
“Sir,” Merkin notes, “you are at the point of no return.”
Your job is to kill Prince Eldred. The prince is in line to ascend to the throne upon his father’s death and it something the guild feels they must prevent. Eldred has gained immense popularity with the people of Graegelowd – especially the poor. He decries the power of the wealthy elite and attacks his father for hording the riches of the kingdom and not properly caring for the people. Eldred is especially popular with the poor.
But there are problems with Eldred’s populism. Most importantly, it’s a complete sham. Eldred only “discovered” the plight of the poor just recently. Before he realized the “power of the people”, Eldred rarely appeared in public and never addressed crowds. Now, Eldred speaks to the people every chance he gets. He routinely addresses large crowds and makes wild, outlandish promises of what he will accomplish for the people, “when I am the king!” Several guild members have speculated that Eldred, who is a bit older for a prince, grew tired of waiting for the crown. Now that he has found his new popularity, he is inciting unrest and even violence among his supporters – who are now calling for the king to abdicate.
An even more worrisome concern for the guild is that Eldred has allied with a notorious wizard named Merjzahn. Very little is known about Merjzahn. What is known is that he replaced Eldred’s valet many years ago. He rarely leaves Eldred’s side. He may be directing Eldred’s actions or he may be taking orders – it is uncertain. But the wizard is powerful and his presence makes the prince nearly untouchable. The only way to strike Eldred is when he is alone and that is a rare moment.
Merkin notices your concerned looks and decides to address them. “I know you have spent many years in service to the king. This likely feels like an attack on your very own loyalty to the crown. But this is the threat to our kingdom now, sir. This is not only the wishes of the guild but also the wish of the king. He nearly sacrificed his youngest in battle to protect the kingdom. He is prepared to lose his eldest for the same cause. The king believes the realm will be lost in the hands of Prince Eldred but could continue to flourish under the guidance of Prince Philder.” He looks at you with a stern gaze, “Good king’s must make grave decisions from time to time.”
Merkin hands several maps to you. “These are what we know of the palace. Some of it may be accurate and some of it may not. We are certain of a few things” – in addition to some things you already know…
- Several spots are always stationed by a guard (marked with a red G).
- The subterranean level provides the easiest entries but is the most populated. Off duty guards and most of the service staff quarter on this level. Enter on this level and wake the guards or staff and it’s all over.
- Kings Guard makes several trips a day to the barracks across the river.
- There is a water tunnel under the palace that brings fresh water to a basement well. The entrance and exit are barred.
- The outer walls are 25 feet tall.
- The towers all have arrowslits.
- The entire grounds and much of the castle exterior are well lit at night.
- BUT, the parade grounds are not lit at all. However, they are completely open. There is no cover. Even though the grounds are on the palace island, they are completely outside the palace walls.
- The towers on each corner of the palace are nearly 100 foot in height and provide visual cover for the entire palace.
You will carry out your mission in two nights. Currently the king, queen and Philder are at another royal residence. In his anger, King Gaerg left Eldred behind. When the king leaves, Merjzahn is even more ardent in protecting the prince. However in two nights, the wizard must leave the palace to attend to a sacred ritual. Merjzahn will exit at midnight and return before sunrise. It is then that you must strike.
It is unknown where you will find Eldred. It is known that he detests his father so he might avoid the King’s quarters – but this is supposition and not certain. Once you find Eldred, kill him and bring back evidence of his death.
Merkin wants you to acknowledge the following important points…
- If you must dispose staff or guard, so be it. But leave no one unhealthily injured. Have the mercy to finish anyone that is gravely wounded.
- You must absolutely leave the king’s mounts and carriage team unharmed. His horses are a prize greater than his wealth.
- Do not thieve any property – we dare not strike the king, he is an ally.
Finally, Merkin informs you that you are not alone on this mission. “Every initiation is a competition. We test you against the mission and we test you against your peers. It’s a solo mission but to succeed you must accomplish the task before the others.”
About the competitors
- Merkin calls your primary competition “a fucking bird! But he’s incredible. He has strictly served the military in solo, covert missions. I hear he’s deadly. But he’s a fucking bird! There’s no chance we meet here. He’s gonna have to cloak his body and put a bucket on his head before I agree to meet with him. Fuck! A bird!”
- The other competitor is an assassin. “He’s quiet, effective. He blends in. I don’t even know him. He’s like a nobody, a shadow.”
These men are good soldiers. They were recommended by the same commander that recommended you. So your competition is very stern, your job will be difficult.
“And I can’t stress this enough – you must be the one that kills the prince. If your competition kills him first, you will be accused of committing the crime. You will be pursued. If you are not killed or jailed you should leave Graegelowd completely and never return. For you will always be branded as the man who killed the People’s Prince. Needles to say, you may want to consider neutralizing your peers if you’re fortunate enough to run into them. Good luck and may the luck of Lathander be with you.”
A Set of Rules
- You have two nights to prepare. You may equip yourself with weapons, armor and gear outlined in the PHB. Nothing magical unless it is inherent to your race or class.
- After you have equipped your character, send me your player sheets via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Most of this has been a one way conversation. you can spend the next two days asking Merkin or the DM questions.
- Before we start play on Thursday, tell me how you intend to enter the palace.
- Gameplay for Thursday…
- I’ll create a Zoom with breakout rooms. You will be playing together but separately. If you run into another player, I’ll bring you together into the main room until your encounter is finished.
- There will be a clock. Time’s up at 11pm. If you don’t succeed in that time, well…eeeek!
- Joey and Steve should be ready by 7:30 if possible. Justin, I’ll catch you up as soon as you are on.
This will be a little bit different but I’m excited to play through the idea. I also think there’s a lot of opportunity to strategize before the game.
- How will you enter the palace?
- How will you keep the palace from going into a state of emergency? Or should you?
- How will you find Eldred?
- How will you handle your competition?
I hope to make this fast paced and quick on Thursday. Having some plans before hand should help that along. Hope you all have fun. Thanks, Shannon.