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The Solstice Assassination

This one-shot is designed to be played by new players.
The only mechanics they will need to know is d20: low rolls bad and high rolls good.
The scenario can be placed into a larger campaign and still work per GM's discretion.

  The players will be playing a team of mercenaries hired to assassinate Keith Rheddrake, a political figure and thorn in the side of Freidran's High Society.

Background:

  This adventure will take place in the city of Freidran, capitol of Alethria. Alethria is currently involved in a war with Orcs from Cevran, and there is mass political unrest as a result. The Houses that form the government of Freidran are losing money and control. To make matters worse for those in charge, the People's Movement are a group of protestors that have sprung up and are calling for change.

The important Houses for this tale:
House Rheddrake: This house has owned the military and courts of Freidran for hundreds of years. "Discipline to rule, peace to ensure." Symbol is a dragon's head on a red background.
House Libre: They own the Arcanist's District and Official Records of Freidran, and have majority ownership of the Arcanist's Syndicate, the organization of mages that work throughout Alethria. "Knowledge is held above all things, truth is final." Symbol is a crystal outlined by the sun.
House Galvantia: They own the religion and hospitals of Freidran. The Tribune, a trifecta of gods: Kiri-Joleth, Majere, and Mishikal. (Author's Note: I stole these from D&D Pantheons, I recommend using your own.) "We are but those who wish for better. One only needs to start with themselves." Symbol is a triangle of twisting knots.
House Cresenda: The Royal Family. Final decision on laws, and appoint judges to work in the Rheddrake organized courts. Symbol is the Crown of Alethria.

 

Characters:


 

Keith Rheddrake:

  Keith is a member of House Rheddrake. A narcissistic young man in his late twenties, Keith is the black sheep of Rheddrake. He is a voice in the People's Movement, and as such he is scorned from the Houses. He is on thin ice with his own family, and he's locked out of most of their resources and power. He wears a cloak with the inverse colors of his family's crest, and is willing to speak to all how virtuous he is by helping the People's Movement. He teaches Military History of Alethria in the University, where he met his husband Sebastian Itewan. Keith is addicted to a magical drug known as Icthia.
Roleplay Notes: Keith is a jerk. When in public he has bravado, and he loves to be the center of attention. Because he is the assassination target, don't be afraid to make him unlikable, players would much rather kill a nobleman because he insulted their outfit rather than for a gold reward. Make Keith more flighty and paranoid if the players fail stealth checks during the week.

  Valon Libre:
Valon is a member of House Libre. He is a greying half elf with pursed lips and intimidating eyes. As an arbiter of knowledge, Valon will only give the players the information he wants them to have, and will not add any additional info, nor answer any questions. He has two servants, young half-elves who will be his contact in the game. The two are more flighty and intimidated by mercenaries.
Roleplay Notes: Valon has only one need for this team of mercenaries, he is above them. He offers extraordinary gold to each member of the team, and he believes that with the right amount of money, you can get anyone to do anything. If the players make moves against House Libre during gameplay without trying to hide it, he will hear of their actions.

  The characters you learn by exploring/questions:
Sebastian Itewan:
Sebastian is a timid half-orc who teaches Arcane Runes in the University. He is employed by the Arcanist Syndicate, and owes House Libre debt for financing his studies and career. He is shrewd and highly perceptive, and he truly loves Keith. Due to being a half-orc and experiencing bigotry due to the war, he's passively on the lookout for activity and suspicious happenings.
Roleplay Notes: Sebastian distrusts a majority of people, any deception checks are going to have to be high in order to pass. He is timid and not drawn to conflict however, so he can be intimidated easily by pushing him on his unpaid debt.

Father Henry:
Father Henry is a priest of the Tribune and a member of House Galvantia. He works in the hospital next to the Cathedral. Father is unhappy with Keith and the People's Movement, and has tried to contact Keith multiple times to no avail.
Roleplay Notes: He acts like a typical Priest, holier than thou, soft spoken. Except he worships the god of order. If the players mention the People's Movement he will react in disgust, and wishes them to be driven out of the city.

Gabriela Fenester:
Gabriella, Gabby to her friends, owns a drug den on the outskirts of the market. She caters to higher end clientele, because she sells the rare drug Icthia. She sources it out of the Arcanist's District. She is a halfling with big thick glasses, and a slightly hazy memory due to the sheer amounts of drugs she's used over the years. Her organizing and bookkeeping however is immaculate. She's friendly to new faces, but is hard on those she finds messing with her business.
Roleplay Notes: Don't be afraid to be bubbly. Gabby loves her product and loves sharing her passions. She's super interested in learning about other people and their interests.

Battlemaster Tygren:
Tygren is the Rheddrake Battlemaster. A no nonsense dwarf, Tygren hates Keith with a burning passion for spurring the crowds. He won't hold an audience with the team, but his offices can be found in the Rheddrake Courts.
Roleplay Notes: Tygren will only meet the team if something catastrophic happens (or if they're caught.) His offices will contain notes and maps about those involved with the People's Movement.

  Rhia Valand:
Rhia is a leader of the People's Movement. She is shrewd and well versed in politics and information. She lacks the charisma that Keith has, but makes up for it in intelligence and wisdom. She wants the best for the people, and uses people like Keith to enact change to the city.
Roleplay Notes: Rhia is measured. If the team looks suspicious when they meet her she will notice. Give the players a fair warning about that through lower level NPCs that bring the team to meet her. "That woman will inspect your soul with those eyes, I can barely hold eye contact myself." Deception and sleight of hand checks will be very difficult to pass when she's in the area.

  Those above are the main NPCs the players will come across, have a few more ready to go if they investigate different areas.
An event coordinator for the ball: Peter Crowlen
A musician playing at the ball: Fredrick Olad
An Arcanist who supplies Icthia to Gabriela: Benjamin Thoroughgood
A captain of the Ship Outrunner: Kra'vi Dresmond
A member of the People's Movement: Rimwum Hassendof

The characterization of these lower NPCs are not as important as the main ones, have fun with them.  

Conflict:

  Now that we have the actors, let's read the script.
The story starts one week away from the Winter Solstice Festival.
Valon Libre will hire a crew of mercenaries out of Promina Inn, the local hotspot for shady dealings and the Mercenary Guild. He will offer vast amounts of money for the assassination of Keith Rheddrake, someone who's become a nuisance to his friends. The People's Movement has grown too bold and Keith has some interesting deals on the side that Valon is not going to overlook. The only requirements for the assassination are that it is to be done on the Solstice, and someone needs to be framed. Valon does not care who is framed, just as long as it doesn't trace back to House Libre.
Valon will give the team a quick rundown of where he believes Keith will be on the day of the Solstice.

Morning: Rheddrake Manor and University where he will work in his office.
Noon: The People's Movement Rally in the Market where he will give a speech.
Afternoon: The Opium Den where he relaxes for a few hours.
Evening: The Rheddrake Solstice Ball in the Courts.

  Valon does not care how the assassination is done, just do not tell him any details. They will be paid by Valon once he hears of Keith's death. If they need to get in contact with him, he will leave his two servants to stay in the Promina Inn until the job is done.

 

Running the Game:

After the meeting with Valon, the team are left to their work. Here's how the game will operate.
These rules are created with new players in mind, they don't have to know anything about RPGs.
If you're an experienced DM, you don't have to use this section. If you're new, here's how I run my games.
Each player will choose a role for their character. They won't need Character Sheets, unless you're running this scenario in a campaign.

Thief: The pick-pocketing archetypal thief. Respected in the Mercenary Guild.
Sailor: Someone not from Alethria. Their face is not known around Freidran.
Performer: A musician who plays around Freidran. Known by most, and friendly with all.
High Society: Someone who comes from a minor House.
Local: Someone on good terms with the people. Knows the inns and taverns.
Mage: A mage from the Arcanist's District. Knowledgeable about magic, technology, and chemicals

Give your players a few moments to discuss what their character looks and talks like. Then to give them an opportunity to use their character, begin the meeting with Valon.

  Valon will describe Keith, and how the People's Movement has gotten out of hand. He will explain that houses do not interfere with other houses, so this job needs to be kept on the down low, as well as someone must be framed for the job. He will mention people to look into Sebastian Itewan and his debt. Father Henry and the vandalized church, and how Rheddrake Battlemaster Tygren has a new hatred for Keith, but Valon is not sure why that is. (players will have to investigate!) Valon will also warn the party to not let Keith get word of the plot, and to make sure that the assassination happens on the Solstice, as there is a large People's Movement protest happening that day.

  After this meeting, the game begins. The players are given a few moments to discuss how they want to proceed, and then enter Day 1.

 

Actions:

The team is given 7 days before the solstice. Every day each player can perform an action.
  Investigate Action: Learn more information about a location or person. Roll d20. Higher the number, more information you learn.
Their character will head over to that location or tail the person to learn the information. See below in Locations to get the info they can glean from investigating.
  Preparation Action: Prepare the assassination. Gather the required materials, or successfully plan an entrance and exit for the location. If your team wants to poison Keith's drugs, investigation will get you the information of what drug and what poison will work, but Preparation will be actually obtaining the poison. Roll a d20, higher number, the more successful. This is where the roleplay part will come in. Preparation will be interacting with shop vendors, or other teachers at the university, or intimidating Sebastian with his debt. If they roll low on this action, don't be afraid to let NPCs start to get suspicious, it'll keep the team on their toes.

  Assassination Action: This action comes at the end of the week, all players will do their part that day to assassinate the target. The assassination can go any specific way that the team decides, there's no set in stone you have to assassinate this way. I've had players set up elaborate timed poisons that go off when Keith is at the Ball away from everyone involved in the assassination. I've also had players jump him when he leaves his house that morning, stab him in the street, and run. They are only fettered by their creativity. (And whether or not the DM thinks the idea is the worst idea they've ever heard.) Each player will roll a d20 and you'll weigh how many successes vs how many failures.

  Every night the team can come together to further discuss their plans. You can remind them about what Valon wants them to do if they need help remembering. Assassinate, don't get caught, and frame a target.  

To complete 1 of the 3 of those requirements, the team will need to successfully perform these actions:
1. Choose a location to assassinate in. They can investigate and prepare other areas, but come the 7th day, they need to choose a specific location and plan.
2. Succeed an investigation roll. This means rolling higher than a 10 on an investigation action during the week related to the plan they choose.
3. Succeed a preparation roll. Roll higher than a 10 on a preparation action related to the plan they choose.
4. Succeed an assassination attempt. Once all players roll a d20 to perform the assassination action, if the number of all die is higher than the average of players, then they succeed. 20 for 2 players, 30 for 3 players, 40 for 4 players, etc.

  If the players succeed on the above, congratulations, you have assassinated the target. But that's the first step, what about escaping and framing?
In order to Escape, the players must succeed on 2 preparation rolls related to the assassination plan. In order to frame, they must succeed on 3 preparation rolls related to the assassination plan.
Keep track of how many times they succeed or fail on preparing the different plans they come up with. I find it easiest to track plans based off of location. See the Attached DM's Notes for a simple layout for how to keep track of the team's progress.

  So Preparation is important because successfully completing preparation rolls allows the team to "win" the one-shot. So how is the Investigation Action important? If the group has not investigated the area before attempting a preparation action, they must roll the prep action with Disadvantage If you investigate the area once, you roll prep actions as a flat roll. If you investigate the same area twice, any prep actions in that area roll with Advantage. Properly investigating a location allows the preparations to go smoothly and succeed more often!

  Now for the assassination action. Each player rolls a d20, and they are trying to beat the average number of players at the table. 2 players: need to beat a 20. 3 players: need to beat a 30. If they fail, the assassination goes sideways. Keith starts to run, guards notice their presence, something unexpected happens. This does not equal immediate failure. If the team rolled 3 successful prep actions, then they get 3 attempts to succeed the assassination, but they sacrifice one of the requirements to do so. If they fail the first attempt, they can no longer frame someone, but they can still assassinate and escape if they succeed on the second attempt. If they fail the second, they get a third attempt, but if they succeed, they have to choose between assassination and escape. Three failed attempts leads to imprisonment.
If the team only has two successful preparations, then they cannot frame someone, only assassinate and escape. If they fail the first roll, they have to choose between assassinating and escaping, and then they attempt that roll.
If they only have one preparation, then they have to choose to assassinate or escape on the first roll they try.

  If they are lost in the weeds during the week, you can point out that "hey, do you all have an exit strategy for after the assassination?" or "Are any of you planning on framing someone?" Don't let them know about the specific numbers, how many they need left to succeed, the game will feel more fluid if they don't know there's a set in stone win condition based off of dice rolled. They will feel like their plan worked really well, or that something went wrong but they came back with their cunning, and were able to kill Keith and make it out alive. If the team is smart in their planning, the amount of advantages and preparation rolls they will get should let them easily get all the numbers that they need behind the scenes.

  The last note before we move on is that all of these rules are here to help the DM make sense of what players want to do. You can label anything as investigation, or anything as preparation. All of this is so that you can follow along and create a believable enough world and scenario for whatever plan they choose. They wanna do something off the books like find a way to get Keith out of the city and kill him when no one is around? As long as they go through the investigation and preparation stages, that means that they've spent an adequate enough time formulating the plan, so sure why not. If on the last day they say screw it, and try stabbing him in the street and abandoning the plan they were working on, well that's not going to go over so well. Again if you're more of a visual learner, check out the attached DMs Notes to see how I formulate my notes.  

Locations:

Now we get to the world, and what the players will come across as they go through the week.  

Promina Inn:

The start of the one-shot. Home of the Mercenary Guild. Where your players will convene every night. Owner is Hildegard. You can do what you'd like with this location, nothing of interest about Keith here.  

Rheddrake Manor:

Where Keith and the rest of the Rheddrake House lives. Keith would be an outcast to his family if bloodlines were not as important to Freidran, and so he doesn't spend most of his time here. It's in the back of the military district, guards make up most of the foot traffic from building to building.
Investigating:
Low roll: Keith leaves early in the morning, and arrives late at night.
High roll: Battlemaster Tygren steps out of the Council House and has a brief exchange with Keith as he leaves the Military District. Have whoever is investigating roll Perception.
Low Perception: The argument is heated.
High Perception: A Rheddrake Arcanist is watching this exchange from a high window in the Spire. You hear the phrase "Do not cross a line with me, bloodline or not." from Tygren.

  DM SECRETS: Investigating into Tygren or Keith after high perception will have the player overhear a conversation between two guards in a cafe as they pass by. Keith is stealing military intelligence from Tygren's men and selling it to the Rheddrake Arcanists, and by extension the Arcanist District.
Right now there is a huge political split between military and magical power, and not enough money to fund both. Keith is choosing sides by this action to help out his husband in the Arcanist District. Tygren is catching on to him, and if the players can coax Tygren into making a big enough scene, he can be framed for the assassination. Going through Tygrens Office and overturning things, spreading rumors that Rheddrake Arcanists have power over the military, or planting false evidence that Keith is contacting a lower general of the military are all some ideas on how to make Tygren explode. When he does explode he will publicly attempt to arrest Keith on charges of treason, this will not go through as Keith is a Rheddrake and therefore still holds power by blood over the military.

 

University:

Where Keith teaches Military History of Alethria. Sebastian Itewan teaches Arcane Runes in the Arcanist Wing of the University. The Mage role has access to the Library of the University. There is a clerk at the front desk who asks about their business in the uni. Can be deceived if the mage is not there (instead of rolling, have the player come up with a convincing lie, if it makes sense to you, go for it.) If the mage is there he lets them through.
Investigating:
Low Roll: You find Keith's office, it has large double windows outlooking the garden. You see a few students knock on his door and ask questions. After 10AM, there's a period of no one around for about an hour. The door is locked, and if the thief is not there they cannot lockpick it.

High Roll: Keith takes a smoke break outside in the adjacent walled garden to the university. He takes this regularly at 10:30AM almost every day. The wall is 6 feet high and covered in vines and flora, a few trees let in some sun, but it feels like a relaxing, secluded area.

  DM SECRETS: Sebastian's offices are here. The players can press Sebastian to give them access to Keith's office if they levy the debt against him. If they pick the lock, or force Sebastian to unlock it, they can get access. In the office you can find a tea set, a letter from Father Henry, and a way to unlatch the window. If they press Sebastian, he will alert Keith later on, and Keith will get more skittish, investigation rolls into Keith are at disadvantage now, but preparation rolls in the University will be at Advantage.

Market:

The central trading hub of Freidran. Due to the large port in the city, the market is quite big, taking up a good 4th of the town by itself. Rows and rows of tents and stands. You can find a little of almost anything that is sold across Alethria. The Local and Performer roles know the maze of shops well.
Investigating:
Low Roll: There are preparations being made for the Solstice. A stage is being constructed off to the side of the main Market street. It looks like this will be where the performances and speeches will be. Behind the stage sits a few brick and mortar shops and the blacksmiths shop. There are a few winding alleys running between them.
High Roll: You see a recruiter for the People's Movement. They ask if you're tired of how the government is running and if you would like to enact change. You can set up a meeting with one of the heads of the People's Movement, Rhia Valand.

DM SECRETS: The Meeting with Rhia will take place in a tavern near the market. The Dried Cup. The players can join the People's Movement, and be put on the team to help prepare the stage and protest for the Solstice event. If the High Society is there, they will need to convince Rhia to let them in, if they don't come up with a convincing enough lie, Rhia will end the meeting.
If the team gets in, they learn when setting up the stage that Rhia is using Keith as a scapegoat of sorts, she knows that no one overhead likes Keith, and she won't mind if Keith takes the fall for some of their more, daring, movements. If the team investigates further, they find a letter addressed to another People's Movement leader in Portside (another City) describing Keith as a Martyr for the cause, and she knows he's going to die soon. If the team decides to assassinate Keith in the Market on the Solstice, then the people's movement rises up and makes Keith the first martyr for the cause. The city breaks out into riots and fighting, and the city will take weeks to recover

   

Opium Den:

This is the drug den where Keith hangs out to get his fix. The owner Gabriela Fenester knows whoever chose the local role. The den itself is a circular building with eight curved rooms around the central circle lobby. The rooms are either curtained or walled off with doors. The storage room is in the back of the building relative to the front door.
Investigation:
Low Roll:
Keith arrives at the den roughly around 3 every day. You learn that Keith is addicted to Icthia by talking to Gabriella. Icthia is a magically processed flower from Ianhaus. The drug allows the user to experience whatever emotion they would wish to in the moment, it lasts for about an hour and a half. The players may try some if they want. You notice that each room on the outside of the building has a vent in the wall about 7 feet up.
High Roll: You learn the name of Gabriella's dealer, Benjamin Thoroughgood, a chemist from the Arcanist District. He's the only one in the city that can properly process the flower to get the desired effect. He has a potion shop in his spire. You also learn Keith has a standing rental room, one of the rooms blocked by a door instead of a curtain.

  DM SECRETS: Benjamin also caters Icthia to the major Houses, but Keith is cut off from his family's supply, so he goes to the den to get his fix. You can learn this from Gabriella if you investigate again. Benjamin's shop is in his Spire in the Arcanist District, and he can sell a chemical that will kill someone when mixed with Icthia. You'll need to deceive Ben as to why you need it, otherwise he will grow suspicious. The party can also buy the chemical somewhere else just as long as they know which chemical will mix well. They can't put any standard poison in icthia as it is a delicate drug and is ruined very easily. Keith will notice something is off with his supply by the taste if they use a normal poison. If the mage or sailor roles are selected, those two will know you can't mix Icthia with most chemicals. Mage because magic knowledge, and Sailor because they're familiar with the drug. (They just don't know what drug Keith is into until they investigate the first time.)

 

Solstice Ball/Council House:

The Solstice Ball for the major Houses is held in the Rheddrake Council House every year. This is the main court and jury system in Freidran, and it is undergoing a lot of preparation to get it ready for the ball. If any of the players are arrested they are brought into a side wing to hold trial while the main room is being worked on. the High Society role is invited to the ball.
Investigation:
Low Roll: The event coordinator is preparing the music, the performer role knows one of the musicians selected to play. The Local role knows the people hired to cater to the event.
High Roll: You notice that a few things are being prepared in the courtyard as well, it looks like the gardens will be used for the ball as well. The gardens are surrounded by an iron picket fence and shrubbery. If you've tailed Keith you know that Keith will be attending and he will be going with Sebastian and some friends from House Libre, a set of twins: Yandao and Yillana. You learn that Keith has his ship the Outrunner docked in port and is being stocked right now.

  DM SECRETS: Keith is planning on leaving for a few months with the twins and Sebastian to try and let his reputation blow over in Freidran. He plans to attend the ball for the first half, and slip out when family starts to get drunk. You can learn this by investigating the council house again, or investigating the ship. The Sailor can be hired as part of the crew, and they're told that push off is Solstice Night. Throughout the week if the team continues to trail Keith, he will make some shady stops. An arcanist in the district, a peddler in the market. Walking into an alley and talking with some people in a doorway. Pepper these in throughout the week if the team is trailing him to add in some variance to his routine. All these preparations are to get ready to leave, but he needs to be discreet about it. He's also buying Sebastian an enchanted necklace as a solstice present.

Various:

Father Henry: is a priest for House Galvantia. He is upset with Keith because of the cathedral vandalism last week. He can be found in the Cathedral in the center of town. He has made his disgust with Keith very well known. The clerics that maintain the cathedral wear simple white robes with the symbol of Majere (or the symbol of whatever pantheon you have) on them. Investigating Keith's office in the University will get you a letter from Father Henry warning Keith about what might happen if he stirs up more trouble.
  Music Hall: is in the Scholar District, it's where Fredrick Olad plays, the performer role knows him. He's one of the performers at the Solstice Ball.

   

Last Notes:

The locations are balanced as such.
Manor: Hardest place to kill Keith. Easiest place to frame Tygren.
University: Easy place to kill Keith and escape town with the gold. Hard to frame him.
Market: Medium difficulty to kill Keith. Starts a revolution, easiest time to escape. Changes the course of Freidran history.
Den: Easiest place on the map to kill. Hardest place to frame someone.
Ball: Hard place to kill Keith, easiest place to frame anyone.

  When the actual assassination takes place and players all roll their die, ask them to describe how they kill him. The players came up with the plan, and at least for new players, it's satisfying to enact a plan how you want it to go. If they rolled an average success on the first try, ask them how they escape and how do they frame someone. If they fail, have them carry out the assassination, and then throw in a curveball when they escape. Increased guard activity due to important people passing through the festival, etc.

  If your players did well, congrats, you have a neat after assassination city environment to use in a campaign, or even a post rebellion city. I personally have the players that come into Freidran (or whatever city you want this to take place in your world) have to deal with trying to catch the assassins. This one-shot should give a good story thread for a group after them to unravel.

That's all from me, I hope you enjoy!
Caffeine
Freidran

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Comments

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10 Apr, 2021 07:11

Hallo, your adventure seems like a fun exercise in RP for the players. I do have to see that it feels like a lot of information. Mostly due to the long swaths of texts which are honestly easy to salvage with a few subheadings. I also recommend using those for the different role types in the sidebar.   There are also a few questions I have: what is the reward you'd offer the players for the job? What if they decide to kill both Keith and Sebastian in their sleep and then set the house on fire? What if the players want to talk to the Keith guy and decide: This dude is alright, let's kill the other one? Because honestly Keith feels like an alright person, and players are prone to siding with people they like...
Okay, with the last question only the first part is important.

10 Apr, 2021 07:12

I also like your map, very nice.

22 Apr, 2021 14:38

Hi MPoel, thanks for checking out the adventure! This is honestly my first one-shot for World Anvil so I wasn't sure how much information I would need to put in. Thanks for the tip on the sidebar!   For those questions, I knew I wasn't going to be able to cover everything, so I added in interesting discoveries for the main places the players would investigate. Thanks for your feedback.

22 Apr, 2021 17:38

Hallo! You've added a lot of things! such as adding character notes, a good addition.
A very handy trick, the spoiler BBCode allows you to 'hide' DM secret information as well as other things.   [spoiler ] normal text | Title text[/ spoiler ] <-I've added some spacebar so it doesn't disappear. :p

15 Apr, 2021 22:02

It seems that you changed the article a bit between my reads :p I see that you changed up the layout a bit and I must say the text has become much easier to read like this so great work on that. I will probably return to your oneshot later when you made all the intended changed :)   From what I read before the idea already seemed quite interesting. The map was nice as well, I like using Inkarnate too ^^ Be sure to readd that one later :)

Feel free to check out my latest challenge article the Avaronian Empire if you want to see what I am up to!