Morning: Fessel’s Body
After Alyssa’s arrival last night the refugees are probably going to want to find Fessel’s body. It turns out he was killed by devil cultists, although why wont be obvious at this point.
GM Note: It was because he was a son of a Hellrider, he was tracked and murdered by the Hamhock Slaughterhouse cell of the Cult of Zariel in Baldur’s Gate.
This scene could either be the PCs specific going out either at night or in the morning to find Fessel, or it might be the refugees just continuing their journey and stumbling across the corpse by the side of the road.
If you wanted to increase the tension you could have Fessel’s horse found first, wandering without its rider… especially if the PCs scout for him at night, but skip this if you don’t really have time.
Strung up to a tree by the side of the road swings Fessel’s body. He has been tied with a noose around his neck and his chest is exposed and covered in a bloody carving of a curled horn, his weapons and armour taken.
Curled Horn Symbol: Intelligence (Religion) check:
DC5 – An unholy symbol of a devil.
DC10 – Specifically Gargauth’s symbol, an Arch-Devil.
DC20 – Gargauth is known as the Tenth Lord of the Nine or the Hidden Lord. They were once the treasurer of Hell but was exiled and stripped of rank long ago.
DC25 – They were exiled after forming an alliance with the Dark Gods (Bane, Bhaal, Loviatar and Talona) to invade hell and seize it. The plan failed and Asmodeus exiled them from the Nine Hells.
Anyone examining the body can tell that Fessel’s forearms were slit from wrist to elbow (this is important for later). In addition he has a number of defensive wounds and clearly tried to defend himself.
Anyone searching the area can see spilt blood and signs of a fight on the road, with hoof prints of multiple horses.
Examining the tracks: DC 10 Wisdom (Survival) check reveals there were 2 horses riding together (Fessel and Alyssa’s) from Baldur’s Gate in the west to Elturel in the east. They were pursued by 3 other horses. Fessel’s horse has wandered off and Alyssa’s churned up dirt as it charged off towards Elturel. By the tree is a massive amount of blood (from Fessel’s sliced forearms) and three sets of boot prints. After the murder the 3 pursuers rode back to Baldur’s Gate.
This entire murder is to make the PCs sympathetic to Alyssa (and by extension the other refugees) and to foreshadow the murders happening in Baldur’s Gate.
It also gives Vollis a way of murdering Billiam and trying to pin it on the same cultists, which she will attempt tonight in the next scenes.
Morning: The Liar
This next series of scenes is continuing on from the Adventure League module DDAL09-01 Escape from Elturgard*.
We already ran parts 1 through 3 back in 1.2 Escape from Elturgard and now reincorporating the final part.
An important change is exactly how Billiam is murdered. Rather than having his throat slit, change this to his forearms being slit from wrist to elbow – just like Fessel’s. This foreshadows how the murders are taking place in Outer City.
The other thing to change is the symbol on Billiam’s body – again make it the symbol of Gargauth, but have it crudely done. Anyone suceeding on the Wisdom (Medicine) check listed in the Examining the Scene section realises it seems almost like an attempt to copy the symbol.
One thing I would suggest is not to overcomplicate the murder. In my initial planning I did so and its just a lot of extra bloat… instead think of this as the tutorial for the murders going on in the city.
In that vein, don’t be afraid to handhold the Players a bit more than you might otherwise, especially if you have newer players or you notice the group isn’t really getting anywhere. Have an NPC the players trust such as Gorin, Dara or Vasha assist them by giving some or all of the following help;
- The NPC advises the PCs to take notes, on what people say and any clues.
- The NPC suggests they investigate the murder scene and the body, before moving on to questioning.
- If the PCs lack investigation skills perhaps they could ask a relevant NPC to assist them, granting them advantage on their checks.
Ultimately the PCs investigations are likely to lead them to confronting Vollis. But what if they don’t? What if the investigation falls flat and they give up, or just have no idea who might of done it… what then?
This actually happened to my group – through some combination of a late session, a long week, and some overcomplication of the NPC testimonies on my part – they just didn’t know who to trust and who to accuse. As such the party agreed that everyone should sleep much closer together and many people PCs placed on watch.
There’s no need to force the plot to a confrontation… maybe Vollis simply continues to hide within the refugees until they reach Baldur’s Gate, or perhaps she worries the net is closing and she tries to steal a horse and flee as soon as she thinks it safe.
One thing I would avoid doing is having Vollis trying to kill any PC Hellrider/Order of the Companion knights. Treat her as if she doesn’t know why certain people are being targeted by her cult – otherwise you risk revealing this revelation far too soon and undermining the later investigations.
Instead you could have her name drop either a minor villain such as Pasque (leader of the Hamhock Slaughterhouse cell) or a major villain such as Gargauth or Zariel.
Finally, if Vollis does manage to escape, make sure you reintroduce her later. Recurring villains are great and she could easily be added to the members of the Hamhock Slaughterhouse cell.
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I was wondering if you had thoughts about how to actually hint that Billiam was a cultist of Bel, because as of right now, I’m not really seeing too much (and motivation, I feel, should have at least the possibility of being learned by the PCs, or at least hinted at).
What I’m thinking is that Billiam is after knowledge, and protection. He views himself as weak and, and so Bel appears to him in his dreams, offering him great power should he just up and take it. Billiam would accept, and he starts sketching the symbol of Bel (a jagged flaming greatsword) just as Vollis comes in to ask him about something. She sees it and sets to work, killing him, stealing the paper, and then making it seem like the same perpetrators did the deed. This also adds an additional vector (the missing paper as a way to find the culprit).
Err I’m pretty sure I got this from the Adventure League scenario, it wasn’t something I made up. He is possessed by a devil and that’s why the pegasus attacks his house (although I skipped that and all of Billiam’s fetch quests). In his roleplaying notes I made him also frequently berate and mock himself – which was meant to give him a weird vibe and be the devil inside him mocking him in an almost Golumn/Smeagle like way.
Your idea is good! It makes sense if Vollis somehow still has something on her that ties her to the scene.
Just thought I’d share.
I ran the Liar last session (last night).
It was good until finally, they suspected Vollis, waited until she was out for a walk (with a PC, romantic, anyway). Another player rummaged through her tent, but, besides the dagger she used for the murder, I couldn’t think of anything interesting he could find in her stuff. I figured she wouldn’t leave paper trails (” I am a cultist! ”) or anything. Later, I regretted this and wished I had given the Player something helpful to find.
They still think it was Vollis. Since her testimony conflicts with Vasha’s testimony. Still regret not rewarding the Players idea of rummaging through her stuff and finding something.
Also, i dropped the whole Billiam possessed by a Devil and was planning to have his parent be a Hellrider or Knight of Companion, hence giving Vollis a reason to kill him (compelled by Zariel).
Yep that makes sense too, with regards to Billiam being a Hellrider descendant!
Typically it’s better to be more permissive with giving clues, than it is to being cagey and keeping them back. “if the players come up with a clever approach to their investigation, you should be open to the idea of giving them useful information as a result.”