In my last post, I went over the Player’s Guide and provided some GURPS conversion notes. Today we’ll look at the actual scenes of the first adventure in the Path, In Hell’s Bright Shadow. Seriously, what does that name even mean?
Part 1: Fledglings of Silver
The goal of this part is to get the PCs on track to restoring the Silver Ravens. It begins with a protest!
The Aria Park Protest
As the story begins, the PCs find themselves in Aria Park, so named because it’s right next to the Kintargo Opera House. Paracount Thrune is catching a show inside the Opera House while a huge crowd protests outside, watched by his guards. Thrune has been in power for a couple of weeks, and in that time he’s issued seven odd proclamations that generally make city life inconvenient.
The player’s guide to Hell’s Rebels describes many possible reasons for why the PCs would be here. Two of the most interesting ones are looking for a famous performer who recently disappeared and looking for a contact who has information about the Silver Ravens secret society, which was rumored to defend Kintargo from outside threats in the past. They could also simply be here to participate in the protest, people-watch, or simply tag along a friend with a stronger reason to be there.
Of our four Iconic PCs, I imagine Lem would be the one most interested in getting in contact with a resistance movement and looking for info on the legendary Silver Ravens. Kyra might be concerned about the fate of Shensen, a half-elf singer who was very outspoken both about her faith in Sarenrae and against the evil of House Thrune. She is currently missing. Merisiel would definitely be here to riot and pickpocket people, and aimless Valeros would just tag along, likely to keep Merisiel out of trouble. The rules in the Player’s Guide actually give out skill bonuses for each different motive and further bonuses depending on different background traits chosen by the PCs. In GURPS, I feel none of that is necessary, since the system already has a good skill system. The GM should instead guide the players to buy some social and subterfuge-related skills with their points, as they would be important throughout the campaign.
This is a big, chaotic gathering: you have quite a few people protesting against Thrune for several different reasons, some loyalists protesting for him, and a handful of yahoos who just want the riot to start already. There’s several actions the PCs can take here, which include looking for that mysterious contact, suppressing one or more factions, organizing the protest, or simply picking people’s pockets. Suppressing the loyalists or yahoos will bring benefits later on. The PCs also get XP for performing successful actions - this seems to be a common thing here, as the adventure path is very particular about getting them to the appropriate levels for each scene.
The Eighth Proclamation
After a few hours of this, The Barzilai makes an appearance, and makes his eighth proclamation. The previous seven were things like banning mint and embroidered clothing, or bounties for live dogs. This one forbids all ship captains from leaving their ships and setting foot on Kintargo under pain of torture. The stated reason for it is that Barzilai has the best brain and noticed his subjects have been angry about out-of-towners nosing in on their business. So he’s going to solve the problem, bigly, with a ban.
This absurd proclamation starts a riot, which is what Thrune actually wants. Why? He simply feels like watching his guards and loyalists beat up some protesters.
As soon as the riot starts, someone throws a handful of manure at Barzilai, and while that missile misses its mark it causes him to spill some wine on his fancy robes. This sends him into a rage, and he orders his main bodyguard Nox and the dottari under her command to move in and start killing people. At the same time, the off-brand Brown Shirts of the Chelish Citizen’s Group that were infiltrated in the crowd draw their clubs and begin attacking the protesters as well.
The players must fight a gang of four CCG thugs to start with, and they get to witness Nox’s powers of regeneration as she shrugs off a dagger to the throat in a “cutscene”. I guess the idea here is that the party should get away as soon as possible. The thugs are basically shclubs with clubs who shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, but sticking around for too long attracts a pair of the stronger and better-armed dottari. Finally Nox comes in with a pet hellhound and a squad of 12 dottari guards. That last bit would be a clear sign that the four 1st-level characters must run away - the crowd certainly does! If they still stick around, the hellhound focuses on them.
GURPS Conversion Notes
There’s two ways to go about this here. GMs who want to be true to the fiction could give the Chelish Citizen’s Group thugs average stats, clubs, and a couple of points in Shortsword, while using the 62-point Guard template from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 15 with decent gear for the dottari.
Those who want to make things more challenging for their delvers should go with the Guard template for the thugs, perhaps upgrading them to light armor and small maces. The guards would be built using the 125-point Squire or Brute templates. This is also closer to what the Pathfinder version does with the stats for these people.
Nox should be built at least on a 250-point Knight template with special powers added on, and the Hell Hound can be built using the guidelines on this post from the Dragon’s Dogma bestiary.
In either case, a party of four 250-point delvers would have far less trouble dealing with the riff-raff than the 1st-level Pathfinder PCs. If they’re smart and lucky they could even beat the final pack of 12 guards plus Nox and her hellhound right here! Kyra does know Resist Fire…
The GM might want to increase the number of dottari to a realistic level, since 12-14 of them wouldn’t be able to contain a riot of thousands anyway. Or they could keep the numbers as they are and deal with the changes an complete victory here would bring to the story.
A New Friend In Need
In any case, after the party leaves the site of the riot, they hear sounds of fighting from a nearby alley. There, five CCG thugs are in the process of beating a man to death. Since this man happens to be the contact one of the PCs is looking for, it’s in their interest to crush the thugs and save the man. Unlike the thugs in the riot, these ones fight to the death, but they should still be manageable. There’s an extra XP reward for succeeding in helping Rexus, too.
Their victim is Rexus Victocora, the young scion of the nicest noble family in Kintargo, who of course was disappeared and had their house burned down in the Night of Ashes. He survived because he was out of the house at the time. Rexus has either taken an interest in the PCs during the protest or was the one who called them here in the first place with promises of information on the Silver Ravens. After going somewhere private, he tells them the story above, and how he plans to fight back against Thrune’s takeover but needs help.
Our hypotethical party would readily accept the request, and yours should too. I mean, they’ve been telling you to make that sort of character since the Player’s Guide.
Anyway, once the PCs are on board, Rexus reveals his parents left him a letter in which they confessed to be members of the Sacred Order of Archivists, a secret society dedicating to uncovering and preserving the true history of Kintargo, as opposed to the heavily redacted official version. The letter also tells of how they feel the Silver Ravens must fly again if the city is to stand any chance against this new oppression, and says that the Fair Fortune Livery is rumored to be one of their ancient safehouses. Rexus needs help investigating the place because he’s not exactly adventurer material. By way of compensation, he offers most of the rest of the stuff his parents left him, which include some money and valuables, a silver dagger, and a set of bracers of armor +1. He keeps the letter and a mythril key, which will be important later.
The Fair Fortune Livery
Thus begins the first official “dungeon delve” of this adventure! This place used to be a slaughterhouse-turned-stable and conceal a minor Silver Raven safehouse, but has been abandoned for quite a while. Rexus wants to come along and help investigate despite not being a combatant, but will accept it if the PCs tell him to sit this one out instead. Bringing him along turns this into something of an escort quest, and is worth a little bit of extra XP at the end.
The delve begins in the livery’s the ground level. It’s mostly empty and in ruins. Some locked doors and a small pack of feral dogs are the main obstacles here. Once the dogs are dealth with the grimples (small, annoying, evil fey beings) from the basement come up and begin to play poltergeist. In any case, it shouldn’t be hard for the PCs to find the trapdoor going down.
Next comes the basement, which was mostly used when the livery was a slaughterhouse. What 1st-level adventure is complete without a basement full of rats? Also here is the grimple nest, where the PCs finally have a chance to get rid of the pests and pillage their treasure (which includes a cloak of resistance +1).
The hideout proper is situated in some old city ruins accessible from the basement. The main problem with them is that the ancient Silver Ravens unwittingly brought a devil’s contract here when they plundered a cache of government documents, and the imp bound to it has been trying to find a way to leave the place for 80 years. One of those attempts summoned two lemure devils who now spend their time mindlessly wallowing in a polluted cistern. It’s a good thing the PCs have that silver dagger with them, because lemures are resistant to everything else. They are otherwise not terribly dangerous, but serve as a warning that things down here are Not Right.
There’s three boxes in here full of loot: the first has some interesting armor and weapons including a silver morningstar, which means this delve is an example of that annoying trope where the weapon to kill a monster is in a box behind the monster. The second box is locked and contains a bunch of spell scrolls and the hundreds of pages of documents that are the actual goal of the quest. And the third has six figurines of wondrous power in the shape of silver ravens. They’re useful for secure communication and are in fact the origin of the group’s name. The party could also sell them off for a fat load of cash, something the adventure begs the GM to prevent.
The afore-mentioned imp, named Blosodriette, is also here - her contract is somewhere inside the second box. She limits herself to watching invisibly and hoping someone takes the box away so she can go along. It’s possible a canny party might spot and confront her here - if they don’t she’ll cause trouble later on.
GURPS Conversion Notes
Rats and dogs already have stats for GURPS! Grimples are SM -3 or -4 fairies with minor telekinetic abilities and the ability to cast the Grease spell, which should make a fight against them look more like a bad comedy movie than actual combat. Lemures aren’t exactly fearsome combatants, but they should have plenty of DR against non-silver weapons. Even so, this will be a walk in the park for 250-point delvers.
The Long Roads Coffee House
After the party retrieves the documents, Rexus takes then to the Long Roads Coffee House to meet Laria Longroad, the proprietor. This halfling is a member of the Bellflower Network, which is Kintargo’s equivalent of the Underground Railroad.
Laria is quite happy to support the PCs in their rebellious efforts, not the least because her extensive network of contacts and informants is mostly gone now (Thrune hates abolitionists). In fact while she would be glad to let them crash in the secret hideout underneath the coffee house, she doesn’t even have control of that. A smuggler buddy of hers went in there to stash a cargo of contraband silks and never came out. It’s been days. If the PCs want a temporary home base, they’ll need to do some cleaning.
The hideout occupies the coffee house’s basement and those of the two abandoned houses to either side of it. It has bunk rooms, a large storeroom, and a dock leading into an underground river. There’s an albino alligator chilling in the river, but it’s not the main source of trouble here.
You see, Mr. Smuggler Buddy didn’t just bring a shipment of cloth here, he also brought a group of tengu sisters on the run from the law back in Varisia. The plan was to hand them off to another smuggler who would take them the rest of the way to their destination, but the Night of Ashes put an end to that. When the guy told the sisters they were on their own, they beat him unconscious, and then one of them got a little too enthusiastic and killed him. Now they’re holed up down here, in the dark, despairing about what to do.
Pathfinder tengu are basically raven-people. The sisters aren’t automatically hostile, but getting in their good graces will take some doing. There’s four of them, plus Chough, the “enthusiastic” sister, who is actually an adopted dire corby and basically responsible for all the trouble the rest have gone through. Dire corbies look kinda like tengu, but are a lot stronger and less psychologically stable. The lead sister, Korva, has recently decided Chough needs to be put down. It’s actually quite possible the party will run into a murderous Chough before they meet Korva, so that’s one thing taken care of, I guess.
Particularly diplomatic parties can convince the sisters to stick around and join the Silver Ravens, becoming a “special unit” under the rebellion management rules in the Player’s Guide. If they can’t manage that, they can still let them leave without a fight as long as they don’t try to pin Mr. Smuggler’s death on them. PCs get XP for dealing with them whether there’s combat or not, and a little bonus for telling Laria about her buddy’s fate.
Once the sisters are dealt with one way or the other, the party gains the use of this hideout as a temporary base while they set out to rebuild the Silver Ravens. We’ll take a look at how that goes in the next installment.
GURPS Conversion Notes
Korva should be a 250-point stabby Thief not too different from Merisiel. Her sisters are 125-point Cutpurses, with Chough probably being a monstrous Barbarian who fights with Talons and a Sharp Beak and has serious Berserk and Bloodlust issues. Give her some natural DR, extra HP and perhaps one or two levels of Extra Attack if you want her to stand up to the whole party by herself.