Optional expansion, part 3
This isn't done. Hewlett the merchant is unwritten, and he has a lovely side-story, so I'll have to come back and add that. However, everyone else is done, and I wanted to get this posted, so here it is.
You need to have the PDF supplement that Goodman provided. I won't rehash what's already there, but I will expand upon it.
This gnome is mentioned on page 8 of the module, without any information about who he is. In the supplement from Goodman, he turns out to be the town blacksmith, running Shoddy's Smithy. Here is additional information. First, Shoddy attended the town meeting a few weeks prior, and made a stink over the loss of his silver sling bullets. He'll mention the loss, if the PCs make it clear they are investigating the thefts. Second, he knows the name & location of the merchant who led the town meeting (Hewlett), should the PCs ask about it. He probably wouldn't volunteer that information unasked, however. He wouldn't deem it worthy of note.
Finally, Shoddy is obviously not the gnome mentioned in the "magic dog" rumor (being the wrong gender), though if pressed he will mention "Inky" Murwinkle. Inky is known for writing "novels" that are really just paranoid stories about the local townsfolk. Shoddy doesn't want to know much more, and certainly doesn't know where Inky lives. Shoddy is a bit embarrassed by Inky, and has done a good job of making sure most people in town never even see her stories. It's possible -- though highly unlikely -- to see him toss a pile of Inky's books into his furnace when he is forging a new item. This would be very surreptitious, though. If it were noticed, I would use real-world bluff skills as a DM to downplay it.
Also, his sons are named Zooko & Pilko. His daughters are named Bleeni & Mibbi. His wife is Ellybell, but everyone just calls her Elly.
A gnome that for all intents & purposes, should be a ghost (not literally, but this gnome should be hard to find; a "dead" end, ha ha). Iron Shoddy takes small effort to keep Inky out of the spotlight, which is easier lately, as Inky herself is in hiding. As noted in the rumors section, Inky believes that the gold coins she kept make her an accomplice to the thefts, or make her a thief outright. She has not realized that if this crime were exposed, little would come of it. There is currently nothing concrete to tie the pouch to the rash of thefts. Even if there was (say, if the adventurers prove such a connection), it is true that no one would know who should get the coins, as many could claim it, though none could definitively prove it was theirs alone. In the end, unless Inky delivered one of her paranoid rants in front of authorities, odds are good she wouldn't even be asked to return the coin, much less endure other punishment.
Wherever you end up placing her in town, it's not at the Dented Coin. See the Dented Coin for more info.
If the players are on a tear trying to find Inky, aside from Shoddy knowing of her, you could also have a guard or two who recall run-ins with her. Generally, these guards would be both amused & annoyed while remembering her. No matter what the reason for their interactions with her, she would have accused them of singling her out due to her race, gender, size, age, or... anything else except the actual true reason. Because any infraction she committed would have been minor, the guards would universally have shrugged it off and tried to not bother with her again. They would say, "She's too much crazy to endure for such small offenses. Of course, I would never tell her that. She would probably respond, 'Are you saying that being small is offensive?' And then she would start yelling. And then I would try to walk away, but she would probably try to follow, all the while accusing me of 'walking unfairly' or some such, because my longer legs must mean I'm biased against people with shorter strides."
First of all, she is not a level 1 commoner, as the expansion PDF suggests. You don't get to create the largest business in town (not necessarily income but rather the most conspicuous), full of people who would grab your ass or start bar fights, without having some ability to handle yourself quite well. I have her down as Com3/Brd1. All her commoner skills go toward managing the books and cooking meals. All her bard skills go toward 3 things: filling in if the night's entertainment fails to show up, dealing with brawls, and people skills. The spells I gave to her are: Lullaby, Mending, Prestidigitation, and Read Magic. I am very careful to flavor the spells in non-magical ways (although I never statted her up, if I had to, I might assign a custom feat to this NPC, which granted her some ability to cast these 4 spells in a fairly mundane manner so that people didn't really notice). Lullaby is woven into her performances and should simply reflect her ability to be a calming influence. Mending is more like she's simply had to deal with everything breaking in the bar, and now she's pretty capable at fixing stuff. Someone looking hard might notice her hands being unnaturally deft. However, most commoners wouldn't even guess. Prestidigitation is used not only to clean up, but to flavor food if she's in a crunch, and also to provide small stage effects, should she have to perform. Read Magic is... well, everybody needs that. I figured she might own a scroll or two. Lastly, aside from having ranks in a cooking skill, she has ranks in healing too, for when bar fights get out of hand.
I felt that Galwyn should know a bit of everything going on in town. She can confirm most rumors (except for Inky's "magic dog" rumor, although she knows Inky and is the only person in town with a full collection of Inky's books -- she would say she bought the books for "fun" but honestly it was just a shortcut to learning about the town's social circles and influential people). She knows the two merchants who started the town meeting (Hewlett and Beryllina), as well as Iron Shoddy, all the guards, and the captain. She is the only person in town who knows that Sela doesn't respect Arabella much, and also admires Sela for keeping it to herself so that it doesn't interfere with her job. (Sela has never told Galwyn this; Galwyn picked it up from watching subtle cues of body language. Because of this, this is more like behind-the-scenes info for the DM, as Galwyn probably would never mention it; it could stir up more trouble than it's worth.) If a brawl happens while she is around, she will prefer to use her healing skills to fix people up rather than sending them to Malchor for clerical healing. Why? She doesn't know. It's a bard's intuition -- a million small things have added up for her, but even she doesn't know that yet. She might not even consciously say that she has negative feelings about Malchor. She will just patch people up, even insisting on watching them overnight if need be, and hope they heal naturally. She'll think no further about it, and nobody getting free medical care has ever questioned it. It probably helps that the town healer (Malchor) is also the town judge, so anyone being so unruly as to warrant a night in jail will likely not head to the cleric for healing, anyway.
The expansion PDF stats up Arabella as one hell of a savvy negotiator. The problem is that this utterly conflicts with the module, which depicts her as naive. While I've retained her amazing diplomacy, I ruined her bluff and sense motive skills. You may wish to do the same.
The expansion also mentions that Arabella spends her time at her estate or at town hall. Since the module mentions that she is loved by the townfolk but is not politically savvy, I tended to want her to be away from town hall and near people. So she is in the market square on most days, at least for a couple of key hours. If crowds of people are out shopping, she's out mingling.
I gave her an interest in long dresses, so that she stands out. In fact, what with Malchor being described as wearing a "voluminous" cloak at one point, I imagine the two of them greeting people at the town hall would be rather impressive. Their long, sweeping outfits would complement one another (unknowingly). They would appear to fit in together, even as they stood apart from everyone else.
Arabella will certainly meet with the adventurers, and will defend Malchor's lethargy in resolving the thefts (don't forget, Malchor has swayed her, and she's naive). She knows of the rumors about the well being an exit/entry point, and of its tie to the river outside the town walls, but she will bemoan the fact that no guard would swim the length of it to test the theory. As far as hiring mercenaries goes, as is true to her character, she is less interested in the fact that the townsfolk have bypassed the town officials to resolve the thefts, and more interested in how they've rallied together and built a sense of community. To the best of her considerable (diplomatic) ability, she will speak well of merchants and those who contributed coin to the reward.
She has no idea that Sela doesn't respect her. She hardly even thinks of Sela, anyway. The duties of being a guard or captain are thoroughly uninteresting to her. However, the benefits of being a guard, such Ansell's nice physique... well, that interests her. She might not say it outright, but she certainly would act on it.
If you are at a point in the game where the players are double-checking that stolen items were returned to her (the ones that were planted in Odger's home), then she will confirm it. If the players have not gone down the well but nonetheless say, "Case closed, pay up," she will confer with merchants, and sadly inform the PCs that they would like to wait a few days to confirm that the right criminal was caught. Of course, Odger is the wrong criminal, and after a few days the thefts resume.
Malchor is the module's malcontent, and there is little to flesh out. We know he's the bad guy. However, I added two scenes with him that may be of use to you.
Misdirection at Odger's expense
The players in my game didn't initially want to go down the well. They suspected it was an inside job, and thus very reasonably, starting asking around town about likely suspects. I improvised that Malchor loved this, as it played right into his plans to remain undiscovered. What did he do? When the PCs asked, he suggested that Odger had been in trouble before for thefts and "illicit alchemy" (read: drug dealing). Since this is actually true, I allowed him to have a huge circumstantial bonus to his bluff skill. Malchor made sure to never actually say that Odger was indeed the person responsible for the thefts. My players ran with this.
Deception at the town well
After the PCs turned in Odger, they continued to pursue the well option. They were at the well, with two random citizens holding a very long rope as the adventurers began to climb in, when Malchor appeared. "Thank you," he opened. "Your work investigating Odger has proven conclusive. We went over every inch of his home with a fine-toothed comb, and located a secret stash. We found he had goods stolen from Lady Arabella herself. I consider this case closed. No need to sully yourselves in the well!"
Of course, the stolen items from Arabella were planted by Malchor when he investigated the home himself. If Odger were visited in jail, he would say as much, though he wouldn't dare accuse Malchor of it. He would suggest, "The guards set me up!"
Now, I had to walk a fine line here. I wanted to achieve opposed goals, which required me to have real-world bluff skills. First, I wanted it to register in the player's minds that Malchor had tried to talk them out of going down the well. Second, I wanted to not be so convincing that they literally walked away from the well and ended the mission. I had a few things set as backup -- the thefts would continue after a few days, and the citizens would not release the reward, foiling Malchor's ruse; also, Odger would pass a sense motive check if questioned; and since nothing was recovered except for Arabella's items, townsfolk might press the adventurers to pursue a recovery mission. I needed none of that. The players continued down the well. Perfect!
Beryllina is a halfling, running the Mistledown Herbery, as outlined in the expansion PDF. Like Malchor, Beryllina would point fingers at Odger if she were asked about the thefts. Unlike Malchor, it's not because she is a conniving villain. She is keenly aware of everything Odger has done. She is upset with him for both his legal and illegal activities. She would say that his drug dealing is giving natural herbalists such as herself a bad reputation, something that she finds particularly troublesome in light of the fact that any wizard could stop into town and offer a magical version of the same service she provides. So she is sensitive to how much of her business is reputation driven, and Odger is screwing that up. She is also upset with Odger's attempt to "go legit" because it directly is competition for her business. Losing clients hits her in the pocketbook, and she not at all happy with Odger about that.
She is actually a good-aligned character and really wouldn't be so hostile to Odger if he stopped handing her perfect excuses to be mad. She's justified her anger with him because she views him as a law-breaker. And he is! But she cannot leave it at that, and now even when he tries to reform, she paints it in a bad light. She's telling herself stories to justify protecting herself. How players could work to make this better, I don't know. It's a human issue, open-ended.
Garin's connection to the hermit, A.K.A. why the guards are quiet at night.
If Garin is found in a tavern (low odds for this, I'd say roll a 1d20 each time the PCs visit a tavern, and only on a 1 would Garin be there), a secret can be coaxed from him. However, the trigger to reveal this is that the PCs must already know of Blackspine's miserable past, and mention it. While Garin wouldn't know of Blackspine, the story of a hermit leaving the caves to visit town would immediately spark a memory in Garin... a memory he has tried to repress. His usual gruff demeanor would transform into a somber demeanor. He would tell of a regretful night, when he was serving as an archer on the town wall. And, well, it's better if he just tells this story himself:
"Years ago, our town had its own hermit. He lived out in the foothills, not sure where. He came into town for supplies somethin' regular, like every full moon. Over the course of years, I got to know him... well, best as a guard can know a man who values privacy. Which is to say, not much. Never even got his name. But we bought each other a few rounds of ale, once. And I greeted him at the gates more often than not. Most of the time he came during the day and... not much to say about that. But one night, there was a full moon out."
At this point, I stopped reading to my players. I mentioned that Garin looked pretty beat down, and that he motioned to the staff to bring him something more to drink. My players immediately offered to pay for the drink, but it's mostly irrelevant -- just wanted a break to set the mood. Once done, I continued reading with the next paragraph.
"So... I was telling a new recruit that our town hermit would be arriving in the morning, most likely. You know, on account of the moon. And wouldn't you know it? There he was. Middle of the night, I heard him call a greeting from out in the fields. He was too far off to see, but I knew his voice. With a bright moon, I strained my eyes for a look. I was real disappointed he had come early. See, we let no one in at night, and I knew I was going to have to turn away a man who had shared a drink with me. I hollered at him, told him to make camp. That's when I realized, we had not been wise. All our shoutin' at each other over the distance, well, it woke up something. I heard howling nearby, right in the fields. Like an idiot, I warned the man, as if he hadn't heard for his own self. And like an idiot, he yelled back, 'OK!' I thought to myself, 'Damn it, we are letting those creatures know exactly where to go.' I felt like my inexperience was betraying me. So I got quiet. Then, I saw the man on the edge of our light, creeping toward us. And I started thinkin' I might break some rules and get this man inside. That's when it happened. It is not a good ending, I have to tell you. You sure you want to hear this?"
If the players are not weary from the reading, and they want the final details, read on. Otherwise, you can simply confirm that the hermit was killed. If the players then want to know how he was killed, well, you are right back into reading the next paragraph.
Garin finishes a swig of his drink, and looks down at it for a quiet moment. You realize, most of the tavern has gone silent. "I saw a shadowy shape moving in fast, looked like a lion about to take out some game or something. And it did, it pounced. And I have not ever seen anything like what happened next -- a burst of lights came off this man and knocked the creature upwards, like a fireburst into the air. And then I became frightened. I should have showered the enemy with arrows, but the fields lit up with so many of them. Our town hermit stood, facing them. As the flash faded, many shapes moved forward. I saw their haunches moving side to side as they closed in, pressing the man back into our torch light. And then there was... fire and howling! I cowered; I was a new father, I could not risk the fight! They were at the gates, and the bar was rattlin' as bodies slammed up against it. The new guard raced to let the hermit inside, and I... I must confess I ordered him to stop. He turned back to argue the point, but I believe he could see on my face that we had to let the hermit die, rather than risk the town. The look in that guard's eyes was too terrible for me. I squeezed my eyes shut until it grew quiet. In the morning, we assembled many guards, and opened the gates. The ground itself was charred for a long ways, but no bodies, no monsters, nothing. That new guard quit right then and there. Moved away. There ain't more to tell."
Garin will want to leave after this. He will not be his usual gruff self and tell the PCs to take a hike if they are asking questions, but the truth is that he really does know little else. Most of the other guards don't even know this story, for when it happened, the only role they played was to open the gates. At the time, Garin told them only, "We had trouble last night, be wary." The only other person in town who knows the full story is Sela, and she understands the pain it has brought to Garin, so she won't be sharing it. If any particular PC is feeling "paladin-ish" and accuses Garin of dereliction of duty or similar, Garin will not argue it. He will not agree with it, either. He will simply thank them for their time and head home. If it is brought up to any of the town leadership, Sela will quietly and effectively end any inquiries about it. Sela believes that, similar to the guards' experience with the were-badger Tarn, the creatures involved were lycanthropes who would easily have shrugged off Garin's arrows. So she won't fault him for failing to take shots at the enemy. She also believes that it was right to put the needs of the town first. My impression is that the PCs would likely think the same, but if they do not, they will probably have to suck it up, as everyone will defer to Sela on this.
Sela is the Captain of the guard. Sela likes almost every guard under her command, as she values strength of arms and strength of character. Conveniently, her profession surrounds her with such people. The more strength she sees in someone, the more leeway she is inclined to give them. Such is the case for Ansell, who is young but promising. Such is also the case for Garin, who is older but a bit of a well-experienced badass when need be. Unlike many years ago when Garin shirked a fight, Sela (correctly) suspects that Garin would be her most valuable asset in a battle these days. He has proven that in small ways over the years, though no outright war or full-scale combat has tested that.
Sela will not allow her guards to be mistreated. She strongly objected to the idea of sending guards into the well to "test" if they could swim underground all the way to the river without drowning. She was surprised to see that Malchor deferred to her so easily. She wouldn't expect Malchor to send guards to their deaths over a mere investigation of thefts, but somewhere in the back of her mind, she had an expectation that if Malchor really wanted it, there may have been other ways to test things.
Sela doesn't respect Lady Arabella very much. She does give the young mayor plenty of grace, out of consideration for how Arabella's father was murdered. However, Sela puts a high value on martial or physical competence. While Arabella is competent at speaking and social charms, those skills are mostly transparent to Sela. When the two of them need to interact socially, Sela often directs conversation towards horsemanship, which is their one common interest. Sela's true feelings would surprise Arabella, who mostly assumes everyone likes her, because most people do.
Odger is a drug dealer. Odger is a foil. He's going to be a fall guy to magnify Malchor's malignancy. He is also hated by Beryllina because he's started to sell legitimate drugs and herbs and it's eating into her profits. There are only two interactions with Odger that I've bothered to portray.
The stake out
First, the PCs can find Odger at his home if they are following up on the lead that Malchor gave them. Although the players will likely have lost sight of this, their characters are strangers in a small town, trudging around fully armored and armed, while most townsfolk wear common clothes. Granted most townsfolk would still have a weapon sheathed on their person, but they look nothing like a fully geared up adventurer. If the PCs have managed to get some official guard insignia as part of the quest, that's even worse. As Odger has been jailed over his "business" already, when adventurers come knocking, they will stick out like sore thumbs, and Odger will have no truck with it. So if they ask to score some drugs, Odger isn't selling... unless they offer money so inappropriately large that Odger feels he could flee the town and live well elsewhere. In general, we're relying upon the players losing sight of the fact that a commoner typically makes 100 gold pieces a year. Thus, if the PCs were to offer many hundreds (or thousands!) of gold pieces in exchange for drugs, it would be out of line with the stakes for this quest, but Odger would take the money and run. He would tell the PCs to go to a location to pick up the drugs, and while they were gone he would flee (or attempt to, but he would be stopped at the gate and temporarily held for having a suspiciously large amount of cash).
If the PCs find another way to investigate Odger, such as flat-out brute-forcing their way into his home (or sneaking in), they will find that his home contains an alchemist's lab (as outlined in the Player's Handbook) along with a few hundred gold pieces worth of completed drugs and even some legitimate alchemical products. If you have the Arms & Equipment Guide, it may be interesting to have him producing restful candles (page 32). Why? Because when Malchor goes down, the town is going to be without a cleric. Unless a player is running a character who is apt at healing and wishes to remain in town for months until a replacement is found or trained, the townsfolk will have to step up. Combining Odger's candles with Galwyn's healing skills may be one of the stopgap measures that keeps the town going. It gives Odger a point of redemption, should anyone see it. And Odger kinda would be interested in redemption. He already is trying to model himself after Galwyn's business to a small degree. However, he wouldn't suffer for it. He wouldn't shut down the profitable side of his business cold-turkey in the hopes that the legit side picks up. He would try to juggle both until one side won out.
In the end, the PCs will not find any stolen items in Odger's home, though plenty of items may be illegal. They may find secret stashes, at your discretion, but none of it stolen. However, that may be damning enough to your players. Regardless of whether the players get into Odger's home or not, when the investigation is put back into Malchor's hands, he will investigate with guards, and state that stolen items were in fact found. Malchor is lying, of course, to scapegoat Odger.
The prison cell interview
If the whole scenario with Odger plays out and he ends up in jail, he will not be off-limits to the PCs. This of course is a blunder by Malchor, but the magistrate is thinking that it would be more suspicious to cut off contact. He is relying on the fact that Odger is a lying scumbag, which will probably help convince people that he is... a lying scumbag. Little does Malchor know that Odger would come off as very sincere if asked about the charges. "The guards set me up!" he would insist. He really believes it.
You can ad-lib this interview as you wish, but keep in mind a couple of things to convey. First, he feels wrongly charged. Second, he accurately would represent himself as the only person in town who can make most of the products he offers. He kept no notes, has it all in his head, and will share with no one how to reproduce his items. If people like his work, they're going to have to pay him for it and value his contribution. If they don't, he won't play ball. Of course, if nobody is asking about the items he makes, then this point is moot.
Merchant leading town hall meeting; a snake oil salesman with fake-bottomed box that was raided by the rats. I'll revise this in a day or three with full details.