Saturday Seed ~ 102 (Elric/Stormbringer)
This week’s seed is for your choice of editions and publishers for Stormbringer, Elric!, Elric of Melnibone, or whatever name the game is going by now. It is intended for a group of adventurers willing to hire out their services without asking too many questions, either before or in the very early days of Elric’s travels.
The group is approached to travel into the deadly Forest of Troos to obtain a leaf of a special flower. The price and conditions are excellent. The employer… might not be.
Planting the seed
Planting the seed is easy if the characters are actively looking for funds, work, a reason to travel toward or away from something, or just for something to do. Depending on where they currently are in the Young Kingdoms, or alternately on how far you’d like them to travel before reaching Troos, you can have them be approached for hire in pretty much any coastal city, or any of the southern reaches of Vilmir.
A fat and sweating merchant, pretending to be a man of real importance makes initial contact with the characters via servants. He is well-guarded, and very businesslike. He claims to want to hire the group to travel into the Forest of Troos and collect 1 leaf from a special night-blooming flower at the darkest hour of midnight. He will outfit them, provide bearers and scouts, and when they return, pay them very handsomely for their troubles. Jobs like this are not uncommon, but the men doing the hiring are usually a great deal more desperate, and have the stench of mortgaged souls about them.
The encounter will go as it should, the fellow, using the name Iorlan (real name Imliss Veen), has a lot of experience hiring and interviewing men for jobs of all types. He is well-organized, prepared, and ready to have the group leave at first light the next day. He has had his servants spread the news of his desire to hire a group for a dangerous but profitable journey at all of the drinking and eating establishments in town, and salted the tip in the prisons as well.
If the characters have no questions, and can impress him with their poise and experience, or their enthusiasm if they lack the former two, he will hire them and fulfill all of his promises.
From the outset of the journey, however, it will soon become obvious that the retainers sent along have very different instructions, and are more concerned about the party than Iorlan. They do not think the group is good enough for what lies ahead – no matter who they are.
I would recommend having the group start in Krell, but the starting point really does not matter. Once in motion, they can entertainingly be led to either make their way to Nadsokor through misadventure, inclement weather, and the machinations of the scouts, or to discover this mischief as the perpetrators attempt to perpetrate it. Questioning, if effective will reveal that a contact in the City of Beggars may have vital information for them. By this point, it really must be made to feel obvious that something is wrong, and the quest for which they were hired, cannot be the quest they are expected to complete.
What is going on
Basically, the man posing as Iorlan is the servant of a Vilmirian noble whose son was slain in Troos a few years ago while wandering the world, seeking his fortune. By all accounts the boy was a fool, and his companions the sort to follow fools. Iorlan has been hired to ensure revenge is gained for the loss. His plan is to hire a group of killers and mercenaries to head to Troos under the guise of obtaining rare herbs and flora, when actually what he intends to do is have his servants (planted with each group) sow terrible seeds of destruction there which will choke the life from the forest and its dwellers alike.
The other two bands he has hired are comprised more of cut-throats and thieves than adventurers, and they will quickly pierce the veil of lies the servants try to weave. They will then hope to prey upon the other groups that Iorlan has hired in order to maximize their profit. This could be a good opportunity for the return of a recurring villain to spice things up, adding a layer of competition, conflict, or both.
There is a contact in Nadsokor, and his information will be about the recovered sigil of the fallen noble scion whose death sparked this misadventure. Otherwise, the city will be as inhospitable as ever.
At any stage of the game, the group might decide to ditch this job, and they are well within their rights to do so. At that point, the servants will bring out the big lies and “reveal” that they are really on a rescue mission to the outskirts of Troos, seeking the son of a nobleman from Ilmar. They can be extremely persuasive.
If the characters get it into their heads to search their own caravan and its retinue, they may be lucky enough to discover the bag of seeds the servants have been tasked with planting in Troos. Discovering what the greasy yellow seeds do, is an adventure in and of itself.
Once this point is reached, the seed can grow in whatever direction is best. The group may choose to carry on, plant the seeds, return and get paid. They may throw their hands up in disgust and vacate, they might focus on kicking the crap out of the other caravans, robbing them blind, and mitigating their losses through the spoils of banditry, or they may even gather up all the bags of vile seeds, and start a seed of their own – for or against Troos, or anywhere else they have taken a dislike to.
The seeds, if planted in full dark at the mid-point of night, will quickly grow into enormous animate, and carnivorous vines which abhor life, and can’t ever eat their fill of it. Once unleashed, they are exactly the sort of thing adventurers feel compelled to stop.