At the end of October 2018 my post The Things at the Sea of Fog it received positive feedback from Justin Stewart (from the dragonsgonnadrag blog). He even encouraged me to turn it into “a full adventure”. While I cannot really do that any time soon (there are other projects I want to finish first), but my notes about The Sea of Fog and the things in it only need a little framework and some NPC to interact with to be turned into a mini scenario. And here it is. LotFP-compatible.
This is not a polished work of mine, but a hasted birth over last three days or so. And don´t forget to say “thank you!” to Justin, for he motivated me. Oh, I am not averse to flattery in the form of likes, either 😉
Jonathan Tobs (not his real name: a third son of a noble, do-no-good and dabbler in the dark arts) learned about the Strange from Beyond the Fog, its gifts, the Sea of Fog and how to reach this place. He thereby traveled from [the Northern Marshes of England, or any other region fitting your game world] to [somewhere further south in England, or anywhere else that fits your game world]. He plans to use his money and knowledge to hire some men to accompany him into the Otherworld, so that he may summon the Stranger and get a gift. He does not know what gift he will gain, but hopes for an artifact from beyond that will help him in his personal quest for power.
Johnathan Tobs (2nd Level Magic-User)
Weapons: Rapier (1d8; see special rules); 2x Wheellock pistols (1d8), fine steel dagger (1d4).
Known spells (* are those prepare): Identify, Shield*; Read Magic*, Unseen Servant
If the characters are looking for work or are know to some locals as people that have performed “dangerous tasks for coin”, a man named Rowland approaches them. He may or may not be known to the PC as a felon and somebody who knows people to go to. Rowland will quietly tell them that he knows somebody who looks for “capable and hard-bitten people for night work”. [Night work is a periphrase for illicit or otherwise disreputable jobs]. “Nothing overly dangerous, just a few days of work with good payment. A meeting could be arranged tonight, and tomorrow you would be on your way.” Anything else, he can or will not answer as that is what the meeting is for. If the PC are interested, Rowland will want 5cp from each of them as a fee (but will settle for 3cp). Afther the money is in his pocket, he will ask them to wait for him at [where they currently are] at sundown. He will be there, but lead them to a tavern in an unsavory part of town (or to the outskirts of the village if the PC are not in a town or city). There, they will meet Mr. Tobs.
#Application for the job
Mister Tobs looks like a man of wealth by birth (reads: clean and healty), wears fine, quilted leather jerkins under his rugged burlap coat and boats that are far better than the trousers he currently wears. The same is true for his belt and its buckle, all of which could very well tempt a cutthroat into action wouldn´t it be for the rapier and two pistols fasted to said belt. After Rowland has introduced the PC he will scrutinize them silently till the serving wench has taken the order of the characters and delivered it. If the PC try to talk about “the endeavor I want to go on” before that, a brief “all in time…” is all that the man will say while sipping lazly at his own glass of wine.
He has a need for individuals to act as guards for him and two laborers, for three days in total. „I need people that are determined, courageous and able to cope with unforeseen events. Do you fit the bill?“ He will pay a total of 65sp per guardsman. „15 sp up front, 1 gp after you brought me back alive“. The only thing he is willing to reveal is that he will have a business meeting outside of town “that may or may not become… complicated. That is all you have to know now. If you need to learn more, I will tell you then.” If the characters insist to learn more about the situation the reply of Mr. Tobs will be: „I will pay you the equivalent of some weeks of honest work for just three days and nights, and you ask questions like that? There should only be one question, and you should ask it yourself: do you want the money, and are you the kind of guy that I said I need?“ If the PC are about to decline or want to haggle, Mr. Tobs will make one final offer „100sp, for each of you. 20 sp up front, the rest when you bring me back, like I told you. Take it or get up and leave.“ When the characters accept, Mr. Tobs will pay them the up-front money and ask them to wait for him the hour after dawn at the city gate (or what other meeting point fits your current setting).
Of course, the characters might reject that offer, and the NPC will not raise it any further. The GM better has a “Plan B”. My choice would be a bunch of pre-rolled level 1 characters that are Fighters, Specialists, Halflings and Dwarfs. This is the “second choice” that Rowland has to offer to Mr. Tobs. My personal line to the players (and my hook for them) would be the following: “Look, I can understand that your characters don´t jump that opportunity. After all, it sounds fishy and the money is not all that good. But the NPC will not pay more. If you are still interested in the game, I offer you to run it with this 1st level pre-generated characters. If you succeed, your regular PC will gain 1/3 of the XP that these henchmen would gain. Do we have a deal?” That -is- a heavy-handed approach. But then again, it offers some fun without the players risking their truly beloved PC for what they consider to be “mere pennies” and/or “a trap”.
#Journey to Elmby
Next sunrise, Mr. Tobs will meet the PC at the place he told, a little more than half an hour after dawn. He will be accompanied by what looks like a man-servant and two burly guys that carry large backpacks and further equipment (see below). One of the laborers is Rychart, a rather brave fellow at the end of 30. He has yet to face anything he could not handle (which says more about his limited experience than about his abilities). Rychart is simply in it for the money, and does not mind that it sounds like a crime in the making. The other laborer is his close friend of Simond (that he talked into this job). Simond in turn is 28 and a drinking buddy of Rychart. He shares his friends confidence, but his motivation are different: he hopes that doing “night work” will at some point help him to get hired by somebody who is involved in organized crime. That is what Simond believes is the best way of living: as a thug or minion of a ring leader. Rychart is already having streaks of silver in his hair reddish-brown hair and a big, bushy beard while Simond is a very handsome man with blond hair and angular features. The plain looking, aged man servant Mr. Tobs will introduce as “Bernhard. He is the man that will wait for my return with the money.” Bernhard will be “allowed to leave” after this short introduction, and thereby disappear from the scene without uttering a word.
The two workers carry rations for the whole group (for two days), two lanterns, four flasks of lamp oil, crampons for everyone, a grappling hook, four 50´ropes, a small hammer and numerous iron spikes. If any of the characters asks questions about the equipment, the laborers do not know anything (they only know that they are hired to come along and carry stuff, and that it is “night work”). Mr. Tobs will just say that “I am not even sure that we will need it, but I prefer to be over-equipped instead of unprepared”. He will be unwilling to reveal anything else, but if the characters hue and cry about it he will grudgingly admit in a pressed voice to them that “There is a good chance that we will have to climb a bit, but it will not be anybodies wall, if that idea gives you headaches. It is still just guard work, we will do no burglary and will for sure storm nobodies castle or keep. Now, stop raising my hackles, will you?”
When they leave (the town, village or whatever), Mr. Tobs will explain that they are going to travel to a nearby small village named Elmby, which is less than a day on foot. The people there are farmers, and it is just another village near a wood. The journey will be uneventful, but the PC will be scrutinized by their employer on the way. He will inquire where they learned their “trade”, and if they have had to kill a man in their past. About himself he is only willing to reveal that he is the third son of noble “in the north. No titles, no grants of land, but enough to finance endeavors just like this. If you proof capable, I may very well have more work for you.” In regard to killing, he will answer that he did so “Twice. Both cases where duels.”
#The Copperbell Inn
Once they arrived, Mr. Tobs will lead them into the only inn in town, the Copperbell. Few other travelers are at the inn at the moment: a group of young craftsman on their way to the next town, two brothers (one young, the other a bit older; both looking for work) traveling the same direction and coachman who takes a merchant and his clerk to a city further away. The owner of the inn is a man who has the looks of a noble and rather reserved manner for an innkeeper and goes by the name Allen. He will have just enough rooms left to offer the whole group lodging. Mr. Tobs will quietly explain to him that “me and my men will have to leave in the hours before midnight, we will likely be back before down and hope that you can let us out and in again.” Before Allen can frown at such an unusual and particular request, Mr. Tobs places six silver coins in front of him. However, this will not satisfy the innkeeper. “What shall the people think about it when rumors arise of strangers haunting the village by night?” the inn keeper will sternly reply. “The village is not where we will head to, nor any homestead in the area. Can I count on your goodwill and services?” Mr. Tobs will answer, not without adding two more pieces of silver. It is then that Allen will take the coins and leave to take care of matters elsewhere in the inn. From the PC and the laborers Mr. Tobs demands to “do not drink to much, and go to bed early. We will head out into the woods in the hour before midnight, and shall be back before dawn. Your tab is on me. Hurry up once you hear me knocking on your door, for we will all meet here in tab room thereafter.”
The other guests don´t know anything about the area, and neither Rychart nor Simond know anything peculiar about Elmsby or the wood. If a character receives an at least Talkative reaction from Allan [ (-2) penalty due their employer´s strange behavior] or are willing to spend 1 sp and at least achieved an Indifferent reaction, they can learn that nobody goes out into the wood “when the moon is half, like tonight. Mist wafts between the trees on such nights, and strange things are rumored to happen. I don´t wish you ill, but if you would not come back in the morning nor the morning to come, it would not be a great surprise to me.” Jonathan will by then be in his room and will not react to any calls or knocks on the door, no matter what. He will read passages from an old folio that are the collected writings of a old Scot warlock. These are the only hints and clues that he has about the journey he is going to undertake. Although he already knows them by heart, he reads them again nevertheless as it became a compulsion to him.
Mr. Tobs will knock at their doors of his hired men at the hour before midnight, just as he told he would. When the PC come down to the tap room, he will already be waiting for them there. The two laborers will follow shortly after, each a lantern at the ready. “We shall be back before sunrise. Be ready to let us in again, good man.” These are the words that Jonathan Tobs departs from the innkeeper with before he strides out and waits for the others to follow. As will take one of the lanterns and orders everyone to follow him into the wood. As they leave the PC can hear how Allen locks and bars the door of the inn behind them.
The wood is not far from the tavern, just over the street and across a pasture where a cottager herds goats during the day (that he keeps in a barn at night). The grass is wet. Not long after they have entered the dark and silent wood, the characters are greeted by light fog that hangs between the elms. There is no path, and Mr. Tobs obviously uses certain large and strangely twisted trees for orientation. Time passes by, and the closer it comes to midnight the more tense and frustrated Mr. Tobs seems to grow. If any character tries to speak to him, he will hush him or her with a harsh gesture and not even bother to look at the PC instead of the trees around him. It will be past midnight when the group comes upon a small pond between the elms, and Mr. Tobs mood will begin to lighten. “There. That is where we were heading for.” He will approach the edge of the water and look at the reflection of the half moon above for a moment before he turns to the PC. “Your first task: I want all of you to follow me, and do so without hesitation.” With this words, he turns around and walks straight into the pond. With every step his figure descends deeper into the water and before long he submerged himself completely, lantern and all. No sign of him can be seen from that moment on. The pond lies silent, the surface calms in moments till it is flat like a mirror again and reflects the half moon above.
The workers will at first be unwilling to follow. “What was that? Where is he!?” Rychart will talk out loud, while Simond will say that “I was not paid to swim and dive to some unknown place…” If the characters encourage them to “just walk into the pond. This must be some trick” the two will reluctantly do so. If any of the PC talks about magic being involved, a PC with a Charisma above 12 is needed to make the two go in on their free will. Of course they will do as they are told if the PC threaten them, but this will reduce their Moral by one for the rest of the adventure. Otherwise, they two will go back and take the remaining lantern with them. If the PC keep the lantern by force, they basically threaten them to come with them as they will not find the way back without a light.
#At the Other Side
Any character that steps into the pond like Mr. Tobs did will feel dizzy as soon as their head is finally under the surface. The next thing they know is that they resurface in a pond of similar size, but on a beach of gray gravel, under a milky sky and in front of an ocean of fog (see the Sea of Fog). Impossible as it seems, they are neither soaked nor wet from the water. Their employer, who was already there before them, checks one of his pistols (actually, the second one as he did so with the other before). “Dry. Just as I thought. This was the first part, the second follows now.” If anybody tries to go back to “the other side” again, Mr. Tobs will stop them. “You may only cross from one side to the other once this night. If you go back now, you cannot come back here. Stay with me till I am finished here!”. He will be ready to explain more, but only when all are gathered. “I hate to repeat myself.”
Where are we?
“We crossed the threshold into the Realms of the Unreal. This is not our world, not our realm. Call it the realm of the fay if you want to. The pond we came through is a path to this place, but only on certain nights.”
What is this place?
“This place is not like our world, but similar. You will have to prepare yourself for unexpected dangers. The sooner you stop asking question, the sooner I will be able to obtain what I came here for, and the sooner we all will be back in our own world.”
Why are we here? What do you want here?
“You see this cliff? There is a way on top of it. There, an entity of this realm will grant a gift to those who know how to ask for it. And I know how to.”
Who are you? How comes it that you know about all of this?
“I am a student of the mystic arts, and an Adept of the Unknown. Call me a magician if you like, or a warlock if you must. I researched this place and how to get here for years by now, and I am here to claim the prize that waits for me on top of that cliff.”
Why did you brought us all along?
“As I said: We may face unexpected dangers here. Creatures that will be unknown to you and may be unknown to me as well. I shall and will not explain all the possibilities, for they are many and the longer we stay here, the more likely it becomes that we may have an encounter with something all of us would like to avoid. The sooner we make our way to this cliff and up to it, the better.”
We shall climb all the way up that cliff?!?
“No. There will be a way up, the climbing gear is a measure of safety, as are you (with this, he points to the PC). But we waste time with this talk. Sooner or later we will raise unwanted attention. Let us go.”
#Interlude: “You don´t pay enough for that!”
If the character (at any point) demand more payment after they reached the other side, Rychard and Simond will chime with them and demand “another 20sp each, or you can do this shit without us”. Mr. Tobs will then smirk at the two laborers “Fine… drop the gear and go back. Good luck.” before he turns to the PC “I will pay each of you another 20sp. Can we continue now?” He will be willing to pay up to another gold piece (50sp) to each of the PC, but will only offer 30sp at first if the PC demand more, and add that “I begin to doubt that you are even worth it”. If the characters decline, the laborers will come with them and they should have at least one encounter on their way back, while Jonathan Tobs continues to the cliff (with some of the climbing gear). If the PC accept the raise of their payment, Moral checks should be rolled for the workers. In case of a failure, they will turn round to leave (after dropping the gear), otherwise they will curse but grit their teeth and take it. Their moral will be reduced by another point then. If the PC want the raise of payment for all of them, Tobs will just grin at them “Oh really? Then it is just another 15sp for each and every one of you, but that´s it then. Take it our leave me alone. I rather go up there without you all then having to haggle further with people I already had a deal with!”.
If the PC take the offer but not care to haggle for a benefit for the two laborers AND they drop the gear and turn to leave, Mr. Tobs will give them a moment to disappear into the fog before he says to the PC. “Now, things are a bit more complicated. I need at least one of the two, but not for carrying. Go and bring one of them back alive, no matter how.” If the PC refuse to do so, Mr. Tobs will send them away (see above) and try to continue on his own.
#The way to the cliff
Mr. Tobs will be strictly against walking straight through the fog, for “the effects can be maddening, and disturbing the fog is most likely to disturb things that dwell in it”. The GM has two options to determine what will happen during this short journey. The random/roller way of doing it is to roll for Jonathan Tobs (who leads the group) to see how long it takes to find a way to the cliff (1d6+3 turns), and to check for an encounter each turn (1 in 6 chance). A more deterministic way to handle is to set the number of turns to 7 (Mr. Tob takes a wrong path at first, has to turn round in the middle of the second turn and then takes the right path) and to have at least one encounter and two at the most. Encounters are checked for, and if none have happened already an encounter will happen at turn 5 of the journey (use this turn sheet if you need one). Encounters are not checked anymore on the way to the cliff as soon as two have happened.
In case of a combat (which is likely due to the nature of most of the creatures of the Sea of Fog), keep in mind that the characters may have rough ground beneath them (-2 melee attack penalty for everyone without a positive DEX bonus), and that there is not much space to evade attackers . This may or may not cause a cap the DEX bonus to armor, but will for sure make it hard to get into the back or flank of a creature.
For the two laborers a check for Moral is in order at the start(!) of each fight, as they are likely to flee back the way they came under this condition. Another check is an order as soon as any character dies (or is horrible wounded, in case that you use Cavegirl´s Horrible Wounds or something similar).
If 1 to 3 Fog-Drowned are encounter, Mr. Tobs will insist that the PC capture one and take him or her along. “I will have use for this one”.
#At the foot of the cliff
There indeed is a very narrow set of worn stairs, hewed out of the very cliff itself, that goes up and winds around it. Big or especially broad people will have to walk sideways, as the steps are rather small . “I have foreseen something like that. This is were the crampons come into play” is what Mr. Tobs says to no-one in particular. After everybody made him- or herself ready, Tobs will scrutinize every PC and pick the one with the best skill in climbing. “You will go first. Take some rope, the hammer and the iron spikes with you so that you can secure some rope if there is need for such.” If the PC do not adhere to that, Mr. Tobs will accept any other “marching order” as long as
a) none of the laborers nor him has to go first
b) Mr. Tobs himself is between two PC
If the players (!) spend to much time debating or planing anything, the GM should feel encouraged to have a random encounter happen.
#Up the cliff
I am rather unsure about the height, and thereby decided that it is between 40 and 50 feet high, with a base as large as a small house. If the time I estimated for the climb seems to be way to long/short, it should be hand-waved away with the condition of the steps (very good/bad). Do you have a different suggestion and a method to calculate such things? Please leave a comment, constructive criticism is always welcome!
Going up the cliff will take a little longer than a turn, and the GM way want to check for a random encounter. Far above the ground, any other result than wordless, melodic choir should be treated as “no encounter” instead. At two points, parts of the stairs have broken away, and the gab calls for a climb roll to cross it. A failure means the character plunges down unless he or she was secured with a rope. In that case, there is only a 2 in 6 chance for a point of damage and another 2 in 6 chance for losing an item of the GM´s choice.
At some point during the way up, Simond will slip and fall. The GM should just state it that way. If the player of a character that is next to him reacts with something akin to “I try to safe him”, he or she grabs him quickly enough to pull him back up if the character at least has no negative STR bonus. A “Am I close enough to safe him?” calls for a Save vs. Paralyze to do the same. If nobody reacts within the first 3 seconds (silently count from 21 to 23), Simond falls and cannot be helped. If a character with a negative STR tries to rescues Simond, a Force Doors test needs to be passed. A failure means that both fall off the steps at the cliff side. If the laborer has been secured with rope to somebody else, see above for the rules. If Simond falls down, the Moral of Rychard is reduce by 1. If a Fog-Drown is taken along, he or she will somnambulique take any step without slipping, and will even be able to cross the broken section with the help of a rope fastened between two iron spikes in the wall if somebody places one of the poor wretches hands on it.
#At the top
See the original post for a description of the top. Mr. Tobs will smile enthusiastically and absentmindedly say “…yes… Yes. Finally….” while he takes a turn to study the engravings on the ground.
If the group neither took an encountered Fog-Drown along nor haggled for a better payment for the themselves AND the two laborers, Mr. Tobs will turn to the PC. “All is as I have expected. I will now summon a being from beyond to receive my prize for this endeavor. There is, however, a chance that things might not go according to plan. Are you ready?” No matter what the PC answer, a Moral check will have to be rolled for the two laborers. If it failes, they will either demand more money (see above) or (if they already did that) throw down the stuff they carry and declare that “That´s IT! Not with us! NO WAY!” and turn to leave (again, see INTERLUDE for the reaction of Mr. Tobs). If the laborers do not have quit it by now, Mr. Tobs will give each PC another scrutinizing look after they answered (no matter WHAT they answered). “Of course…” he will add “we could make sure that nothing unforeseen will happen. For this, all I need is a sacrifice….” If the characters rebuke this sternly, Mr. Tobs will summon the Stranger from Beyond without any sacrifice. When the PC turn onto the laborers, Rychard will try to flee while Simond is foolish enough to try to fight (with a dagger of his). If the PC turn upon another, the laborers turn and flee. Mr. Tobs will not interfere as long as he is not attacked.
If the group was able to capture a Fog-Drown, Mr. Tobs will sacrifice this one instead.
#Summon, Aftermath and End
The GM is encouraged to make the Domination roll and see what happens from there on. The way back through the Sea of Fog will only take 4 turns this time if Mr. Tobs leads the way or if a player passes a Navigation test. Otherwise, it will be 1d6+3 turns again. After that, stepping into the pond they rose from early on will lead them back to the pond in the woods. This time, they will be dripping wet from the water, and 1d4 more hours have passed than the time they have spend on the other side.
If the PC loot the belongings of Mr. Tobs (for one reason or another), they may have his gear and his purse (1d20+30sp and 1d20 cp). Any loot the laborers have with them is 3d6 sp, 1d10cp and (in case of Simond) a simple steel dagger, and of course the gear they carried.
If one of the laborers escaped, he will have taken the way back through the pond, stumbled back through the wood at to the inn. Allan, the owner, will have believed every word he told and now refuses to let the players and/or Mr. Tobs into his house ever again.
100xp flat, for embarking on this mission.
150xp for stepping into the other world
150xp for having been witness to the ritual.
100xp if they slew their employer at any point.
200xp if the scenario ended without any inter-party kill (NPC included!)
1xp for each piece of silver they have earned.
Separate XP for each killed monster.