Continuing the September of Short Adventures...
The churches in the city are under attack; priests are found dead in their quarters. Similar deaths happened to a number of smaller churches and parishes out in the countryside. Can the characters help unravel the mystery?
SETTING THE SCENE
There are a number of ways player characters could learn about the dying priests; PC clerics get informed by their order, and are asked to investigate; injured characters returning from a delve learn about the shortage of healing and clerical magic; characters with no ties to the church might be approached due to their reputation as professional adventurers.
The city is the seat of a bishopric, with a number of smaller churches around the city led by priests and acolytes. Assume there's a bishop, canon or curate, 6+ priests, and 1-2 dozen acolytes. At the time of the adventure, the bishop, a priest, and one of the acolytes has been found dead. Word has been sent to a larger church city - the seat of the archbishop - but it will be weeks before help arrives.
WHAT'S GOING ON
The church is militant in it's crusade against evil and the influence of outsiders; what's to say the forces of darkness don't launch their own campaigns to strike back?
In a setting like Gothic Greyhawk, there's a powerful monotheistic church (the Church of the Eternal Spirit, also called the Blinding Light) that reinforces a European Medieval vibe, and witches are cast in the Medieval stereotype - servants of evil that gain spells from pacts with infernal entities.
A powerful witch has gained control of a demon's amulet, allowing her to summon and control a succubus. She's launched her own one-person crusade against the church, and has wiped out numerous smaller churches in the surrounding towns and villages before coming to the city.
The witch's strategy is straightforward; a scrying mirror is used to spy on clergy and gain knowledge of a target's movements and habits. The succubus is able to use clairaudience and teleport without error to bypass all manner of physical security and enter the most secret chambers. In the darkness, the thing uses its shape change and ESP to assume the most alluring guise imaginable before slipping out of the darkness, augmenting its overwhelming beauty with charm and suggestion to quickly disarm any resistance, allowing the succubus to feast. After returning to the witch's lair, the creature is returned to its magical circle prison until the witch has picked another target.
The theme here is information scarcity: it's unclear how the priests are dying and what is doing the attacking; there are dozens of targets to protect, and its also unclear who will be targeted next. There might be some internal politics as well and general secretiveness of the clergy ala The Name of the Rose that might make information gathering difficult at first; these attacks could lead to a loss of faith and confidence in the congregations, and it could prove embarrassing when it's learned that a succubus is behind the attacks (even if the seductive demon is achieving its ends through magic).
Once they have the trust of the key members in the local hierarchy, give the players full access to the accumulated spells of the surviving church clergy so they have access to magic that will help gather facts - things like Augury, Speak with the Dead, etc - assuming the PC's don't have it themselves. What kind of precautions might prove effective to stop the attacks? The witch has also compromised a servant or worker that has access to the churches, and this way she's getting personal effects, clippings of hair, and other trappings that are allowing her to scry the individual clergy - that might be another lead. Meanwhile, the deaths continue to pile up, creating a sense of time pressure. If the witch learns about the investigation through her cat's paw, maybe the succubus is turned loose on one of the characters.
This would be a fun problem solving adventure - the group first needs to decipher what's happening, then identify a demon is at involved, then try to find the witch's lair in the city and confront her.
If the succubus is destroyed in combat, the amulet crumbles away; if the amulet is somehow forced from the witch's grasp during a confrontation, the succubus will immediately teleport to the witch, and carry her off to the Abyss, for an eternity as a demon's pet.
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Locale: The city, various refectories and churches
NPCs: Various clergy
Monsters: A witch, a succubus
Artifacts: the demon's amulet, the scrying mirror
Other Blogs Posting September Short Adventures:
Here's a handy link to all the OSR blogs taking part in the challenge - 25 adventures in September: