Thursday, September 29, 2011

Horror Adventure 19 - The Innkeepers

PLACEMENT
In the poorer sections of the city, it's hard to find a good place to stay - especially one with home cooked meals.  Good thing the greasy urchin is willing to point out a place to find cheap rooms for rent!

WHAT'S GOING ON
I'm switching the order here, because the situation warrants a closer look than the plot hooks.

At the same time I'm putting together this series of short adventures, I'm mulling what a D&D game might look like in the post-Renaissance; I'm assuming it's a world where magic is rarer, and folks in the settled lands don't think about monsters like their brethren on the frontiers.  It raises the question: which monsters, that prey on humanity, would thrive in an early modern, urban setting?  I've got a good list, so maybe I'll put together a near-future post just on urban predators - but today's spotlight is on the Ogre Mage (Oni).

The Oni is an ogre-like demon with magic powers to trick and deceive people, making it easier for the ogre to find victims to devour.  The AD&D interpretation of the Oni, named Ogre Mage, doesn't disappoint - it has all these abilities at-hand:  Fly, Invisible, Cause Darkness, Polymorph (to Human form), Charm Person, Sleep, Gaseous Form, Ray of Cold (those last 4 are once per day).  These guys are ready to move into the big city and wreak some havoc!

This adventure features a pair of Ogre Magi that run an inn in the poor part of the city; since they can polymorph at will into humanoid form, they appear as a corpulent innkeeper and his meaty, overbearing wife.  Their inn accepts all kinds of wayward, lonely travelers - if you're poor, down on your luck, and alone, there's a good chance there's a space for you at the inn.  They'll even serve you a hot meal.

The innkeeper and his wife prefer to nab meals directly off the street, sometimes invisibly following loners out of the inn to ambush them in a nearby alley or dark street; they'll abduct people directly out of the inn when the hunger becomes too much, clamping ogre strength hands on a victim's mouth to stifle any cries, or crushing a neck with an ogre-fueled snap, then bearing the victim invisibly away for their grisly meal.

A hidden room in the cellar connects with the sewer tunnels that drain into the harbor.  The monsters have a small lair down there where they gnaw bones at their leisure.  For a monster, this is the good life.

SETTING THE SCENE
The whole strategy of a monster living amongst us is for the monster to stay undetected, to avoid notice and prey on those who won't be missed.  A poor inn, run as a charity in the poorer section of the city, seems like a good cover.  Many of those that arrive in the city are immigrants from across the ocean, much like the ogre magi themselves.  As such, it should be hard to discover them under normal circumstances.

Here's a story I might use that puts the PC's right on the path:  a powerful family has a coming of age tradition where a youth needs to find their way in the world for a period of time, perhaps learning a trade, before returning home to take their place in the family business.

The family has powerful enemies in a rival merchant house, and the PC's are hired to keep loose tabs on the family's eldest child who is heading out into the world for their 6-month sojourn; they're also given the identities of agents in the rival merchant house.  While they're busy tailing the merchant's scion, they're also running interference against the agents of the rival house trying to do the same.  It's somewhat of a red herring meant to keep the PC's focused on something tangential to a worse problem.  As you can imagine, somewhere along the way, our penniless scion finds his or her way to the ogre magi inn, and doesn't come back out.

Another lead might be the greasy street urchin, who often directs people to stay at the inn - what he calls the 'charity house'.  At a minimum, he'll confess under duress about the baubles he's sometimes given by the innkeeper and his wife for driving traffic to the charity house.  What's that - he's got possession of the scion's signet ring?  Good thing the characters caught up to him before he made it to his fence.

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Locale:  the poor part of the city
NPCs:  the greasy street urchin; scion of a powerful merchant house
Monsters:  A pair of Ogre Magi
Artifacts:  na