In the spirit of not prepping plots, we’ll proceed fleshing out our Isladja adventure by describing some of the locations and people that players might run into as they search for the Tree of Knowledge. We’ll continue building out sections of Merchant’s Rest and the Irewood in future post. When we collect this material into official adventures, we’ll create a few different version. We’ll create a highly-structured, single track plot for new RPGers, along with a decentralized scenario with lots of information for experience GMs.
Merchant’s Rest: A Mandatory Tourist Stop
Merchant’s Rest is in a strange position as a town. It is the largest, safest stop for some distance along an important trade route, but otherwise has little value to offer. MR lies in the middle of a forest, with no river to power mills or facilitate speedy travel and no hills or mountains to mine. The dangers of the Irewood (the woods around Merchant’s rest, especially to the north) prevent extensive farming, logging, or hunting in the area. In essence, the Iretree prevents MR from utilizing its only natural resource: trees.
However, the dangers of the woods have also been a boon to the town. Because the woods are dark and treacherous, travelers are eager to seek the city’s safety. The hospitality industry (inns and taverns) thrives, as does the market due to the trade route. Secondary industries, such as bards and other entertainers have grown up around the inns. The city does boast some of the best hunters and trackers in Isladja, largely because darkness wolves make short work of novice, clumsy, or careless woodsmen.
Lastly, the city has quite a bit of would-be occultists. While it lacks the distinguished institutions of Fair Winds (The Righteous Path) or Irqar (The Seeming), it has quite a diversity of sorcerers, including Wyrdlings from the south as well. Of course, a number of charlatans and soothsayers have also been attracted to Merchant’s Rest, trying to profit off of the fears of travelers.
Something Sinister Seething in Merchants Rest
The townsfolk have suffered a large spate of recent tragedies: family members disappearing, houses or livelihoods burning down, etc. The rumors are that some shadowy group called the Tree of Experience is behind this, although no one seems to know more than the fact that they exist and seem to be causing (some) of the trouble around the town. The name should catch their attention, as the Tree of Experience and the Tree of Knolwedge seem to be related. However, since most townsfolk have not heard of the Tree of Knowledge (it’s a little obscure lore), and know next to nothing about the Tree of Experience, they won’t be able to comment on the relationship.
Staying in Merchant’s Rest: The Mangy Hound Tavern & Inn
While MR boasts a variety of inns, from the rich establishment that house traveling nobles and wealthy merchants to seedy dive bars, players will only be able to afford the cheapest accommodations after being fleeced out of their money by Bogdan. When the players return to the town, they will be exhausted and the market will be closed. Perhaps one of the players knows the cheapest joint in the city, or perhaps they have to ask someone. Either way, a good destination for them is the Mangy Hound Inn and Tavern.
The Mangy Hound was originally a tavern, known for its ever-changing collection of local moonshines rather than the typical beers and ales. Because these strong, cheap drinks have the tendency to make the clientele pass out, they added rooms where they could throw collapsed drunks… and charge them in the morning for the night’s use.
If players arrive early in the evening, the Mangy Hound will be lively. They might get a chance to carouse, and even a chance to meet Costin (the captain of the guard) as he breaks up a fight. Costin will be suspicious of their motives for being in town, and especially if they talk about the Tree of Knowledge, urge them to forget such non-sense immediately. He’ll site a large number of sooth sayers, but if pressed he can point players to some more legitimate lorists and librarians who can provide more accurate until. If characters are especially good at earning his trust, he discuss looking for the Tree of Experience.
If players arrive later in the evening, the Mangy Hound will have some patrons (as it does until the very early hours of morning), but conversation will be subdued. Characters may have a chance to overhear a local complaining about a personal tragedy and blaming it on the Tree of Experience.
Finding Bogdan: The Merchant’s Rest Marketplace
The marketplace is a hodgepodge of permanent builds and stalls or booths that change every day. Bogdan is in one of the latter, despite being a permanent resident of MR, so he is difficult to track down. As it turned out, the players had each bought something worthless from Bogdan (you can ask each player what they would have bought) at an exorbitant price with the understanding that they were really paying for the intel on the the Tree of Knowledge. This is a fairly common tactic around MR. Because marks are paying for a physical good (and not information directly), merchants can “sell” false information without actually running afoul of the guilds or the guards. There’s a very good chance that the characters want to address Bogdan themselves, either to see if they can pry some better intel out of him or at least get their money back.
If you’d like, as host, you can roleplay characters haggling with merchants to find Bogdan, or simply narrate how long it takes them to find him. Alternatively, you could have the roll to search for Bogdan, using Traveler (Smart)… with a failure meaning they don’t run into Bogdan that day. They may choose the scrap the search altogether and find another, more reliable means of information. Or they may decide to keep searching the next day.
Bodgan himself is a rotund, mustachio’d merchant with cheap, worn, spangly clothes and cheap, worn, spangly trinkets. He thrives mostly on rumors. If confronted about the bad information, he will initially shrug it off claiming to only pass on what he has heard. If pressed about the money, his initial stance will be that he gave them something for their money, so it was a fair trade.
However, something is off about Bogdan. He seems a little nervous. Players can either attempt to scare him (more than he is already), or attempt to soothe him and earn his confidence to find out that he had been sharing a rumor about the Iretree once being the Tree of Knowledge. A hooded figure stopped him on the street last week, and threatened Bogdan’s life if he didn’t instead pass on some disinformation. Players can either track down this person’s description or follow Bogdan to learn more about the Tree of Experience.