The Missing Courtesan is a fantasy scenario in five short scenes for a fantasy roleplaying game adventure or a story. The story digs into the criminal world and works if the protagonist is criminal, in law enforcement, or anywhere in between, and involves an old friend who is missing, and one or more criminal factions.
This is an opportunity to explore darker themes, but may not be appropriate for everybody. Names and places are generic for you to adapt, each scene has a few possible twists, and the outcome is open to encourage improvisation.
The Courtesan is an old friend who now is missing. A courtesan can be many things, depending on the setting and time period, and your story needs.
The Kidnapper can be a local pimp or brothel, a crime lord, a local noble, slavers, cultists, a foreign noble or whatever faction appropriate for your story.
Consider throwing a third party into the mix to muddle the waters and challenge the protagonist. This could be, for instance, law enforcement, rival criminal gangs, noble houses, dark cults, foreign spies, a rival at court, or a vampire coven. The faction can be both helpful or hinder the protagonist, possibly a recurring villain.
The Setup: Bad News
The protagonist learns that an old friend has been working as a courtesan and is now missing. Both may come as surprises, depending on the characters and their relations. Murder or prostitution are likely worst case scenarios.
Regrouping: Gathering Information
The protagonist must figure out what to feel about this news and decide a course of action. Cynical protagonists may choose to ignore both and move on, but let’s assume the protagonist decides to get involved.
Typically this means talking to nobles, sex workers, locals, law enforcement and investigating the places the courtesan hung out.
- Wealthy foreigners followed the courtesan shortly before the disappearance. Could the old friend have ended up a harem abroad?
- A powerful local crime lord has taken an interest in the courtesan and may have opted for exclusivity.
- A city councilor recently visited the courtesan, and may now be a customer. The city watch seems to harass anyone looking into this.
- There is a war brewing between rivaling thieves’ guilds in the city, and prostitution is one of the battlefields. The guilds generally leave the customers and prostitutes out of the battle, but several thugs and pimps have already been killed. Either guild is likely to pay well for help.
- It turns out there is a series of abductions followed by horrible murders on prostitutes. The law enforcement suppress this information for many reasons, but the situation has escalated and cannot be contained for much longer. The missing courtesan is about to turn political.
Counter-Attack: Violence Ensues
The character’s investigations take a violent turn as the enemy retaliates.
- The kidnapper covers their tracks and thugs attack the protagonist to tie up loose ends.
- Law enforcement takes an interest in the protagonist’s investigation, possibly manipulated by the kidnapper, and has questions. The protagonist becomes a suspect if the inquiry is handled poorly.
- A third faction takes offense as the protagonist’s investigations draw attention to unrelated matters, complicating things further.
Enlightenment: Putting the Pieces Together
The investigations and attack helps the protagonist discern the old friend’s fate.
- Surviving sellswords are more than willing to tell on their master.
- The kidnapper misinformed the sellswords, and any survivors may give honest but false information.
Climax: The Rescue
The protagonist is ready to rescue, or at least avenge, the old friend assuming the search was successful.
- The protagonist has tracked down the whereabouts of the old friend, or the culprit’s base of operation, and now has at least two options: attack or negotiate.
- The friend planted the story to escape the old life or is now in fact in charge of the suspected faction. The courtesan was never kidnapped.
- The courtesan was kidnapped not to continue in that profession, but because of valuable secrets related to a grander scheme. This is a conspiracy where the courtesan and kidnapper both are pawns.
- The would-be rescuers kick in the wrong door and make a new enemy.
- The kidnapper killed the courtesan, and all that remain is either justice or revenge, depending on how you look at it.
Into the City, a cheat sheet for city adventures.