A night at the Three Spears Tavern proves fatal to a book merchant caught in the crossfire between the thieves’ guild and a dark cult, and the characters may be the next casualties.
The scenario is a city adventure of deception, betrayal, and action in five short scenes for an adventure or a story, using the format from a previous post regarding creating fantasy roleplaying game adventures.
The scenario outlines a narrative with branching plot points and moves forward regardless of the characters’ decisions. Each plot point will need development as you adapt this story to your characters and world. The scenario includes some supporting characters with brief expandable descriptions. Names and places are generic for you to modify, and the outcomes of each scene are open to encourage improvisation.
A Night at the Three Spears Tavern is set in an urban environment, like a major international city or a crossroad town on a trade route. The scenario is suitable for a campaign starter with ample potential for continued adventures. The tavern also has a number of interesting patrons so the location includes many ways the story can go sideways.
The scenario involves a thieves’ guild and a sinister cult. The cult are ruthless killers while the thieves are somewhat pragmatic, but other details of both are left for you to decide. The MacGuffin of this scenario is an occult book, which is left to you do design if necessary. The book is both dangerous and valuable, other details are unimportant for this scenario.
The Three Spears Tavern
The Three Spears Tavern is a worn-down and smoky tavern half-way between the merchant’s district and the poorer parts of the city in more than one way. The tavern has a long history with many regulars. The tavern is often used for illicit business, so long-time patrons usually stay out of other people’s business. Brawls are rare as many of its patrons are dangerous people, and a few past brawls have ended with people dead. The tavern is both a place for a quiet night on the town with good friends and dangerous business, although the later can be difficult to spot of new patrons.
The tavern is currently operated by Hiliam Burke, Heatha and Alfwid.
Hiliam Burke, the Innkeeper, Male Human Commoner
Hiliam Burke has a round face, with white hair and soft blue eyes. He keeps an axe under the counter. He is burly and only moderately polite. Hiliam is researching ancient kingdoms in his free time and dreams of a better world. Hiliam reluctantly serves the thieves’ guild.
The kitchen staff includes:
Heatha, serving maid, messy copper hair, bright gray eyes, and a round nose.
Alfwid, cook, tall and stout, with gray hair and dark green eyes.
The Guests at the Three Spears Tavern
The patrons with their own tables are the following as the scenario begins:
- Ceolwy Barath, the Book Seller
- Wulk, the Book Seller’s Bodyguard
- Saethra Sand, the Wealth Patron of Arts
- Keysha Harker, a Wealthy Dilletante
- Aewon Silt, a Wealthy Dilletante
- Masym, a Sellsword
- Eankild, a Sellsword
- Griffolk, a Sellsword
- Wythiua, a Sellsword
The patrons at the bar includes:
- Dalbrast, a Sage
- Witherda, a Baker
- Manfred, a Templar of Light
- Ertliadana, a Sellsword
As always, others may appear if you desire.
Patrons at the Tables
There are people at four tables, including the characters’ table, and a few patrons at the bar.
Ceolwy Barath, the Bookseller, Male Merchant
Ceolwy Barath has red hair and gray eyes, and an unusual tattoo on his face. He wears scale mail under a leather coat and carries a sword. He is paranoid after years of dealing with dangerous knowledge.
Barath is at the Three Spears Tavern as he waits for a potential buyer of an occult book. Wulk is his bodyguard. Barath kept the details to himself and there is no clue on his body. Barath hid the occult book under the loose floorboard in his room and will be glad to be rid of it.
He also keeps a business ledger written in code. This could reveal who he was supposed to meet if found and deciphered, but the details are left for you to decide.
Ceolwy Barath is killed in the setup of this adventure.
Wulk, the Bodyguard, Male Fighter
Wulk has red hair and large gray eyes, and numerous horrific scars. He is sullen, broody, and a dependable professional. He wears heavy arms and armor.
Saethra Sand, the Wealthy Patron of Arts, Female Artisan
Saethra Sand is tall, with long red hair and green eyes. She wears a beautiful dress. Sand is polite and excels at putting people at ease.
She joined the cult to gain wealth, which she regrets, but she thinks there is no going back. She organizes many cult activities but not a combatant herself. Her many cultist allies includes Jofri Waster, Ceolwy Barath’s assassin.
She shared a table with a blond artist earlier that night, but now enjoys her wine in peace, just watching the crowd. She is clearly watching the attractive couple at the neighbour table.
“Keysha Harker”, the Wealthy Dilletante, Thieves’ Guild Operative, Female Sorcerer
Keysha Harker has a round face, with tangled brown hair and gray eyes. She is elegant, wears a green dress and a cloak. She carries a quarterstaff. Harker is arrogant, cautious, and drunk with power. She owes the thieves’ guild her life after saving her life when her powers manifested as a child. Keysha Harker pretends to be a well-to-do landowner. She shares table with Aewon Silt, and is at the tavern looking for the occult book.
“Aewon Silt”, the Wealthy Dilletante, Thieves’ Guild Operative, Male Rogue
Aewon Silt has copper hair and blue eyes, and a magical tattoo on his left hand. He wears expensive clothing over is leather armor. The rogue is charged with keeping Keysha alive and temper her recklessness. He is the hardest working enforcer in the guild, a true professional. Aewon Silt pretends to be a carefree dilettante and Keysha’s lover. He shares table with Keysha Harker, and is at the tavern looking for the occult book.
Masym, the Sellsword, Male Mercenary
Masym has a round face, with uneven black hair and brown eyes. He wears scale mail and carries weapons. He is a burly braggart who has survived impossible odds. The sellsword is a good person but has forgotten how. He shares table with three croonies.
Masym and his cronies are the red herring of the scenario. They are drunk and amused by the debacle. They are also hardened criminals and will not break under light pressure. The sellswords know they are innocent, they have not been upstairs and should be clear of suspicion once everything is settled. They are trained killers and likely to match anyone present in a straight fight.
Masym’s cronies include:
Eankild, tall, with brown hair and amber eyes. She wears heavy arms and armor.
Griffolk, tall and brooding. He wears leather armor and wields a poisoned short sword.
Wythiua, long face, with brown hair in buns. She wears leather armor and dual shortswords.
Patrons at the Bar
Dalbrast, Sage, Male Scholar
Dalbrast is rugged in appearance, with straight golden hair and hazel eyes. He wears modest garments and a silver holy symbol. He is a skilled academic, but has not forgotten his roots in poverty. The sage often enjoys a drink after work before heading home to the family.
Witherda, Baker, Female Crafter
Witherda has golden hair and soft amber eyes, and a round nose. She is deeply involved in cutthroath Bakers’ Guild intrigues and is increasingly paranoid. Witherda blames the gods for every misfortune.
Manfred, Templar of Light, Male Paladin
Manfred has curly golden hair and dark hazel eyes. He wears a church of light surcoat, plate mail, and carries a two-handed sword. Manfred compulsively plays with his lucky coin. He is between assignments and has come to the tavern on a vague clue found in a brigand’s map ledger.
Ertliadana, Sellsword, Female Fighter
Ertliadana has copper hair and brown eyes, and distinctive facial tattoos. She wears chain mail and wields a battle axe and light crossbow. She regrets her last contract and in considering her options over drinks.
The City Watch
The city watch will arrive eventually. Captain Alyn Buena and six regular guards take charge of the tavern to conduct an investigation.
Alyn Buena, City Watch Captain, Female Human Investigator
Alyn Buena is regal, with dark skin, braided dark hair and narrow gray eyes. She wears a chain shirt, weapons, a city watch cloak, and several small tools hang from her belt. Alyn is brave, compassionate, and polite. She is also corrupt and accepts bribes.
Buena is wary of the thieves’ guild and thinks they are an acceptable evil. She will, however, not let murder pass if she can help it.
The Setup: The Murder at the Three Spears Tavern
It is a regular night at the Three Spears Tavern, people occupy most tables or hang out at the bar in conversation. There is nervous politeness between the various tables and groups, but people seem to get along nevertheless. There is couple of patrons who display more wealth than the usual crowd, which keeps the tavern staff on their toes, and adds a sense of unease in the common room.
The characters should get some time to familiarize themselves with the scene. Resolve any initial actions from the players if they desire to act on the initial scene, then move on with the scenario once the characters are familiar with the scene.
The scenario begins as the book merchant quietly leaves his table and heads upstairs to pick up his business ledger. The merchant finds his room searched by a burglar but is relieved the book is safe under one of the floorboards. The merchants heads downstairs to report the burglary, but is murdered in the hallway, stabbed in the back by a cultist who believes he carries the book. The killer is likely to take the merchant’s business ledger, if found, but you as the GM may choose to keept it in play, or reintroduce it later. The killer escapes out the window in the hall and is long gone before the serving maid finds the body minutes later.
The serving maid cries out on the second floor, then descends to the ground floor, clearly shaken. Soon everybody seems to realize something is off as the innkeeper rushes upstairs and the serving maid hastily leaves. The innkeeper asks anyone attempting to enter the upstairs floors to wait downstairs as there has been an “incident” and the upstairs is closed off for now.
Five minutes pass and the crowd grow increasingly uneasy. Several patrons pay their bills and leave. This wait is an excellent opportunity to get rid of characters that did not interest the players. The other patron seems to resign and decide to wait this out.
Investigations: The City Watch Arrives
The city watch eventually appears, put guards at the exits, and ask everyone to stay seated. The watch captain announces there has been a murder so they need statements before anyone can leave.
There is more than one investigation going on at the Three Spears Tavern that night. First, the city watch wants to find the killer, or perhaps at least someone to pin the murder on, depending on the level of corruption in the city. Second, the thieves’ guild believes they have lost their opportunity to get the book, wants to figure out what has happened and a second chance to get the book. Third, the characters may wish to investigate on their own, as they may find themselves the suspects of murder.
The city watch questions everyone present, including the characters. The watch suspects everyone, especially armed adventuring types, and may or may not a more concrete suspicion against the characters based on any events earlier that night.
Events During the City Watch Interviews
The city watch attempts to keep everybody seated, but is only somewhat successful so there is some contact between the patrons while the watch take statements.
- The city watch proceeds with the statements starting with Wulk, the book seller’s bodyguard. Wulk is soon cleared of suspicion as witnesses confirm his presence in the tavern.
- Saethra Sand charms the city watch representatives who apologizes for the inconvenience.
- The thieves’ guild knows the innkeeper from past dealings and Keysha Harker or Aewon Silt bribes him for more information. It is a private conversation, but observant characters may pick up that the innkeeper points at them at some point and perhaps pick up fragments of the conversation. The merchant was nervous and had paid innkeeper extra to inform him of anyone asked questions. A man did ask about the merchant earlier today, but the innkeeper is adamant he did not sell any information and has not seen the man since.
- Alyn Buena’s interview of Keysha Harker or Aewon Silt is brief, and anyone listening in may notice a certain familiarty between them, although they act otherwise.
- Masym the Sellsword and his crew keeps drinking, and while they understand the seriousness of the situation better than anyone, they struggle to stay serious. The city watch is clearly getting annoyed and the sellsword are clearly the prime suspects. There is no evidence however and the sellswords seem to be in the clear.
- The city watch eventual come to the characters. They ask standard questions regarding names, relation to the deceased, who was present before the serving maid found the body, and if they saw anything out of the ordinary. The guard will ask forcefully, but has no prior reason to suspect the characters, unless the characters themselves give them a reason. The city watch should respond on any rapported character actions of note earlier that night.
Talking to the Others Present at the Tavern
The characters may decide to perform an investigation of their own and perhaps contact the other patrons.
- Hiliam Burke, the innkeeper, will accept bribes, but he is a pawn to the thieves’ guild and not inclined to share any information regarding the guild. He claims Keysha Harker and Aewon Silt, the thieves’ guild agents, are upstanding citizens. He did notice the Saethra Sand shared table one other patron earlier tonight. Burke knows Masym is someone to be cautious around.
- Wulk, the bodyguard, is calm and not surprised his master is killed. This is mostly based on the master’s paranoia, not a specific threat. The bodyguard keeps quiet and is at loss of what to do now. He will skip town as soon as he can as he clearly failed at his job.
- Saethra Sand, the cultist, is calm as she has not been upstairs and easily cleared of suspicion. She believes her fellow cultists has secured the tome and only has to wait out the city watch investigation. She believes she has backup waiting outside the tavern so she is not worried.
- Keysha Harker and Aewon Silt, the thieves’ guild operatives, appear attractive and wealthy. Both are arrogant with engage in mocking conversation out of boredom. She is serious while he only plays a part. They are looking for Coelwy Barath’s occult tome and would rather quietly pay for it than resort to violence, as violence always is bad for business on long term.
- Masym and the other sellswords do not take this seriously, but with threaten anyone who suggests they had anything to do with the murder. They are, however, professionals and unlikely to resort to violence unless it is self defence. The sellswords are trained killers and likely to match anyone present in a straight fight.
What if the Players Dive into Interaction With the Other Patrons?
The night at the Three Spears does not have to end violently. It should be possible to dodge any suspicion from the city watch, negotiate a bargain with the thieves’ guild, and walk away peacefully.
What if the Characters Do Nothing?
There is certainly a possibility the players will do nothing. Doing nothing may not be very exiting but it is in many ways the smart thing to do, so let them. Quickly summarize the preceeding events and the city watch closes their investigation. Let the players persue their own wishes and theories, or perhaps violence ensues.
The Watch Closes the Investigation
The city watch is unable to find the killer based on the statements, and everybody is allowed to leave unless something dramatic occurs. The watch closes the investigation.
The night at the Three Spears Tavern can quickly turn violent for several reasons after the city watch close their investigation.
- The thieves’ guild believes the characters have the missing occult book. Keysha Harker and Aewon Silt has brought in thugs, and ambushes the characters as they attempt to leave the tavern. The guild are likely to talk first and perhaps buy the book. Simply killing the characters and searching the bodies is another, less desirable, option.
- Jofri Waster, the cultist assassin, has reported to other cultists outside the tavern, and they are panicking as they believe they have lost their opportunity to secure the missing occult book. The cultists are convinced the book was in the tavern and they are prepared to ambush anyone leaving, including the characters. The cultists are not inclined to negotiate with anyone they believe they can kill.
Climax: A Clean Getaway or More Violence
The main objective of the scenario is just of excape any scrutiny from the city watch. Solving one or more secondary objectives is also possible.
- The characters somehow sneak into the merchant’s room and find the book under the floorboards. They now have a dangerous and valuable occult item at their disposal.
- They identify the cultist, why the merchant was killed, and learn more about the threat they represent. The characters can now make an informed decicion on how to pursue this further.
Perhaps you feel a boss fight is required to end on a high note:
- The cult return, now determined to obtain the book, and they believe the characters have it. The cultists ranks may now have been bolstered with the supernatural horror Gracklezhog.
- The thieves’ guild strikes, believing the characters have found the book, and there will be no talking this time. They ambush the characters and will take the book by force.
Gracklezhog, Minor Fiend
The cult summoned the minor fiend Gracklezhog to find the missing occult tome. The fiend was the best the cult could muster and summoning the creature was a mistake. Gracklezhog attacks, all fire and brimstone, once it has an opening. Gracklezhog does not advance the story in anyway, except perhaps reminding the players of the stakes, and it may a fun fight in itself. Check your monster book for details.
Jofri Waster, the Assassin, Male Assassin
Jofri Waster has curly blonde hair and narrow amber eyes. He wears sturdy clothing and a wooden holy symbol. He is a struggling artist and crafter, who travels a lot to get work, but his work is not the best, and his prospect is not good unless he improves fast. Saethra Sand is a long-time friend and ally. Jofri Waster is actually a skilled cult assassin.
Wrap-Up: A Night to Remember and Opportunities
The scenario ends when the characters leave the Three Spears Tavern – presumably alive and free to pursue new adventures elsewhere if they choose. Loot found on defeated foes may be a suitable reward. The city watch may also reward any aid rendered, possibly with harrassment and imprisonment if the city is sufficiently corrupt. The game is yours, so you play it out as your group prefer. Each to their own.
Any other takeaway from a night at the Three Spears Tavern depends on the characters’ actions, and future opportunities depend on whether they want to explore this further.
The characters are clear of the events at the Three Spears Tavern for now, but that may change in the future, so they have at least two options.
- Unsolved murders are unacceptable, and the characters may desire to follow up on the investigation. This may lead them to the cultists at the tavern and their allies elsewhere in the city.
- The Thieves’ Guild is a dangerous enemy. The characters may decide to continue the conflict and destroy the guild. They may also attempt to make peace with the guild, either by compensating them for any losses, selling them the book, or simply convince the guild that further hostilities will only produce further losses. Alternatively, the characters may want to join the thieves’ guild.
What happens next? That is up to you.
Want to Share Your Experiences?
Have you played a similar scenario or even this one? Do you have ideas or notice problems with the scenario? Feel free to comment below.
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- Your First Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
- Create Fantasy Roleplaying Game Adventures
- City Adventures for Fantasy Roleplaying Games
- GM Tips for Support Characters in Fantasy RPGs
The Reading List
Fancy more fantasy city adventures? There is plenty of material to draw on.
Check out Dyson Logos blog for more tavern maps.
The following includes affilliate links.
For more Rough Nights and Hard Days, check out Cubicle 7’s adventure anthology for Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, or the excellent starter set, both which are obvious sources of inspiration for the scenario above.
Saltmarsh and Waterdeep both have seedy taverns, murderous cults, and ruthless thieves. The same could be said about Zobeck and Freeport. So many options!