Sunday, 27 September 2015

Random Encounter Tables: Walkways of the Cobweb

Probably the first in a series of random encounter tables, which I hope to use to help provide a bit more of a sense of the kind of random oddness that PCs might encounter while wandering the districts of the Wicked City. As I mentioned in its initial write-up, the Cobweb is a very different place depending on whether you wander its walkways by day or by night: by day it buzzes with activity, with servants and messengers hurrying back and forth from tower to tower, but by night it takes on a more sinister aspect. I'm thus writing a separate encounter table for each.

Random Encounters in the Cobweb: Day
  1. A group of stressed-out servants rushing from one tower to another, clutching hampers of food for an impromptu banquet that their master has just ordered on a whim. PCs who look low-status enough to be ordered around may find themselves drafted in as emergency auxiliary kitchen staff, potentially opening up a brilliant opportunity for theft, poisoning, or infiltration.
  2. A group of 2d4 aristocratic socialites, en route to a party in another tower, each attended by one bodyguard and 1-3 long-suffering manservants and/or maidservants. All fantastically dressed and gossiping about the latest scandals. PCs sneaky enough to get close while still staying hidden - pretty tricky on a walkway, but not quite impossible - could potentially learn something useful, here...
  3. A mechanic, herding his menagerie of clockwork animals from one tower to another. There are singing clockwork birds, leaping clockwork cats, climbing clockwork monkeys... even a dancing clockwork bear, which is also able to fight to protect him upon command. His previous patron has just tired of him, and he's on his way to his next engagement. There is a 30% chance that one of his clockwork animals has actually been reprogrammed, without his knowledge, to start acting as a thief / saboteur / assassin / courier (equal chance of each) once it reaches its destination.
  4. A serpent man doctor en route to pay an emergency visit to a very sick, very wealthy patient, carrying a black bag full of drugs, medicines, and poisons. For the right price, he could be persuaded to ensure that she doesn't recover.
  5. Squad of secret police in full uniform, investigating the family who lives in one of the nearby towers after hearing reports of 'ideological irregularity'. Servants, guards, and family members are all being exhaustively questioned, and everyone's obviously terrified that someone is going to say the wrong thing and get them all dragged off to the Ministry of Information. Random passers-by (the PCs, for example) will be stopped and searched as possible 'subversive agents' or spies.
  6. A Disciple of the Word, fallen on hard times, who now makes her living as a private tutor in languages and calligraphy to the spoiled and inattentive children of the Cobweb families. She's currently sitting on a high walkway, meditating on the sacred mantras and trying to work out where it all went wrong. She could potentially provide a lot of useful introductions for PCs who go to the trouble of befriending her.
  7. A bored heiress, accompanied by a gaggle of 2d6 guards and servants, out looking for something novel to amuse her. Has a very short attention span. May 'adopt' particularly interesting-seeming PCs as pets. 
  8. A scream from above, initially faint but rapidly increasing in volume, which is abruptly terminated by a man in a servant's uniform crashing down onto the iron walkway in front of the PCs and splattering into bloody ruin. A few minutes later he's followed by a second victim, and then a third. Someone up there is having a very bad day.
  9. A courier runs past at top speed, clutching a message for someone in another tower. About half-an-hour later, the same courier runs back in the opposite direction, clutching a new message; this continues for as long as the PCs bother to stay around, with the courier looking more and more exhausted each time. (After 2d6 hours another servant will take their place, but the messages keep coming.) If intercepted, roll 1d4 to see what these messages contain: 1 = completely frivolous gossip, 2 = quasi-pornographic love letters between two young aristocrats, both married (although not to each other), 3 = massively important negotiations about a secret alliance between two noble families who everyone else thinks are enemies, 4 = cute pictures of cats.
  10. A group of civil servants, the emissaries of one of the city's Lesser Ministries, moving doggedly from tower to tower, trying to gather the support of influential families for their master's latest initiative. So far it's not going well, but their leader - a harassed, middle-aged bureaucrat with a world-weary air about her - is determined not to return empty-handed. Well-connected PCs who are able to assist them can win themselves a valuable ally in the King's Tower.

A walkway in the Cobweb. Don't look down.

Random Encounters in the Cobweb: Night
  1. A distraught, aristocratic young man sitting on the edge of a very high walkway, clearly wondering whether or not to jump. He's currently suicidally miserable after being betrayed by the woman whom he had rather naively believed to be the love of their life, who will be marrying another (much richer) man tomorrow morning. If the PCs can talk him down and cheer him up he can potentially be quite a useful ally to them, albeit rather prone to histrionics. He will never stop plotting vengeance against his ex-lover and her new husband. None of his plots will ever be remotely practical.
  2. A distinguished Murder Harlot (level 1d4+3) and her 2d4 apprentices (half male and half female, all level 1) are strolling along the walkway, dressed to kill, en route to an important engagement in the next tower. Roll 1d6 to see what they've been hired for: a party (1-3), an orgy (4-5) or a murder (6). The apprentices are cheerful nihilists who will pick fights with the PCs just for the hell of it, especially if it means they get to push people off very high catwalks; their mistress will indulge them to a certain extent, but will step in to enforce order at the point of a bladed fan if things seem to be getting out of hand (or if there's a danger that they might be late for their engagement). Particularly funny, sexy, or well-dressed PCs might earn an invitation to call on them another time at their HQ near the Grand Bazaar.
  3. A hired spy has concealed himself amongst a mass of ropes and pulleys between two walkways, from which he is spying on his targets - the family of one of his employer's rivals - through the windows of their tower with a high-powered telescope, looking for blackmail material. Observant PCs might spot flashes of light reflected from the telescope lens as he redirects it from one window to the next.
  4. The PCs glimpse a masked woman climbing out of the window of a nearby tower, trailing what looks like an awfully long fuse behind her. She's a saboteur, who has just planted a half-dozen bombs all through the beloved art collection of her target, as part of a complicated feud between his family and the family that employs her. (She works as maid most days, but her mistress is happy to make use of her other talents from time to time...) If nothing is done to stop her, she'll climb out onto a nearby catwalk and then light the fuse, destroying enormous quantities of priceless artworks and starting an interminable series of tit-for-tat revenge attacks between the two clans.
  5. A messenger comes rushing out of a tower, clutching a sealed letter in one hand; a moment later a gunshot is heard and he drops, soundlessly, off the walkway, only for his body to be caught in a tangle of ropes below, the letter still caught in his grip. PCs who try to climb down and retrieve it will be shot at by the sniper who killed him, who has strapped himself to a diagonal beam fifty feet above and is firing downwards with a rifled jezail. The letter contains an urgent (coded) warning for the recipient to call off a theft mission planned for later that night: it's a trap, and the object that they're looking forward to acquiring is actually horribly cursed...
  6. 1d6 aristocratic young rakehells, out of their heads on drink and drugs, escorted by 3d6 exhausted-looking guards and servants whose job it is to keep them safe until they finally collapse and can be dragged home to bed. They will demand that the PCs amuse them, and may become violent if refused. Good performers will be rewarded with drink, gold, and/or drugs; especially amusing ones may be dragged along with them for the rest of their night out.
  7. 2d6 guards from a nearby tower, combing the walkways for a thief who has just stolen something very valuable from their master. The thief himself is lurking nearby, hiding in a large delivery basket hanging from an inter-tower zipwire. If the guards spot him, he'll launch himself down the wire to get a headstart, and the PCs may find themselves drafted into the pursuit.
  8. A Child of the Pines, very lonely and very far from home, who is climbing through the Cobweb scavenging for food, Summoned to the Wicked City by dreams of his ancestress imprisoned atop the King's Tower, he has made his way into the Cobweb, but has yet to work out a way of reaching and ascending the King's Tower that wouldn't involve his certain death. For now he's living on the (otherwise inaccessible) roof of a nearby tower, using his incredible climbing abilities to get around and stay out of sight. He would be very, very happy to have some allies, but he cannot be persuaded to give up his quest.
  9. 2d6 cultists of the Wicked King, out looking for a sacrificial victim. (They're actually guards from a nearby tower, but the robes, hoods, and masks make this difficult to discern.) They're convinced that if they offer enough sacrifices to the Wicked King, he will grant them the power to destroy their employers and rule in their stead. There's a 50% chance that they're actually the unwitting stooges of another family, who are manipulating them for cruel purposes of their own. 
  10. 3d6 masked revellers, on their way to a masquerade ball at a nearby tower. One of them (pick at random) has secretly been replaced by a hired assassin, who is using his / her costume and invitation as way to get close enough to their target to complete their mission. The assassin is a skilled mimic, but nonetheless they're staying as quiet as possible, in the hope that their 'friends' don't notice that anything is wrong before it's too late...

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