Imagine this set up.
It is a small walled town or more accurately a settlement. To the east of the market square is the manor house, to north at ground level are a few shops to cater for trade caravans and above them a hostel or flop house for itinerants. The west has the gate house and the south facing on to the market place is a taverna with seats spilling out into the square.
Our characters should ideally be sat at the taverna, outside. Maybe they are waiting to meet a patron or even waiting to get paid? We will come back to the characters later.
The sun is just coming up over the town walls and it is going to be a fine day.
Let us take a look behind the closed doors and behind the shutters.
In the manor house we find a home is shock and disarray. During the night the master of the house has been assassinated and the only living heir is missing. Guards were killed at their posts and often without any sign of struggle. The women folk are in shock and the men are split between the hawks who want to turn the town upside down to find and kill the assassins and the doves who are only concerned with the safe return of the missing heir. A runner was sent to the gate house before dawn to tell them there were assassins in the town and to not let anyone in or out.
Across the square the gatehouse is filled with pent up energy. The gate will not open today. Eyes are scanning the horizon outside the town looking for any trace that armed men and a hostage may have escaped during the night while others scan the town looking for suspicious foreigners.
At the flop house on the top floor we find a group of eastern looking assassins. Maybe they are of some ancient holy order dedicated to refining death to an art maybe they are masters of infiltration. right now they have look outs watching the market place looking for the first signs that their work has been discovered and of the heir who is still to die. Three storeys below them one of the shops is that of a weaponsmith and pawnbroker. The owner was wakened not too long ago by the missing heir who was looking for a safe place to hide. The last thing his dying father had said was run and protect yourself, you must survive. Our young heir has no experience of weapons, more adept with a pen than with a sword. As it is easy to use the young heir is shown how to load a heavy crossbow. The weapon is heavy and awkward for the young man and whoops! A loosed bolt shatters a pane of glass in the shop front and flies across the empty square towards the taverna.
So our characters are sitting their minding their own business, just waiting to get paid when the crack of breaking glass grabs their attention. Does the bolt hit anyone? Who knows?
So what happens next? The party draw weapons and head across the square? Do the assassins see the heavily armed players charging their hiding place? I have the assassins suddenly rappelling down to the square on silken ropes, a blur of scimitars and curved daggers.
What do the guards do when they are suddenly faced with a market square filled and erupting battle? Out into it all rushes an embarrassed and somewhat ashamed young heir who can only stammer “I am so terribly sorry, it was an accident…” knowing he may have hurt someone with his errant crossbow bolt.
All of this attracts the attention of those in the manor and the first sight of the young heir is enough to bring the remaining household guards from the manor charging out to save the son.
So how do your players react to this? Obviously the entire powder keg situation here is contrived and the trigger is applied by you the GM.
Even if the party does not charge into the attack the second the young heir steps out into the square to apologise the assassins are going to leap into the attack.
So can the party work out who are the good guys, who are the bad guys and who is completely innocent? Can they resist letting off fireballs in a now rather crowded market square?
Will the heir survive?
There is no real point to this post other than that I was reminded this week that the original reason for starting this blog was to provide playable material so there you go, a little town encounter for you.