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Intrigue in the Summertime
Steal This Hook
by Robert Wiese

The quiet step in the castle corridor, and a courtier looks furtively around before activating a secret door to a clandestine meeting place. In another part of the world, a smiling noblewoman makes a subtle gesture, and loyal followers draw weapons and kill the king. Spies traverse the countryside of yet another country, looking for traitors. With the new Eberron setting out this month, we look at some hooks for introducing intrigue into your campaign. You can, of course, use them in any campaign world where the cities are large… and often corrupt.


Save the Duke

The public notice is large, and very unusual.

The Duke Has Been Poisoned (but lives)
The Watch is searching for anyone with any information about this crime
Rewards offered for good information or assistance with the case

Who would advertise that the duke has been poisoned? Besides, he’s still alive. Is the case that complicated or hard to solve? People are definitely talking, and not in all sympathetic ways. "What kind of a duke lets himself be poisoned?" "I knew the Watch was incompetent, but this?" Something has to be done to quiet the talking, or the damage from rumor could be worse than any actual poisoning.

Story Elements

Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. The duke has been poisoned with a special magical poison that only has one antidote. The antidote is known, but cannot be made here. Adventurers are needed to go and have the antidote made before the duke dies.

2. The poisoning was rather mild, and that is why the duke survived. The conspirators (one of whom is the Captain of the Watch) are trying to make a big deal about this attempt to "root out the criminals" so that later when they really do poison the duke no one will suspect. Or, they will have a scapegoat set up to take the blame.

3. The duke’s brother has been possessed by a devil, and is plotting to take the throne. The devil is slowly subjugating or replacing people in the court with his own servants. Knowing who to trust is very difficult by the time the PCs get involved.

4. The duke faked the poisoning himself, because he knows there is a plot afoot to kill him and wants to root out the perpetrators. By spreading the story of his poisoning, he hopes to provoke the assassins to try to strike while he is still apparently weak. He could use the PCs as guards or as investigators.

5. The assassination attempt was masterminded by a rival of the duke’s that has not been heard from in years. This rival is orchestrating his personal revenge against the duke to look like a conspiracy so that there are plenty of people to blame; the rival hopes to escape notice.


Impostor in the Court

The great elven city attracted all kinds, but usually not human beggars. They are commonly shunned, and this one is no exception. He looks new to town, and unaware of the "way things are done here." He started begging in front of the tavern two days ago, and despite repeated pointed remarks and even a visit by the Watch he has not left.

"You wonder why I’m here too, don’t you?" he says to you as you pass by. "I see you're adventurers. That’s why I’m here. No, I don’t need an adventurer. I've got to warn you that Eilistara is not what she seems. She's a devil in disguise, and she’s up to no good. Sure, she started as an adventurer, but she came back alone, didn't she? What happened to her companions? Adventurers always have companions, don’t they?" As he speaks, his voice becomes more agitated and a wild look fixes in his eyes. "She's disguised, but I can see through her disguise. She’s a devil, I tell you!"

Story Elements

Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. Eilistara is the daughter of an important person in the city government of this elven capital. Defying her parents (in a way), she took to the life of adventuring and saw some moderate success until recently.

2. Eilistara and her companions ran into devils, and were indeed overcome. She was the last to fall after a succubus questioned her under torture as to her identity and circumstances. Since then, the succubus has taken her shape and returned to infiltrate the elven city. She might be an advance agent for a diabolic plot to take over this elven nation from the inside.

3. Eilistara could be a changeling instead of a succubus, working for herself to steal as much as she can, or else may be in cahoots with other changelings to take control of the elven court. In this way, you might look to introduce changelings into your campaign (or campaign world).

4. If a succubus, Eilistara has found a victim to hold in her charmed grasp. An old flame of the real Eilistara showed interest when the succubus arrived alone, and she quickly used her charming kiss to control his mind. Now the poor victim is a slavish follower of Eilistara’s, and will do anything for her.

5. This is the real Eilistara, but she encountered an artifact that turned her to evil or a spirit that possessed her. Either way, she slew her companions and returned to town to plot against the elven monarch.

6. Colio was a prisoner of the succubus or changelings (or at the location of the artifact) and witnessed what happened to Eilistara. He later escaped, but is mentally scarred by his ordeal and is going mad. He does not give coherent information, though he does give lucid clues from time to time.


Changeling Disguise
Changeling Racial Power
You alter your form to look like another person.
At-Will Polymorph
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You alter your physical form to take on the appearance of any Medium humanoid. You retain your statistics in your new form, and your clothing, armor, and possessions do not change. The new form lasts until you change form again.
Any creature that attempts to see through your ruse makes an Insight check opposed by your Bluff check, and you gain a +5 bonus to your check.

Crime of Convenience

Standing on the gallows platform, the elderly man cries and shouts to the world. "I am innocent! I have done nothing but inconvenience those in power! I don’t deserve to die!" Below on the ground, a woman cries and begs anyone close to help her husband before he is executed. Around them, the hangman and the guards continue with the task of preparing to hang the condemned man, oblivious to the cries of the man or his wife. People standing around don’t seem interested either, but there is something in his voice that convinces you he is telling the truth (assuming the PCs made a passive Insight check).

Story Elements

Select or generate story elements from this table.

1. The man is Fordio, a minor courtier in the nation. He is the unfortunate victim of ambition, and was framed to cover up someone else’s crime. Though the crime he was convicted of is real, he had nothing to do with it.

2. Fordio is being killed in a plot to get rid of him and prevent him from telling what he knows. His trial was held in the middle of the night, and the hangman hopes to have him dead very soon.

3. There was a scandal in the court, and though it was mostly covered up some information still managed to leak out. Now someone has to die to satisfy the curious. Fordio was chosen because he has little value to those in real power. His charges are trumped up but related to the scandal.

4. Fordio’s wife, Espera, is in league with those who framed Fordio, as she wants to be rid of him to marry someone else. She was not in on whatever is going on in the court, but helped plant evidence against Fordio so that he would be convicted quickly. Her tears are a sham.

5. Fordio is not the first person to suffer this fate; the others were unable to assert their innocence because they were drugged or assassinated in their cells. But such attempts against Fordio failed.

6. Fordio is actually the mastermind of a vast conspiracy to overthrow the government and take over. He has arranged this performance either to either prove himself innocent and thus make himself above accusation in the future, or else to fake his own death so that he can later return to life and work in secret.


About the Author

Robert Wiese has been playing D&D since 1978 after he watched a game played in the car on the way home from a Boy Scouts meeting. He was fascinated, and delved into this strange world of dragons and magic and sourcebooks. Years later, he was hired to edit tournaments for the RPGA Network, and from there progressed to running the network after his boss was assassinated in the great Christmas purge of 1996. Times were tough, but he persevered and brought the RPGA into a shining new era. Eventually he met a girl who liked to play D&D too, and he left Renton for the warmth and casinos of Reno, Nevada. Now, he works in the Pharmacology department of UNR studying mouse foot muscles and the effects of RF emissions on same. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Rhonda, son Owen, and newborn daughter Rebecca.
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