Merchant Madness 1

On September 1, 2005, Posted by , In Campaign Workbook, With No Comments

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A city’s merchant guilds ae provide a dizzying array of possibilities for adventure. Five examples of guild-related adventure hooks are provided here. These scenarios are open-ended and could lead to anything from a single encounter to an extended campaign.

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Zilbur Englecut (NG male gnome expert 5) has been with the Order of Herbalists and Apothecaries for over 50 years. In all that time, he has never been as concerned as he is now. People all over the poor quarter have been coming down with a dreadful disease. Zilbur, the eldest and most learned apothecary in the city, was called in to investigate. He discovered that the culprit is not a disease at all, but a subtle slow-acting poison. The good news is that the afflicted in the poor quarter are not contagious. The bad news is they’re all likely to die unless someone procures a small quantity of izeba leaf for Zilbur, a tare plant that only grows in the dankest swamps. The nearest source lies in the fens 10 miles away. Unfortunately, the fens are also the dwelling place of a fairly sizable tribe of lizardfolk, and the journey is too hazardous for Zilbur to attempt by himself.

To add a sense of urgency you could have the characters accidentally ingest the poison at a local tavern. Once they return with the cure, the adventure continues with a hunt for the poisoner. The poison is essence of naga oil, an extremely rare concoction made from naga fat brewed with certain herbs and allowed to reduce to a potent and dangerous slow-acting poison, Unlike most poisons, the initial damage from essence of naga oil is inflicted two days after ingestion, and the secondary damage one week after that.

Poison, Essence of Naga Oil: Ingested Fortitude DC 18, initial 1d6 Con, secondary 2d6 Con, price 250 gp.


Something large and monstrous prowls the city streets at night. Tol Ramer (NG male human commoner 2), the head of the Brotherhood of Dungsweepers, approaches the adventurers for help. A member of the guild disappeared last night, and only the shreds of his garments have been found. Members of the guild are typically given fairly wide berth by thieves and pickpockets, and Tol is convinced the disappearance is related to the piles of dung the brotherhood have been struggling with the past few nights. Tol doesn’t recognize these droppings, as they don’t belong to any of the city dwellers he is familiar with.

Tol has spent 15 years sweeping the streets, and this is the first time he has found something that has really scared him. He’s reported the mysterious dung and his guild member’s disappearance to the watch, but he’s afraid they’ll be too late. The guild has scraped together some funds to pay the adventurers if they’ll agree to investigate.

The mysterious creature could be a cluster of gricks, a pack of howlers, a solitary lamia that is using its power of illusion to stay hidden, a minotaur that recently escaped an ancient labytinth under the city, or even a pack of shadow mastiffs that have wrestled free from the magical control of a local wizard, now dead.


There’s trouble in the fish market, and the Merchant Fishmongers’ Association is not happy about it. Ida Slickfingers (LE female rogue 5) runs the association, and is only too happy to explain to the PCs the evil tidings. To hear Ida tell it, the whole problem stems from the black cat that ran through the market a few days ago. Since then, her customers are staying away, complaining of missing valuables and cut purse strings. She begs the PCs to deal with the lawbreakers (and the black cat, if they can find it) using any means necessary, since the city guard avoids the realm of the fishmongers.

Ida is sincere in her wish to have the pickpockets caught, but that is, of course, only part of the story. The thief is an encroacher. Theft in the market is ordinarily the realm of a well-organized, unscrupulous group of young girls who take their lead from Ida herself. Ida’s girls are cautioned against taking too much, and carefully select their targets. This new menace has thrown a wrench into the works. Ida has spent years bribing the watch to keep out of the market and away from her girls, and is afraid that if she seeks help from the city watch, she’ll never be able to get rid of them. This has led her to seek out the adventurers.


Eva Landow (N female half-elf expert 3) runs the Shepherd’s Mug, a simple tavern on the outskirts of town. She recently discovered that someone was smuggling brandy into the city, avoiding the hefty taxes the city levies on alcohol. This accidental discovery is costing her dear, She doesn’t know much about the smuggling operation other that that it exists, but the culprits are trying to put her out of business by framing her for the smuggling ring. Only the word of a regular customer who happens to sit on the City Council has kept her from fines, prison time, or worse, Eva makes a meager living with her tavern, but the Publican’s Guild, recognizing that the smuggling ring is an eventual threat to all tavern keepers in the city, has agreed to front the coin to hire some adventurers to investigate.


CARTERS AND COACHMEN Elerian (LG male elf commoner 4) represents the interests of the textile workers and merchants in the city. Recently, several shipments delivered to neighboring towns have been short by several bolts of cloth. The textile workers have investigated, along with the Guild of Skilled Carters and Coachmen, led by Rolf Underfoot (LG male human commoner 3), but have been unable to track down the source of the theft. The ongoing problem has resulted in an unprecedented conflict between the two guilds, which normally work closely together. Elerian is reluctant to provide an armed guard for the textiles, as that increases the shipping costs of the guild, but the next shipment is silks, and the loss of even a few bolts could destroy the guild’s reputation, not to mention putting Elerian himself out of business. Now the tension between the guilds is rising, as Rolf is taking the proposal for armed guards as an implication that his carters are behind the theft. One of the two sides contacts the PCs: either Elerian, to hire them as guards, or Rolf, to request that they track down the thieves.

The situation is actually even more complicated than it appears. Ethel Upswitch (CG female human commoner 3), the head of the Alliance of Tailors and Clothiers, has hired the thieves, part of a local thieves’ guild, to create the tension between her colleagues. Elerian has been gouging the local tailors with his prices, By reselling the stolen cloth at a lower price through a third party, Ethel is hoping to force the Textile Purveyors’ Society to lower the prices for the textiles that they sell. Ethel has arranged the sale of the stolen cloth to another clothier, to cover part of her payment to the thieves’ guild.