The Adventure Begins
Your PCs have killed the last monster and headed back to the city to sell off the loot from their last encounter. They’re ready for their next adventure, and you have it all mapped out. Do you start in the tavern like you have a dozen times before, or is there a better way? Here are twelve places in a large town or city where a new quest might begin.
Each location has something that sets it apart from the rest of the city, and the description also includes reasons the PCs might visit and what types of adventure hooks can be found there.
Passing though the city gates often involves running a gauntlet of hawking merchants and groping beggars. The gates are well guarded and an impassible barrier to those who cannot pay the entry tax, have been banished, or must conduct their business outside the law of the city. The PCs usually pass through the gates on their way to and from each adventure. They may see a poor, crippled beggar singled out and taken by a nobleman’s guards, or the gates may suddenly close, leaving the PCs to defend those trapped outside against an onslaught of orcs. For more gate encounter ideas, see “Enemies at the Gate” in DUNGEON 119.
At the public wells, the dregs of the city mingle with the servants of the wealthy. You can find gossip here that is often more reliable than the drunken ramblings of tavern patrons. The PCs could visit the well to replenish their water supply, or simply pass it on their way through town. Perhaps they meet a rich woman’s servant who suspects her betrothed is not human. Or they may see someone pull a discarded item or a dead body from the well.
The market square is an open area within the city walls that fills daily with the tents of local farmers. The market is crowded, chaotic, and impossible for the town watch to patrol, so it is a haven for thieves and secret dealings. The PCs probably find the market a good place to buy supplies. In addition to his produce, a farmer may bring rumors of mysterious events from the countryside, or he may be selling a strange object found buried on his land.
Monasteries are home to devout ascetics, people whose marriage has failed, and criminals who have taken religious vows to avoid prison. Monks are caretakers of ancient writings, preserving them in deep vaults and copying them in cold, poorly lit scriptoriums where not even a candle flame is permitted. Most monasteries are also places of temporary sanctuary—an accused man can remain there for a few days, beyond the reach of the law. PCs may visit a monastery for healing or religious insight. Their adventure may begin with the story of an accused criminal or the ramblings of an old monk who has seen cryptic clues in ancient texts,
Almost every city has some sort of prison, ranging from a dungeon managed by the city watch or the temple of St. Cuthbert to a private prison run by thugs willing to arrest anyone based on any accusation and a fee. The party might visit the prison to free one of the PCs accused of petty crime. One of the prisoners could beg them to bail him out because time is running out to save his small town. Another prisoner might offer the PCs a share in a hidden treasure.
Those that can afford the small fee can clean themselves in a public pool fed by hot springs. Public baths often provide saunas, massages, and scented body oils. The baths are a mixing place for all but the highest and lowest classes, though individual pools are segregated by gender and possibly race. Weapons and armor are not allowed. Someone the PCs meet might tactfully suggest
that they should visit the baths, A worried bather may recognize them as adventures based on their scars and ask them for help. An enemy following the PCs may sneak a dagger into the baths and attack them while they are without their gear.
SHIP IN PORT
A city’s ports contain ships from distant lands, carrying exotic cargoes and passengers. Ships are generally subject to the law of their homeland, even while docked in a foreign port, but most of the time ship crews are pretty easy going when it comes to rules, PCs may visit a port looking for passage or unusual goods. Once there, they may see a ship flying the flag of a country that catches their interest. Once aboard a ship, the PCs may find themselves on their way toa lost island or in the center of a conflict between nations.
Large cities often have a public area where anyone can speak their mind to the passing crowd. This may be a small podium at the corner of a park, or the steps of a public building. An exceptional orator, or someone who expresses what many people think but are afraid to say, can draw a large crowd. The PCs can’t fail to notice the crowd and the speaker as they pass by the speaker’s corner. The speaker may reveal something important that the public does not know before hired thugs silence him. Perhaps a heckler in the crowd says something that interests the PCs.
Merchant spellcasters like to hide their shops in back alleys, and often protect them with wards and shield them against scrying. Their shops usually smell of exotic spell components and moldy parchment and are filled with potions and magic items, many of which are worthless decoys. The PCs may approach the mage needing a peculiar spell cast, or they may be looking for an unusual scroll. The mage might have an unusual or interesting item for sale in his shop, or he could demand payment in the form of a quest for the party. For some sample merchant spellcasters, check out “Spells for Sale” in DUNGEON #119.
For most people, long distance travel means horses. Once they reach their destination, however, they don’t want to worry about their mount, nor do they want to try to forge though the crowded city streets on horseback. Many inns provide stabling for horses as a service to their patrons, but many stables are independent businesses, boarding horses while the riders find other places to stay. ‘The PCs may visit a stable to board their horses, and they may return periodically to see how they are being treated. A greedy stable boy may hint to the PCs that he overheard a wealthy nobleman say something incriminating, or the PCs may come across an interesting item dropped by a rider while dismounting.
This merchant sells supplies to those venturing into the wilderness—rations, lanterns, waterskins, tools, and torches. Since most adventurers pass through his shop before they head out, he often knows who left town recently, and where they were headed, When the PCs visit this merchant to purchase supplies, they may hear about another party that set off and never returned. Or they may find a previous party has sold the merchant a map to the lair of a fearsome creature they could not defeat.
The style and function of a temple depends upon the deity it serves. A temple of Kord may have an attached arena which sports competition amongst athletes and gladiators from all corners of the world. The temple of Boccob may be a maze of constantly changing doorways and passages with a magic shop at its center. The temple of St. Cuthbert may include a prison and a training yard for town militia. The PCs may visit a temple for the healing and restorative powers of its clerics, or for the special services offered by the church. They may be drawn into adventure by another wounded visitor to the temple, or by a cleric whose powers of divination have brought him special knowledge.
BY RUSSELL BROWN ILLUSTRATION
BY UDON WITH JIM ZUBKAVICH AND GALA FERRIERE