"The Grey Company" is a group of closely connected scenarios designed to bring disparate starting characters together as a long- lasting adventuring group. It is set in the Pavis area, though it could be transplanted to another setting or system if necessary.
Although this scenario set allows characters of unusually diverse backgrounds to be formed into an adventuring party, diversity is not a requirement.
Several playtests (including a PBEM run) have been run with various groups; on the whole, the scenario has worked very well.
A version of this scenario was published in Interregnum #2 on April 1994. For more information about Interregnum, please take a look at the Interregnum site.
Your feedback is very welcome. Please send comments to the author at: email@example.com.
1) The PCs start as young and relatively inexperienced characters. An unusually broad range of cultures and backgrounds are possible; the only unacceptable choices are obvious Chaos worshipers and races/cults so mutually hostile as to cause immediate bloodshed on sight. Lunars are acceptable, though their presence may cause difficulties.
2) In a short private session (a half-hour or less should suffice), the GM runs each PC through a pre-game set of circumstances in which they are forced to leave their home culture -- either for a few years, or permanently. Possible reasons: family feuds, accusations of crime (false or otherwise), famine in the homeland, avoidance of conscription, disease in homeland, family poverty, a search for aid for the tribe, or anything else the GM wishes to inflict upon the players. In one odd situation, a Dragonewt PC was ordered to spy upon the "human frontier". If desired, PCs may be of local origin; in that case, they begin the game by receiving a gift or legacy.
3) Each PC acquires an unusual grey token from a kindly- inclined elder or friend of the family, along with a letter recommending the character to the members of the Grey Company of Pavis, a mercenary group of bodyguards/salvors/adventurers for hire. The elder explains that he/she worked with some or all of the members of the Grey Company in the past, and that the Company owes him or her a debt of gratitude. Alternatively, in some cases a token could be stolen, bought, or gambled for by a PC. In any case, the PCs are urged to go to Pavis and seek out the Grey Company, which will doubtless offer an excellent chance for advancement, prosperity, and glory.
4) The PCs travel to Pavis. Some may meet each other on the road; some may experience minor adventures during the trip, of the GM's choosing. PCs native to Pavis will obviously not need to travel.
1) The PCs arrive in Pavis, and find the home of the Grey Company. At the Grey House a tall and cold henchman named Abernathy informs the PCs that the members of the Company are out of town. Abernathy does not recognize the tokens ("It's none of my business, I'm sure; I just look after the place"). If pressed or persuaded, he will admit that members of the Company will probably arrive within the week. He is willing to convey a message to any returning members in exchange for a small fee. A cosy inn nearby is an obvious place to while away the days; there are cheap lodgings on the floor of the common room, and the food is hot and plentiful. While the PCs wait for their return, they meet and get to know each other. Numerous minor adventures may transpire in the process, of course.
1) The ten members of the Grey Company finally return. They're an interesting and highly diverse group; most of them seem to be Rune Levels, either Priests, Lords, or both. Despite this they greet the PCs cordially, and invite them to spend the night when the tokens of recommendation are presented. A grand dinner marks the evening, with interesting conversation. The PCs discover that the Grey Company is an extremely ancient organization, dating back to old Pavis. Not all members of the Company are on duty at the same time, since a number of them must spend a good deal of time at their temples. However, the Company has done a good bit of work for several cults, which sometimes allows members to "double up" on their duties, so to speak.
2) The next day the PCs are given a tour of the house. Among other areas, they are shown the Armory and the door to the Treasury. The Armory is filled with magnificent weapons of all sorts. The PCs are told that they cannot enter the Treasury because it is protected by a powerful spirit guardian, in addition to the usual precautions. Since the spirit doesn't know them, it would attack them once they touched the door or entered the room. Among the most valuable possessions in the Treasury are the diaries of the Company, which include rare lore from long ago. In some cases the Grey Company has been hired because they are the only ones who have a particular map or scrap of esoteric information.
3) The PCs are invited to apply for apprenticeships with the Company. This is a highly prestigious opportunity, and a great honor. It must be stressed that cult obligations are understood to come first for all members.
NOTE: There are presently no apprentices in the Grey Company, though the PCs may not notice this. It is not called to their attention. If they ask about this mysterious lack, the elder members of the Company are clearly uncomfortable. If pressed, they say simply that it was necessary to dismiss the previous apprentices for malfeasance.
1) The GM may make up any number of tests he desires. Some options: tests of strength, mock combat, diplomatic questions, magic. In one of the most revealing tests in playtest, characters were asked to make up their own test; to do something to show the Members their worthiness for apprenticeship in the Company. Player imaginations tend to run wild in this case.
2) Barring disasters, the PCs are accepted. They take the Oath of the Company. The Oath includes a promise to guard the honor and keep the secrets of the Grey Company.
1) The PCs take up rote duties and training for the next several weeks. One or more may notice that they are being followed by an elusive shadowy figure in the streets of Pavis.
1) If any of the PCs make a Listen roll late at night, they will hear the senior members of the Grey Company (that is, all the NPCs) receive a midnight visitor on what appears to be a matter of some urgency. They depart immediately for the Big Rubble, assuring the PCs that they will return within a few days. They will not discuss the mission.
1) Three days pass, a week...the senior members do not return. The PCs are in possession of a house, a Treasury that they cannot get into, and the reputation of the Grey Company -- possibly the most valuable item of all. When it becomes clear that the members are not going to return, Abernathy quits. He seems very nervous when he gives notice. If pressed, he will simply mutter that it is "too dangerous" to stay at the Grey House.
1) Tax time has come, and taxes must be paid by the Grey Company. The tax is almost certainly more than the PCs have. They must raise money somehow, either from outside sources or by figuring a way into the Treasury, past the Spirit Guardian.
The Spirit Guardian Harfel Sarfaxian, the ghost of a deceased member. His POW is 21 and and his INT is 16, and he was voluntarily bound as a ghost many years ago. Harfax knows the following spells: Glue 4, Befuddle (2), Disruption, Heal 4, Mindspeech 1, Ignite, Extinguish 1, and Strength 2. Built into the door is a matrix for the spirit magic spell Spirit Screen 4, plus 20 points of stored magic points. If the door is touched by a stranger with additional strangers present, Harfax will cast Befuddles on each member using the stored magic points. Once all present are Befuddled, he will Disrupt them until they flee or die. The reaction of a Befuddled person to being Disrupted by an (invisible?) ghost is left for the individual GM to decide.
If the door is touched by a stranger who is alone, Harfax will cast Spirit Screen 4 and attempt to possess the target.
Should his efforts fail, he will cast Glue 4 on the door and renew the spell if necessary until he is completely out of magic points.
If the PCs manage to persuade Harfax that they are legitimate members of the Grey Company he may allow them to enter -- but he will be suspicious. If they attempt to loot the Treasury they may find themselves locked in by an angry ghost!
2) If the PCs fail to pay the taxes, the House and all of their own property will be confiscated by the Lunar Government. An auction will be announced, and a group of bidders will attempt to buy the entire House. (Alternatively) Though the action is announced, when the time comes the House and contents will have already been purchased by a mysterious buyer (potential plot complication).
1) Late one night, a brick is hurled through a downstairs window. Attached to it is a crudely-scrawled note, saying "Leave the House or die!"
2) If feasible, magical warnings are given. One possibility: Ranged Voice Projection (depending on the Sorcery system used) moaning and warning all within to leave or die, threatening remarks delivered by Mindspeech to a PC on the street while in the middle of a large crowd (making it difficult to guess who has cast the spell), etc.
3) If desired, the Grey House is fired late one night. The fire is not large, and does not pose a serious threat to the House unless it is ignored. While the PCs are dealing with the blaze, an attack will be made upon the House from the opposite side. The attack is interrupted by the Lunar Guard. Costs will be charged to the PCs if the Guard must help to put out the fire. This encounter may take place at whatever point the GM feels would be most dramatic.
1) The Grey Company has certain regular contractual obligations. One of these obligations is now due; a caravan must be guarded for a short trip.
2) Other short adventures may be included in this manner.
1) The Grey House is definitely being watched. Both the Lunar Government and the mysterious hostiles are possible culprits, depending on the PCs' previous actions. Both at once is also possible.
2) A Spirit spy enters into the House, and departs.
3) It becomes clear to the PCs that the Lunars regard them with extreme suspicion, whether they managed to pay the taxes or not. With luck and effort, they may discover that they are under suspicion of being Orlanthi assassins, guilty of a recent murder. They have apparently been the victims of an anonymous tip to the Lunars.
1) The PCs are summoned by a local noble. When they arrive, they find that the "noble" is actually the noble's young son, who wishes to hire them as guards for a trip he and his noble friends wish to take into the Big Rubble while his father is away. If they refuse, the child is clearly determined to attempt to enter the Rubble anyway; the already-suspicious Lunars will doubtless take an interest. The situation is best resolved through roleplaying rather than combat.
In one run, the PCs decided to "test" the young nobles by taking them on an overnighter in Prax. Some of the group disguised themselves as bandits and attacked the party in the night. They were careful not to main the young nobles, who defended themselves more fiercely than the PCs expected. In the process several PCs were injured. Nonetheless, in the morning the chastened young nobles decided that they weren't ready for the Rubble.
1) At this or some other time the PCs may decide to enter the Rubble, seeking the senior members. If they are intelligent, and have managed to get into the Company Treasury, they will hire as many Humakti or other blooded warriors to escort them as they possibly can.
2) The senior members may communicate with the PCs, but are inextricably trapped in the Big Rubble for a long and indefinite period.
a) They are dead, and are ghosts, or
b) They are embarked on a strange HeroQuest within an underground cavern of crystal, which will take an indefinite number of years to complete. (The Crystal Cavern scenario details have been omitted).
1) The mysterious hostiles eventually make their all-out attack. They are the old Apprentices of the Grey Company, who fell into evil ways and were dismissed. They desire possession of the Grey House and its contents, as well as the name and reputation of the Grey Company. In their campaign to achieve these goals, they killed an innocent man; they anonymously tipped the Lunars that the PCs are Orlanthi assassins, responsible for the murder. At least one of the old Apprentices is an Initiate of the Black Fang Brotherhood.
2) If the final showdown is not decisive, the old Apprentices remain as a thorn in the side of the PCs. They may proceed in a number of ways against them (details omitted), and will act as a continuing plot device.
1) The contractual obligations listed in Section X are a continuing way to introduce new scenaria to the PCs.
2) Additional history of the Grey Company may also be relevant. The PCs may find that they have friends as well as enemies, based upon the reputation of the Company.
3) The main force which acts to bind the PCs together is greed. The Treasury of the Grey Company is extremely valuable; the Oath of the Company forbids them to loot it (assuming oaths matter to them). The Grey House itself is most desirable, and the reputation of the Grey Company more valuable yet. With the resources of the Grey Company almost any personal character goal would be more easily attained.
4) New characters can be easily introduced into the Company; all they need to do is show up bearing a Grey token. Of course, it's also possible that an enemy (one of the old apprentices, say) might use this method to infiltrate the group. In any case, a competent new apprentice might wonder why his new masters were so comparatively inexperienced.
Many additional elements have been omitted for brevity. These include:
the strange and unfamiliar magic in the Company Treasury,
the secrets of the history of Grey House,
and more. These may eventually be written up and published. On the other hand, GMs are invited to create their own answers.
Given the open nature of "The Grey Company", it is best if the GM plays the role of the Lunar officials and the old apprentices flexibly, as best fits the situation. Adopt the point of view of each party in order to decide what actions to take. Events need not take place in the order listed above; if the PCs are clever, some may never happen at all.
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firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright 1996 by Peter Maranci. Revised: October 20, 2000. v.2.0