The Pitiful Sword

The Pitiful Sword

What this is

An adventure for any rules-light, possibly narrative old-school roleplaying game. I tried to come up with a sure one-shot suited for online play. It can be worked into something longer, more elaborate, jumping off the back stories of the NPC and the dungeon. The tone is a little whacky, but also whimsical. Not a lot of fighting. This is about interaction and some tough choices.

The players travel to a dungeon, find it’s already been looted to the last copper coin, and the only people alive in the nearby village are a teenage ghost, a fox that has been humanized by a missfired spell and a cottage-core goblin that’s quite ok with how things are.

A far superior party then arrives and, for lack of treasure in the dungeon, sets their minds on taking the last three inhabitants of the village (and possibly the PC) captive, to at least make some profit of a fucked-up situation.

But of course there is one last treasure left in the dungeon, The Pitiful Sword, and it’s going to hand its power to whoever around is most worthy of pity. The players will make that decision in the end.

What dungeon is this exactly?

It is the burial mound of the evil wizard Zort. He used to rule over the Lands in the North down to the Forest of the Man-Spiders with an iron fist at the time when the Kingdoms of Men where young, until one his experiments with a rejuvination elexir went wrong. The servants he created, the winged snakes, built the mound for him and put him there with all his treasure. Then they scattered, not quite knowing what to do without him. Their descendants founded the City of the Emerald Tower in the West,  where today they lead perfectly normal lives.

The Beginning

Ask every player to write down on a piece of paper

a) what they hope to find in the dungeon
b) what the starkes are if they can’t get it.

Ask the players to make these stakes really high. If they can’t get their thing from the dungeon, someone is going to die, someone’s soul is lost, a kingdom is going to fall, they will never love again, that kind of thing. They should be ready to kill for it or give their own lives.

Ask the players to keep this a secret from the others. Collect the pieces of paper for later.

The Village of Trunk close to the dungeon

A couple of houses grouped around a big gnarly oak tree in the middle. Clearly, there has been some kind of battle here. There is no one around, the houses are empty, and there is a circle of scorched earth around the village oak. The earth has been trampled by men and horses. There is all kinds of assorted junk here, but no treasure.

The tree itself has also been badly burned. Flocks of ashes drift through the evening air. In the hill behind the village, the gates to the tomb can be spotted. They are wide open. One has been torn from the hinges.

The Burial Mound of the Great Wizard Zort

Rubble, pieces of wood and cloth, puddles, mould. There are remnants of traps (splitered spears in a hole in the ground, spikes jutting from a lock in a door etc). The are corpses and skeletons, human and otherwise. They too have been looted.

The wizard’s sarcophagus has been shattered with not a trace of the body to be found.

Tell the players straight that this is not a trick and that the place has indeed been looted several times.

It is not impossible though (just difficult) to stumble upon The Pitiful Sword at the first visit (see below.)

The Inhabitants of the Village

Trixi, the Teenage Ghost

A greenish, floating figure of a girl, perhaps 15 or 16 years old. She has no legs anymore and her ghostly entrails are dangling from where they used to be. When she gets nervous, she fiddles with them. Trixi, in life the daughter of the village smith, is brattish, overly sensitive, smart, a pain in the ass and thoroughly loveable. She likes good food and furry animals. Everyone she knows is dead.

She was a civillian casualty in the explosive fight between two dwarven adventurers‘ parties. The fates brought her back as a ghost, because her last words (directed to her friend Amelia) were: „I swear I’ll kill myself and haunt you as a ghost if you don’t leave my one true love Tom! He’s mine!“

Trixi was, in fact, in love with Amelia, but couldn’t very well say that, so that’s what she came up with to have the girl for herself. She can not leave the town, since she’s bound to the bones of her true love, Amelia.

Trixi knows about the secret room in the dungeon with the Pitiful Blade, since she can pass through walls. Fuck her if she’d tell anyone, though.

More than anything, she wants to leave, see the world and be on awesome adventures with beautiful amazons in tight leather armor who somehow don’t mind a dead girlfriend…ok, she never said that, right?

Sputtersnout, the not-a-fox-anymore

When a wizard’s spell in the dungeon backfired and contaminated the near-by fox’s den,  Sputtersnout gained the ability to speak and think like a human. He absolutely hates it. Everything is now very complicated, thank you very much, there are all these thoughts in his head, a tree is not just a tree anymore but „a white-scorch’d monument of time“, and what kind of a name is „Sputtersnout“ anyway?

He’s an agitated little fellow and, unfortunately, destined to become a poet. His metaphors are kind of off and he needs practice, but there is talent, even though he will get on everybody’s nerves quickly. If you have to present some of his improvised works to the players, just think of your high-school diary and the worst beat poetry you ever heard.

Sputtersnout wants to be a fox again. Or a real poet. Or both. It’s all so complicated, a tangle, nay, a burning bramble of brooding bossibilities.
He knows about the sword, but does not care much, and is probably going to casually mention it and the small tunnel he dug to get into the chamber.

Lobleap, the Goblin

A small, green felllow with four hairs combed neatly over his bald head.

Lobleap has made one of the deserted houses his home. He went for the „cozy cottage“ look. Considering the fact that he had to make do with what a dozen groups of murder hobo adventurers left, the result is quite remarkable. He could make a fortune as an interior designer for one of the sea princes in the south. His house is easily spotted by the lovely farmer’s garden in front and the promising column of smoke from the chimney.

Lobleap is very content with his life and glad to not be a dungeon goblin anymore. Please go away. No, we don’t buy anything.

Unless you have a book. He loves books and can’t grow his collection here. Or something to smoke. He grows pipe herb and is quite the conaisseur.

Lobleap knows about the sword from one of his books of local legends. Since he used to work in the dungeon, he also knows about the cloud if tears (see below).

If push comes to shove, he’s gonna go with whomever leaves him alone quicker.

The Other Party

They arrive about an hour after the PC.

Sir William Porphyroi
He has a long, shiny mustache and great hair. Not a ring in his chainmail shirt is broken. No matter how long your sword is, his is always a half an inch longer. To top it all off, he really is one hell of a fighter.

Sir William is looking for the Heart of the Wizard. He needs it as a magical offering to the Duke of Hell, Sarastros. Only his bond with Sarastros keeps him alive, for he is now 300 years old. If he dies, the city of Tuuva will no longer have a paladin and saviour.

Kalystra, the Deadwalker
A stooped figure in a black, hooded cape. A talon-like hand grips their staff whose many mouths whispers ominous warnings. Kalystra hides their face behind a mask made of bone. A worm now and then crawls from one of the three eye openings in the mask. Kalystra could turn you into a frog with a single word. But they will rather entomb you in an extradimensional prison and slowly let you suffocate. It’s gonna take them two words, but it’s so much more fun.

Kalystra is looking for the Heart of the Wizard. They need it as a wedding gift for the Duke of Hell, Sarastros. They have removed themselves so far from humanity that only the Duke can love them and give them the kind of tender attention they crave.
They petend to love and support Sir William. He finds them disgusting and thinks he’s very clever for using them. Well, he’s not a bad roll in the hay for the time being.

The Chill Wind

You can’t see him. He’s a rustle in the trees and a hot breath down your neck. Then it’s too late. He’s the one who’s behind the term „assassin“ („a‘ sar HeSino“ means „icy wind“ in the elven language), he’s a master burglar and they say he once he stole his shadow from himself and hid it in a place not even he can break into.

He is looking for the Heart of the Wizard in order to finally make his shadow come alive. Only then will he truly be able to be in two places at once and ascend to godhood, when he replaces the God of Stealth, Akim, in the Heavens. In order for the ritual to work, though, the heart needs to be broken. If he gets a hold of it, he will hand it to Sarastros, the Duke of Hell, who will put it in his chest, finally able to love the deadwalker. Then he will show the Duke how his beloved betrayed him with a mortal knight and take the broken heart for himself, before the Duke knows what happened.

The Henchmen

There are eight henchmen armed with spears. They follow the other party’s orders without questions and fight to the death. They are humans and not some kind of constructs, which makes their dedication even scarier.

One of them is Hiltrud. She is a middle-aged woman with grey hair and a spear with a stone tip. She is very much afraid of dying. She is in this for the money and wants to retire. Being a sellsword seemed like a goid idea when she was young — you get to see the world, meet interesting people, make some gold — but she just  can’t do it anymore. One last trip to the dungeon for her.

Hiltrud knows a folk song about „the tears that flying serpents cried/when their old hexin‘ master died/and all these tears flew to the sky/and made a cloud as time goes by//Do you, do you, do you feel the rain?/Here it comes to touch your skin/if you can’t cry no tears yourself/if you have put your heart upon a shelf/let these old tears touch you and open up your skin/the gift of pity lies within.“

Everyone is very suprised when they realize that there’s nothing there and that they need not have teamed up in the first place. The other party quickly decides to capture everyone around to sell them into slavery to satisfy their henchmen or to use the PC/the NPC in the village for their sinister ends. One or more of the other party might of course be in for a bargain, especially if the PC have caught wind of the sword in the dungeon.

The Pitiful Blade

The weapon is hidden in a small secret chamber that no pillager has managed to find yet. The door glows and opens as soon as it is touched by the tears the winged snakes once cried at the grave of their master, the wizard. The tears have long since evaporated into a small cloud that hovers under the dark ceiling of the tomb. It is semi-sentient and can be talked down by someone who is rather good with words or by someone who knows pain or how to make someone in pain feel better. It can also just be caught or made to rain in a clever use of physics.

Hints about this can be derived from Hiltrud’s song, Lobleap’s books or any NPC you see fit — they all could have seen, read or dreamed something that helps.

Behind the door is a rather average sword with a gnarled black stone or knob at the hilt. This is the wizard’s heart, put there by the snake people. They loved their master, but they also knew how evil he was and what his heart could do in the wrong hands.

The sword alone can chose its bearer. It will chose whoever is most worthy of pity in the vicinity.

The players will now decide on behalf of the sword. You, as the GM, read the following positions depending on the situation in your game:

„I have chosen a life of adventure, but now I am afraid that soon I will die and my life has slipped through my hands.“ (Hiltrud)

„I had goodhod within my grasp, but now the old gods will reign, and the world will suffer for it.“ (The Chill Wind)

„I have sacrificed my humanity to find love, only to find that my true love cannot love.“ (Kalystra)

„Thousands of souls depend on me alone, and now I fear I have failed them, for I will no longer be strong enough.“ (Sir William)

„I have the gift of art, but a part of me I rejects it, and if I lose that part I can no longer create art.“ (Stuttersnout)

„I can make the world beautiful, but I am afraid of the world.“ (Lobleap)

„I never showed my true self and now I am forever bound to a shape that is a lie.“ (Trixi)

Add similar positions for the players based on their secret motivations handed in at the start. If the players have got to know the NPC and their fellows really well, they might guess who’s who and decide accordingly. That is ok. They may be suprised, which is also ok.
If they find themselves unable to decide, the sword will burst into a thousand pieces, destroying the heart. Only a master smith of the winged snakes could maybe make it whole again.

The bearer of the Pitiful Sword will henceforth be unhindered by doubts and fears and be able to follow their calling. No god, demon or force of nature can keep them. They will also be invincible and turn into a giant version of themselves in the course of d6 days.

Round the adventure of with a denoument and ask around the table what everybody’s lives will look like a month from now.

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