Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Visit to the Treasure Vault (Part IV)

Art by Stephan Peregrine

(Yes, I'm dragging this thing out another week.  I have some irons in the fire, but currently the fire is lukewarm – if that makes any sense.)

The object depicted above is Mordin's Mystical Mirror.  According to Flying Buffalo's Treasure Vault, Mordin was a “great and powerful wizard” who wanted “to take over the Sarilian Empire.”  Apparently, Mordin did not accomplish this and, upon his death, “most of his possessions [were left] to various Sorcerers' Guilds.”  The mirror's current owners, Wil Lake and Ike Moss, say they purchased the mirror from a “little known” Sorcerers' Guild.  However, there's nothing to suggest any association between Mordin and the mirror.  Wil (human) and Ike (half-elf) are confidence artists and, in their efforts to sell the mirror, they claim that Mordin created it.  The circumstances of the actual origin of the mirror – and how Wil and Ike acquired it – are not detailed.

Wil and Ike attempt to sell the mirror for ten thousand gold pieces, “but they will settle for 5000.”  They claim that the mirror can be used to view past events.  This is true to a limited extent; the mirror can show “what happened five minutes ago at the mirror's current location.”  Wil and Ike will also provide a (bogus) book of incantations that can be employed to change the difference in time and location of the “target.”  (The rune-like symbols on the frame “are, in fact, meaningless.”)  Anyway, the wording in the book “is complicated enough for a dim-witted buyer to get so confused as to give up and for those of average intelligence to conclude that the mirror's failure to 'change settings' is their fault for misreading the instructions.”  I guess that smarter than average people aren't going to buy the mirror.

The first scenario suggestion for this item is that “Wil and Ike make their pitch to the player characters.”  (yawn)

The second scenario suggestion involves Baron Throkmorton, a noble interested in improving his position via blackmail.  He knows of Mordin's Mystical Mirror “through paid spies.”  The baron prefers to remain anonymous in his dealings; in fact, “He does all of his business through disguised middle-men.”  When he buys the mirror and discovers that it doesn't work, “he hires the player characters to track down Wil and Ike, in the interests of getting his money back.”  If the player characters pester Wil and Ike, the confidence artists “will threaten to announce the baron's intentions unless he leaves them alone.”  It is not explained how Wil and Ike know that the baron is their customer or what his intentions would be.  Ike has 'good' ability with the following types of magic:  combat, clairvoyant, conveyance, and concealment.  Perhaps he was able to use magic to determine such information.  (Incidentally, Wil can “conceal his identity.”  He has a 75% chance to fool a stranger, but only “a 25% chance of fooling anyone who's seen him before.”)  If Wil and Ike are threatened with death, “Ike will calmly announce that he has a written record of the transaction specifying not only the place, the time, and the name of the buyer but also his speculations on what the buyer (Throkmorton) intended to do with the mirror.”  Ike states that the written record...
...will be magically prepared to materialize in the hand of every bellcrier in town the instant either Wil or he dies.  Of course he's bluffing, but Ike is a good bluffer.
Of course, if the point is to recover the money, any threat of death is itself a bluff.  Also, if Wil is killed, the bellcrier notice is essentially Ike's confession of perpetrating a scam.  Also, being a good bluffer is irrelevant if lie detection magic can be brought to bear.  Yet Ike is 'good' with concealment magic; perhaps he can magically thwart lie detection.  Regardless, the basis of the scenario should not be about threats and counter-threats.  I would expect that Wil and Ike have a cagey plan to avoid the consequences of their criminal activities, possibly a plan utilizing magic.  In the first scenario suggestion, Wil and Ike leave town after selling the mirror.  There's no reason why they wouldn't do the same in the second scenario.  The challenge to the player characters should be tracking down the two rogues and/or defeating whatever plan they implement.

Treasure Vault is not without its attempts at humor.  One of the described items is The Staff of the Sigil.  If a magic-using character strikes someone with the staff and speaks that person's true name, the victim goes to “an extra-spacial prison, and is in a state of suspended animation.”  The face of each victim appears carved into the staff.  One of the non-player characters associated with this item is:
     DUKE FORTINBRAS V.  Human.  Ht: 5'6".  Wt: 220 lbs.  Age: 58.  Fighting prowess: poor
     Duke Fortinbras was a very fat, gray-haired little man.  He was the first victim of the staff, and his chubby little face can be seen at the very top.  The expression is one of sheer confusion.  Fortinbras was a selfish, hedonistic, and altogether despotic ruler.  He had a great fear of magic and outlawed all forms of it.  Should he be recognized (from a portrait, for example) and brought back (by striking the staff to the ground and saying “Fortinbras the Fifth”), he will be very indignant and downright antagonistic toward the wizard who rescued him.  He has been rescued from the staff on the three different times since his imprisonment 75 years ago.  Each time he was returned to the limbo-like prison by his rescuer, who couldn't put up with him any longer.
This is an attempt at humor, albeit not a very successful one.

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