Included are five short scenarios for ARIUS: the Ashen Age. They contain bones for a scenario; it is up to you to add the meat. Gangland is a story of crime and violence, High Treason intrigue during wartime, Lost Bride an action-packed adventure, Quarantine a survival struggle during a plague and Shipwrecked a horror scenario taking place deep in the Gloom.
Crime, Intrigue, Violence
This scenario takes place in poorer parts of a major city. Any major city with poverty and corruption will do. Change names accordingly.
The people are terrorized by increasingly aggressive gangs. They extort protection money, engage in violence and other crimes. Local authorities are corrupt or otherwise powerless. People petition the Shepherds to help and finally the characters do so due to a personal connection. (What is this connection? Family ties? Old friendship?)
The local street gangs are lead by Francis Half-Hand, a thug risen in power through sheer viciousness. He is a goon whose answer to everything is violence. The gangs answer to ”Bishop”, a former priest turned crime lord. He is a slick, smooth manipulator who excels in hypocrisy and corruption. Local magistrate Reynold has been scared into submission. A knife left stuck in a pillow in his bedroom was enough to make him ignore organized crime.
Hortalez family are friends or relatives of the player characters. Head of the family, Hugo, owns a bakery. Recently the extortion by Francis Half-Hand has reached a whole new level. The family is simply unable to pay, no matter what. Enraged by this, Francis and his cronies beat up Hugo. In the process, they kidnapped his youngest daughter Rosalyn. Francis threatens to sell her to a brothel for Hugo's ”debts” unless they pay up soon. Desperate and powerless, Hugo turns to the player characters for help.
The characters have three days before Francis sells the girl. Finding the main hideout of the gang is the first challenge. Rank and file gangers running extortion and petty crime are the most obvious source. Sweet talking, bribery or intimidation will eventually produce the information, though there might be a few brawls involved. Francis and his worst cronies are holed up in an abandoned church. They have turned it into a makeshift fort and drug den. Prisoners are held up in the bell tower.
Beseeching magistrate Reynold for help will have little effect. Smooth talking will convince him to provide information or weapons. A truly epic speech might make him support the characters officially, but that is unlikely. Seeking support elsewhere will have similar result. Locals are too scared to act. Great leadership might inspire them to take up arms, but it is most likely the characters must face the gangers on their own. At most, some Hortalez boys might accompany them, but they have little skill in fighting.
The old church has three dozen gang members inside. A dozen or so are too drugged or intoxicated to fight. Others will have varying Penalties. Francis keeps a core of half a dozen worst thugs at hand as bodyguards. There are guards in the perimeter, but they are easily distracted. The gangs see themselves as local rulers; they don't expect any trouble in their home base.
The characters can infiltrate the old church, go in guns blazing or do a combination of both. Setting the building on fire, for example, will cause a panic. The prisoners are tied up, so they'll simply roast alive unless they are liberated. Francis and his cohort will react with a deadly force. Most of the gang members flee or surrender if the fight turns against them. They are bullies and as such, cowards. The tough core are different; they are too drugged up for fear. If the characters sneak in and out with the girl, Francis will attack the bakery later. If he is captured or assassinated silently, the gangs are driven in chaos and internal struggle for leadership.
The Bishop only enters the stage in the aftermath. He contacts the characters and apologizes for the brutality of Francis. The Bishop is impressed with the efficiency and ruthlessness the characters have shown; he offers them jobs from his organization. Will they embark on a crusade against all organized crime? Will they accept the offer and join it? Will they insult the Bishop and start a personal feud?
Intrigue, Military, War
The scenario takes place on Aresia during the recent war. The characters are Aresian Shepherds serving in the prison fort Silverclaw. The prison holds high-ranking enemies held for ransom. Now a stealthy enemy force is approaching and there are traitors working inside the castle. They will betray the fort to the enemy unless the characters foil their plot.
Baron-Colonel Diego Sorrales is the castellan of Silverclaw. He is a cynical and corrupt nobleman who is only interested in money. Baron Diego has sold the fortress to the enemy. He is only loyal to himself. Sir Ramon, the Captain of Artillery, is his accomplice. Unlike the baron, Sir Ramon is a fanatic. He is an unpleasant sadist and a religious nut willing to die for his cause - he is true follower of the Golden Lord.
There are three other officers of note in the castle. Sir Eusebio is the Captain of Horse. He is a grizzled, cynical veteran who drinks far too much. Sir Roberto is the senior Captain of Foot. He is nervous and sneaking around after the dark. The reason isn't very sinister – he is having an illegitimate affair with the cook. Sir Alfonso is the junior Captain of Foot. He is a naive youth hungering for the glory of battle.
Scenario starts with an execution. Sergeant Fernando, friend of the characters, is hanged for murder. Jorge, the resident Techdabbler, was stabbed to death. Fernando was convicted for the crime by an officer tribunal. The characters protested; he was with them during the time of murder. They were overturned as the case is secular and not religious crime. Nobody else seems to care.
Baron Diego murdered Jorge to cover up the approaching enemy. There is a Farspeaker in the fort and the Techdabbler had intercepted suspicious communications. Sir Ramon framed Fernando, whose religious views he didn't like. It should be clear Fernando was innocent and became the victim of a conspiracy.
Investigating the officers reveals details about their personalities. Sir Roberto's sneaking is a red herring – or grounds for blackmail or moral judgment. Ransacking Sir Ramon's quarters provides religious rantings. They hint about the true nature of his beliefs. Investigating Baron Diego's quarters reveals his corrupt nature. There are several stashes of money and coded letters. He keeps in touch with the enemy with the letters, but their code is very hard to break.
As the days pass, cavalry patrols return with rumors about enemy sightings. The castellan dismisses them as deserters and raiders. Following him might yield a meeting where coded letters are exchanged with an enemy courier. As the attack draws closer, Sir Ramon sabotages the fort artillery. If the conspirators became aware of the character's investigations, they'll react. As officers, they'll use their authority to make things difficult. In addition, Baron Diego has bribed several soldiers to do his bidding. They'll spy on the characters, follow them and even rough them up. They are not enemy agents, just greedy thugs; they draw the line in killing.
Stopping the traitors is hard. Relieving the castellan from duty legally requires a tribunal of officers. Convincing them to even hold a hearing is hard. They require indisputable evidence to convict Baron Diego. The characters could just assassinate the traitors, but if they are caught, they'll be tried for murder. If Baron Diego thinks the game is lost, he'll try to flee with as much money as he can. Sir Ramon is of different breed: he's willing to die for the cause. If pressed, he runs to the armory and blows up the gunpowder while inside.
Regardless of what happens, the enemy arrive after a few days. They lay siege to the castle. If the traitors are still active, they'll sabotage the defenses. Baron Diego opens a sally port for the enemy during the night, letting them inside. Meanwhile Sir Ramon arms and releases the prisoners.
If the traitors have been caught, there is still a siege to cope with...
Adventure, Action, Chase
Scenario takes place on Ameracho, but can be converted to most other realms. Marriage between two local families takes an interesting turn as the bride is kidnapped. The characters are sent on a chase after the lost bride. The culprit throws hired thugs at them and finally tries to escape with Techmancery. In the end, it turns out the bandit is actually the rightful heir of a withered family. Will the characters take up his cause or take the bride back?
Sir Lorenzo is a rich upstart engaged to Lisbeth, the daughter of Baronet Hiram. Both families are major landholders, who will together dominate the local economy and politics. Sir Lorenzo is an arrogant, yet cunning braggart. Baronet Hiram is an ambitious war veteran with an eye for building a dynasty. Lisbeth is a naïve young girl with sheltered upbringing.
Sir Gawain is the “bandit”, a young nobleman who has grown up among outlaws. His family were killed by thugs working for Sir Lorenzo when he was a child. The lands were usurped by him. He is aided by Magnificent Robert, a trickster and a Techdabbler, who is his father figure. They wish to force Sir Lorenzo out, so Sir Gawain can regain his birthright.
Magnificent country wedding is about to take place in Sir Lorenzo’s manor when gunshots are suddenly heard. There is general confusion, before dire news arrive: the bride has been kidnapped. The characters are guests of honor, who are best able to pursuit (they are not drunk and have their adventuring kit on them). Sir Lorenzo and Baronet Hiram will organize a larger party to follow them, but now, speed is of an essence. A horseback chase across the countryside follows. If pursuers dally, they must first track their prey and come up with tactical maneuvers to get close enough.
Sir Gawain is fleeing the estate with half a dozen men. They are bandits equipped with old weapons and armor, but skilled in ways of the wild. All are mounted. Eventually, they become aware of the pursuit. Gawain assumes the characters are Lorenzo’s thugs. He will leave his companions to ambush or distract them and carry on with Lisbeth. The result is likely a battle or a three-sided chase, with characters chasing Gawain and in turn chased by the bandits.
Whatever the result of the delay, Gawain will likely have a large lead to the pursuers. They follow him to a forgotten ruin. Robert has stashed a Clockwork Horse he built from scrap there. Gawain switches to the infernal machine and rides off with the girl. A waiting bandit takes his tired horse and heads to a different direction as a distraction. When the characters reach the ruin, they must decide whether to follow the horse or the strange machine.
Tracking the Clockwork Horse leads the characters to Gawain’s camp. It will likely take at least a full day and Gawain’s had time to rest. Meanwhile Sir Lorenzo has put together two dozen thugs and is riding hard after the characters. If they choose to wait for reinforcements, the group will reach them and they can continue together. Otherwise the reinforcements will be a few hours behind them. Gawain has ten trusted men in his encampment, an abandoned farmstead. Robert has his laboratory and various tricks up his sleeve there. Sentries watch the surroundings, but there are plenty of undergrowth to use as cover.
When characters reach the encampment, Gawain wishes to meet them. He will present his demands and old documents proving his claim. If the characters sneak in, the situation might just lead into a fight. Gawain will attempt to parlay regardless, but won’t push it. He will keep Lisbeth safe and alive if possible. If Gawain is killed and the situation resolved, Lisbeth will tell the characters about his claims. As a twist, one of the characters might be a distant relative or a childhood friend of his.
If the characters didn’t wait for reinforcements, Sir Lorenzo’s group arrives in a few hours. They’ll go in guns blazing. They want Gawain and all his followers dead. If Lisbeth talks about the claims, Lorenzo is willing to murder her. He tries to bribe the characters silent, if they witness wrongdoings. If that fails, he is willing to dispose of them. If the characters talk with Gawain, he might convince them to change sides. In that case, they’ll be involved in a chase or battle against Sir Lorenzo and his men.
In the end, the characters will return to Baronet Hiram with Sir Lorenzo or Sir Gawain. Fate of the lands held by Sir Lorenzo is decided by their actions. In either case, they’ve made a powerful ally in the region.
Survival, Religion, Urban
A terrible plague breaks out in a city the characters are in. Local authorities react with unexpected swiftness. The city gates are closed and the area quarantined. Enclosure is enforced by soldiers with order to shoot anyone attempting to leave. Inside the city gates, social order soon breaks down. An apocalyptic sect rises to power while people are dying. How long will they stay true to their duties and at which point they'll only try to survive? Default setting is Ameracho, but the scenario can take place anywhere.
Frederico is one of the many urban priests, about to rise to prominence. His apocalyptic sermons will bolt him as leader of a spontaneous doomsday cult. Sudden rise to power causes further megalomania and outright violent insanity. Count Joakim is the ruler of the city. He is a fancy dandy ill-suited for leading in a crisis. His response to the plague is to hold parties.
Lady Aliana is a local alchemist and doctor, the most learned person in the area. Her almost-heretical wisdom is priceless against the plague, but marks her for attention from the cult. Captain Ernesto leads the count’s troops; he is a dutiful, loyal veteran who doesn’t question orders. The richest man in the city is Sir Damien, who owns most of the local manufactories. He is a cold, calculating man who will do anything to survive and to keep his family safe.
This scenario assumes the character will take a proactive stand; they’ll join one of the factions and try to do something about fate of the city. Alternatively, they will simply be watching the events unfold to their conclusion while trying to hide. If the characters have family or other connections, they’ll have more interest to intervene.
Soon after the quarantine begins, things start rolling into motion. People are uncertain and scared; the disease is spreading and takings it toll. Frederico starts sermons featuring fire and brimstone in public places. He claims the plague is punishment from Arius – it is cause by the people allowing the impure live among them. He leads a spontaneous mob to kill Blighted and prostitutes. When the local clergy condemn Frederico, his mob storms the cathedral, kills several priests and crown him as the religious leader of the city.
Count Joakim is slow to respond to the mob rule. When he sends in the troops, Frederico’s cult has already grown too large. Half of the militia have switched sides and the professional soldiers are outnumbered. Attempt to arrest the preacher results in a disaster. Captain Ernesto manages to disengage and retreats back to the palace with rest of the troops. The cult lay the palace under siege, as Frederico preaches how Joakim’s decadence has brought divine scourge on the city.
Meanwhile Lady Aliana works hard to help those affected, at great personal risk. Some of his alchemical experiments work for those worst struck. News of his success spread. Sir Damien seeks his help to protect his family against the disease, providing ample resources. Unfortunately, the doomsday cult judges the alchemy to be sorcery. As the disease is divine punishment, trying to find a cure is heresy. The fanatics set their eyes on Lady Aliana, while the sick keep dying.
Characters might take part in all the described events on either side, perhaps even changing them. In the background, many smaller tragedies and events take place. There is looting, heroism, sacrifices and many, many deaths. Eventually, Frederico moves against Lady Aliana. If things seem helpless, Sir Damien will turn her over to the fanatics to save his own hide. Should the characters be there to help, he will reconsider his position.
If the characters fight against the cult, they'll be stuck in a guerrilla war in a dying city. Rallying the sick citizenry against the fanatics is almost impossible. Their best bet would be relieving siege of the palace while helping Lady Aliana to save as many people as she can. If Frederico dies, the cult might lose its main support; especially if he dies of the plague...
Should Frederico be left unchecked, he will lead the city into a fiery death. Eventually, there shall be fire and blood. In a city struck by plague, there is not enough manpower left to check the fires and most of the whole city will burn. Those who flee over the walls are shot by the soldiers enforcing the quarantine. Rest will be left to look after themselves in the smoldering ruins until an Ordo Hospetaler team finally arrives, weeks later.
Gloom, Horror, Techmancery
Dependable Gentleman is an old Gloomship, a free trader operating outside established routes. The character are onboard as passengers or as crew (if they are undercover). While deep in the Gloom, engines of the ship start to fail and the reactor threatens to go critical. All seems lost. Luckily, the ship happens upon an uncharted Freeport. Dependable Gentleman docks to begin the necessary repairs. Unfortunately Sunport is ruled by a cult that have no intention letting anyone leave... and they have an ancient ally.
Captain Andreas is the commander and owner of the Dependable Gentleman. He is a wily trader who loves his ship and the Gloom. Freedom to go where he wills is his most important motivation. His second in command is Red Gideon. Gideon is a former pirate with a clockwork eye and a very bad attitude. Crew of the ship are skilled, if indisciplined lot, reflecting their commanders.
Elder Abraham is the nominal leader of Sunport. He is a Blighted, lecherous old man with a harem of too young girls. Real power is held by Rebeccah, one of the concubines. She is unofficial priestess of the local cult. Rebeccah is charming and manipulative. Her brother Joakim is the resident Techdabbler. He keeps the ancient infrastructure functional. Joakim is naive and very curious about the outside world.
Sunport is unmarked on maps for a reason. It used to be a prison. As time passed - and the world died - it was simply forgotten. The inmates and guards alike were left on their own. They survived against all the odds. Ancient defenses disabled the few stray ships that arrived since. Slowly, imprisonment turned into a religion. Integrating new arrivals into Sunport is their divine mandate. Only one of the ancient guardians remains – a Techstalker (see golems) the locals call Gloomangel. They worship it as a godly creature and guardian.
When the Dependable Gentleman arrives, the locals welcome the ship with open arms. Elder Abraham promises support and spare parts from the Sunport storages. Locals arrange feasts and accommodation for those willing. Rebeccah sends girls to seduce the crew and targets the captain and/or one of the characters herself. She's happy to play an innocent victim of a terrible old man. Abraham is expendable if it makes the outsiders more willing to stay.
As days pass, things take a sinister turn. Attention from the locals becomes creepier. They start bringing up empty housing and eligible women in Sunport. People mention often the Gloomangel, a supernatural being protecting them from harm. There are strange sightings and sounds, as the golem scouts the newcomers. Repairs proceed very slowly. Parts delivered to the ship all seem to break at the critical moment. Red Gideon suspects sabotage. He starts to investigate and disappears without a trace.
Gideon followed the supplies to the source. He found a graveyard of Gloomships stashed outside Sunport, floating in the Gloom. They are all the previous ships that came by, but never left. Cultists shadowed his every move. Once Gideon found the ships, he was murdered and the corpse hidden. Captain Andreas asks the characters to find him. Snooping around Sunport reveals about its original nature through architecture and various ruined security mechanisms. Smooth talking reveals how Rebeccah is the real ruler and how the cult wants to keep the outsiders in Sunport. Eventually they'll run across Joakim. He promises to help repair the ship if the characters take him with them. He dismisses the Gloomangel as superstition. If the characters manage to find the Gloomship graveyard, they'll be assaulted by cultists or scared off by the Techstalker.
The cult will do anything they can to sabotage the repairs. Rebeccah wants the outsiders to stay in Sunport; she will avoid casualties if possible. In the most extreme case, the Dependable Gentleman will be surrounded by an armed mob until the crew agree to scuttle the ship. Killing Rebeccah will disorganize the locals, but completely alienate Joakim. The Gloomangel is a wild card – it is not controlled by the cult, but by ancient instructions.
If the characters find out enough about the Gloomangel, they might guess it is a creature of Techmancery. In that case, they could try to redoctrinate it with Golemcraft (Joakim might help) or even try to reason with it. If the Gloomangel can be changed, then the cult as a whole could be convinced that the divine mandate has changed. In that case, the characters might actually lead mass exodus for the people of Sunport, as they head to the wide world.
Should the crew repair the ship even against all the opposition, they must still deal with the Gloomangel. It will sneak aboard the ship and hamper the efforts through sabotage and assassination. If necessary, it will terrorize everyone inside the ship till they don't dare to stay inside anymore. The Gloomangel is a stalker and an assassin; it won't fight fairly.
If the characters leave with Joakim or he dies, Sunport is doomed. Joakim was the last talented Techdabbler and didn't yet have an apprentice. Without him critical infrastructure fails within a couple of years and eventually Sunport is naught but a giant tomb floating in the Gloom.