I have never been fond of politicians. Their minds get corrupted after just a few years in power. They forget about us the commonfolk…
Every adventurer needs a purpose. Be it a long-term goal or a simple quest, their actions are usually the reflection of their wishes and desires. But not all people are born with an adventurer’s heart. It is a hard life to travel the world, fight monsters, and defend the weak. Most would rather keep a quiet life as farmers, or keep their jobs in the city and maintain a regular income.
But what becomes of the outcasts left in between? Too strong to be farmers, but lacking the wits and soul to be heroes… Unfortunately, this combination of traits is one of the most successful formulae for thugs, criminals, or even worse, empty-headed followers or fanatics.
The Birth of the Order
It all started with a man named Oskar Wilhelm. He is the son of two wealthy politicians and never doubted following his father’s steps. However, Oskar’s ambition was far greater than that of his predecessors. When he realized the power and influence that he could exert from his privileged position, he decided to use his wealth and everything at his reach to build a criminal faction.
Oskar has held his position in the government for more than twenty-five years. If his parents knew anything about their son’s foul activities, they took the secrets to their graves. What is worse, Mr. Wilhelm’s detractors claim that he was involved in his parents’ passing… All to keep the Order of the Ruby Masks a secret.
The Ruby Masks
Despite his criminal profile, Oskar is first and foremost the son of rich people. He likes opulent clothes and luxury items. Thus, he decided to pay a craftsman to make porcelain masks, bathed in a fine ruby-colored solution. The result is beautiful to behold. Every member of the order must wear a mask at all times while on duty.
It was not hard to build the order. Anyone Oskar needed could be persuaded with enough gold. And so, he gathered warriors, bouncers, craftsmen, a couple of scientists, historians, thieves, spies, and even delivery boys. The order is strong. It is more than 20 years old after all.
A Boiling Problem
The good people of Lythen City have had to live with Oskar Wilhem as head of the Chamber of Commerce and Speakers for more than two decades. Even if Oskar thinks otherwise, his brutal felonies do not go unnoticed. The man believes himself untouchable; the city guard is under his payroll. But his growing ambition has made him reckless, and messy. He has many enemies.
The characters are hired by an influential character in Lythen City: a constable from the city guard whose beliefs and integrity cannot be bought. Perhaps an important priest or religious figure. Or another politician, with much to win if Oskar is dealt with and things go his way.
Features of the Hideout
Tier 2 Adventure
Secret Areas. Pulling well-hidden levers causes the walls to shift and reveal narrow passages (Search check).
Disarming Traps. An expert tinkerer can disarm the traps with fine tools and ingenuity (Burglary check).
1. Teleportation Circle
The characters must find a member of the order and obtain information about their hideout. A hidden teleportation circle in the underground sewers leads to area 1.
Three thugs, three bandits, and one priest wearing ruby-red masks guard this chamber. They fight the intruders. However, if things go south, one of the bandits flees to alert their leader, Oskar Wilhelm, in the lower levels.
3. Red Masks Chapel
The Knight’s Effigy (shield guardian) on the easternmost wall features a large ruby mask. The characters interrupt a ceremony when they come. A priest initiates two new people when they enter. The two armored men (veterans) show their loyalty by fighting the intruders until slain. The priest and the magic effigy attempt to contain the intrudes as well, helped by the four ruby specters that emerge from the red vases.
4. Twisted Corridor and Alcoves
The teleporting circle that takes to area 5 only works after the five switches in the alcoves have been activated (see map). There are no traps but a careful or paranoid explorer may want to look for one in each alcove. They are meant to make intruders lose valuable time.
5. Second Level Landing
This small chamber has two wooden shelves with mundane objects on them. A single bandit smokes here when the characters arrive. He tries to alert the others by screaming. Lots of voices can be heard outside.
6. The Order Quarters
The order is way larger than this hideout. Many of them live double lives in the city but this section is reserved for members that need to lay low for a while. Or that simply want to rest in between projects or jobs.
Treasure. If the characters look in the right places (Search check), they find 578 sp, three sets of robes, two simple weapons, and two healing potions.
Vault. The most valuable objects of some of the members of the order are here. There are two enchanted blades and a set of precious cut stones worth 3,000 sp.
7. Vapor of Cleansing
The four alcoves of this chamber contain strange contraptions that produce a green-hued vapor. This special kind of vapor has minor healing properties (see below). The locked chest contents (Burglary check) are meant to lure intruders into stepping in. The many silk robes and pieces of silverware are worth 750 silver pieces.
Trap. Any creature that steps on the marked square falls into the spiked pit in area 12 (Reflexes save).
Vapor. The warm gas heals wounds. A creature standing in the vapor for an hour regains 1/4 of their hit points. Members of the order meditate to regain their strength.
8. Leader Quarters
This is Oskar Wilhem’s bedroom. The bed and furniture of this place are of considerably higher quality than the ones in area 6. There is luxury food and wine at the table and the room features a soft, soothing fragrance of roses and lilies. Looting this place turns up 367 sp worth of goblets, high-quality linens, and silverware. The teleportation circle leads to a secret workshop in area 9.
Secret Loot. Oskar’s savings are here. There are 2,500 sp free for the taking if the characters find this chest.
9. Secret Workshop
This area can only be found if the characters spot the pushable brick that reveals it, or by using the teleportation circle in Oskar’s chamber. There are simple tools and weapons in the east chamber. Beyond the door, a desk and two bookcases hold countless books, tomes, scrolls, and notebooks with Oskar’s notes.
Treasure. Upon closer inspection, the characters may search the workshop’s documents and tomes to find three random arcane spell scrolls (Search check).
This area is blocked by a steel barred door. The door opens with the magic keyword: ‘ruby’. Otherwise, it will only open once the guardians in area 13 are defeated. A successful Burglary check forces its lock as well too.
Treasure. A clever engineer understands what Oskar’s scientists do here (Fabricate check). They develop a large-scale duplicate of the vapor contraptions in area 7 to spread a poisonous gas on the entire city.
11. Treasure for the Foolish
A barred door blocks this area off but a locksmith can bypass it using the right tools (Burglary check). The ruby-encrusted golden goblet would be worth thousands of silver pieces. But the shiny treasure is just a clever illusion (Will save). Touching it also reveals its nature. Creatures that step on the marked square (see map) fall into the pool of goo in area 17 (Reflexes save).
12. Spiked Pit and Cell
Bones are scattered all around. Any victim of the trap in area 7 falls and gets impaled in the spikes. Those impaled lose 1/2 their hit points (Reflexes save).
Automated Crossbow. A bolt is shot each time a person steps on the marked squares (see map). The bolts are embedded with a pungent poison (Fortitude save).
13. Artificial Guardians
Two ghasts and one mummy come out of their enclosures to fight intruders. The undead were created to defend the place. They ignore any member of the order.
Three wights and two skeletons attempt to stop the intruders’ advances and fight until slain. They chase the characters up to area 15 if they somehow flee.
15. Plinths of the Test Subjects
Oskar and his necromancers are here to defend area 18 from being pillaged by the intruders. Oskar is no fighter. But four thugs, two cult fanatics, one mage, and six skeletons do their best to defend the foul politician. If things go south, Oskar attempts to sneak away from the battle and escape using the teleportation circles. Unless the characters see him, he succeeds (Search check). Oskar carries a keychain for all locked doors in the hideout.
16. The Ruby Masks
This corridor features stone pedestals with a single ruby mask on each of them. These are supposed to be used by new members of the order. The barred door to enter this area and the one to access area 17 can be forced open (Burglary check).
17. Pool of Viscous Goo
Any creature that falls into the pool gets stuck in the goo. They must succeed on a Fortitude save to climb out of it. Failing to do so causes the goo to suck the victim downward. Creatures covered by the goo cannot breathe.
The hoard here belongs to the people of Lythen. Stolen goods, valuable objects, relics, deeds to several homes or city buildings, etc. This is the kind of treasure that could turn a person into a folk hero or a vile criminal.
Regardless of who hired them, the characters become honor guests and friends of Lythen City for life if they bring Oskar to justice and return what he stole. However, almost half the city worked for him… Many people won’t be happy about these changes. How the characters face their newfound enemies is an adventure for another day.