Today’s adventure for April is taken from the old Dresden Files RPG. Well I say old, even though the 3rd book for the RPG just got released within the last year. But since most of the books came out before Fate Core was created, it will always be the old reliable system to me.
Even though I have no plans to run another Dresden Files adventure any time soon, I still have a lot of them planned out that I never got to use. This one is an intro adventure for players a bit unfamiliar with the Dresden world. You can use it to introduce a new creature into an existing campaign, or pull the plot towards a villain you are hoping to use as a primary antagonist. But more on that later.
This adventure is divided into three scenes: the crime, the chase, and the confrontation. It assumes that the group would be interested in investigating the mysterious murders and stopping the thing behind it. If the group is more reactionary, feel free to have it attack in a public place in front of them or even against them and then flee, replacing scene 1 with a couple rounds of combat before moving to scene 2.
Scene 1: The Crime
The group discovers the victim of a murder in whatever method best suits the group’s style: stumbling across the scene at random, asked by the victim’s family or a close mutual friend to help, reading the posting on the paranet, or having a local cop in the know tip them off.
The victim is a young man dressed in a nice business suit, as if he were going to an interview. His body is in a dumpster, and his heart has been ripped out. An Average (1) Contacts check will advise that this is the third victim in the group’s town to die like this. All of them have been left in dumpsters.
Keep the skill checks in this scene to low difficulty: Fair to Good (2-3) at the most. If the group fails checks, do not dead end the investigation. Just add a complication (such as taking more time to obtain the knowledge). Investigation (or Scholarship for someone with a medical profession) will reveal that the heart was pulled out rather than exploding.
Survival will reveal footprints or bloody handprints appropriate for the type of monster you want to be the culprit for this crime. Lore will reveal any sort of magical traces (if it was perhaps a summoned demon or a person blessed with the warlock’s magic). Ectoplasm would fade away, so a fairy monster might leave burn marks on an iron can or something similar. Social skills can get information out of whomever found the body or knows the boy knows that he recently fell out of faith.
Whether by spell scrying or social media, the group can piece together that the victims are part of a group of 5 friends that recently left a local church together over “religious differences.” One of the two remaining people still lives in town, but the other moved away. Hopefully this trail encourages the group to rush to the aid of the soon-to-be fourth victim.
Scene 2: The Chase
When the group arrives at the fourth victim’s home (possibly an NPC that the group knows), they either arrive right when the monster is attacking or a few moments too late, depending on how long the investigation took and the tone of the campaign you are running. Once the monster sees the group, it will flee.
This is an extended contest: a short series of rolls that add up to a final result. Specifically this is a Cat and Mouse contest (page 195 of Your Story). The group gets 3 rounds to catch the creature that is fleeing from them. The creature rolls Athletics of Superb (+5) as it is the mouse (lead). The warlock (encountered at scene 3) also rolls and adds their total to the creature’s total.
Players, giving chase, subtract their rolls from the creature’s total. If the total drops in the negatives, it means that the player characters are gaining on the creature and will overtake it if it is negative after the end of the third round. The creature’s escape gets more assured after a round ends with its lead number in the positives, and it gets away if the lead number is positive after the end of the third round.
Keep the skill checks appropriate for a chase scene. Athletics is great for jumping and grabbing at a creature that flies or jumps up side buildings. Endurance works well for someone who just wants to all-out sprint and keep up on foot. Drive is obviously useful for chasing with a vehicle (though if the character driving does not own one nearby, a good Burglary check will be needed to secure one). Intimidate to scare it. Deceit to feint. Guns to force it to turn down an ally. Stealth to make it think it lost you. Really a lot of skills could make sense, but if everyone is standing around doing nothing but Rapport or making Lore checks, then the creature will get away.
The creature returns to the warlock that summoned it, the 5th member of the group that decided to use his friends as a means to gain power. Whomever taught him magic and set him up with the monster as his ally is likely a more pressing villain in your overall campaign. The players will get to that later. Right now it they have to stop this mad warlock.
Give the warlock a flat skill rating based on the number of player characters to help scale the encounter. The creature, depending on what you had planned for it (summoned demon works great if you don’t have a preference) should have attack stats of Great (+2) and defense stats of Average (+1). It will hit hard, but it is easily dismissed/killed.
Players can vie for a social conflict if they want, but considering the murderous intentions of the warlock it is likely that he will not want the group to live. If they failed the demon chase, he will show up to attack them with a surprise round to eliminate the meddling troublemakers.
Cliché is a nice comfort place to go to when you are dealing with the unknowns.
Changing the Monster
The easiest pairing here is a warlock and a demon summoned to do his bidding. However, there are all sorts of creatures in the Dresdenverse that you can introduce this way. The warlock could have struck a deal with a fairy, found a way to control a poltergeist, created a construct with magic, gained some influence over a feral red court vampire (or any other breed of vampire, really), or just messed up a vanilla mortal with his magic.
Leave clues in scene 1 that would match well with the monster. If it drinks blood, have there be very little at the crime scene. If it looks human, have it leave human hand prints and shoe prints around the dumpster. If it has fur, let it leave some behind for the group to find.
This is a short one-shot adventure, so the goal is not to stump the group with the mystery of the creature. Quite the opposite, in fact. You WANT the group to guess the monster before they confront it and feel proud for doing so. This will have them get more invested in examining the details of your world and thus get more invested in the campaign.
For a Dresden Files RPG game, everything is connected. Just like the novels. You want something in this story leading to the past and the future. Having an NPC that the group knows makes for a good link to the past, and having the warlock that works for a future villain is a great foreshadow of things to come.
As always, if you have any questions or stories to share, feel free to do so! We still have more adventures coming to you this month. Hopefully something strikes you as fun to try!