Monday, August 26, 2013

Dangerous Encounter: The Oracle

While travelling a well-used Bygone road, the PCs will encounter a small caravan of three wagons pulled by teams of rabboxen (MF rules, pg. 91). "Calvoin" is the wagonmaster of the caravan, and he explains to the PCs that they're on their way to visit The Oracle -- a mystic seer who has the wisdom of the Bygones at hand. They are on a pilgrimage to meet The Oracle and have brought tribute for her (fruit, dried meats, and some Bygone canned foods) in hopes that she may impart some wisdom to them.

Calvoin offers to hire the PCs to act as guards for the caravan as they've had no end of trouble from bandits and mutants along the way. He offers the PCs 15 gold pieces each to accompany the caravan for the next 24 hours -- the time it will take to reach The Oracle's temple. He also hints that The Oracle may be able to answer any questions the PCs have about anything or anyone. (If the PCs are currently on an unrelated quest, the Mutant Lord is encouraged to hint that The Oracle may be able to provide vital information pertinent to their search.) If the PCs agree to act as guards for the caravan, it will take 24 hours to reach The Oracle. The Mutant Lord should roll for a Random Wilderness Encounter for every 4 hours of travel (1 on 1d6). If anything is encountered, roll on the Monster Encounter Table / Grassland (MF riles, pg. 105) to determine what creature was met, then play out the encounter.

The PCs and Calvoin's caravan will eventually come to a Bygone structure with a small encampment of pilgrims surrounding it. The building is ringed by a shabby make-shift fence, with a single gate that leads to the front steps and entrance to the building. If the PCs can read Bygone languages, they see a damaged sign above the entrance that reads "LIBRARY." Around the inside perimeter of the fence are several large brutish-looking humans with formidable-looking rifles. These are The Oracle's guards, who patrol the area to keep the riff-raff out and away from the building. They are blindly loyal to The Oracle, as will become clear in a moment.

Guards (6) (AL N, MV 120' (40'), AC 7, HD as CON, #AT 1 (rifle), DG 1d12, SV L1, ML 12, mutations: none)

The pilgrims stand quietly at the gate, awaiting The Oracle, who steps out precisely at noon. She silently stands on the steps holding a large Bygone book under one arm, while the guards open the gates and place a large wooden crate in front of the pilgrims who eagerly proceed to fill it with food, gold, trinkets, and any valuables they have. The Oracle watches silently as they offer their tribute, then she walks down the stairs toward the people while two guards carry the offering away. The other guards step forward to watch over and protect The Oracle. She holds the book aloft.

"Today, the Bygones have decreed that I shall answer only one question. Who shall ask it?"

One pilgrim steps forward, an older man who seems agitated. "Yeah, I have a question!" he shouts angrily. "When will you end this deception, you fraud?"

The PCs see the pilgrims gasp and back away from the man, who points an accusing finger. Allow them to position themselves as the confrontation unfolds. (They could be the only ones standing between the pilgrims and a slaughter at the hands of The Oracle's guards!)

"I am a scribe who came here to seek Bygone wisdom, but you keep it locked away behind your fences and guards. You ration out Bygone wisdom from those books, and only if visitors bring you tribute!"

The Oracle sneers at the scribe. "I am the only one worthy of the knowledge from this, 'The Book of Bygone Wisdom!'" She holds the book aloft.

The scribe laughs. "That book's title says 'Chilton Automotive Repair Manual!' This proves my point! The Oracle cannot read!" The pilgrims begin to grumble amongst themselves that they may have been duped by the charlatan for many months. The guards look at The Oracle who frowns angrily. She looks at each guard in turn, and observant PCs may see the color of her eyes shifting and warping as she makes eye contact with each one. Each guard then brings his weapon down to bear on the old scribe while The Oracle turns and flees up the stairs and into the library.

The Oracle is a mutant human who has the mutation of empathy. She discovered the library many months ago, and set herself up as the de facto "Voice of the Bygones." She first used her empathy mutation on six of the largest men in the area (her "guards") to ensure their loyalty and blind obedience. It's true that The Oracle cannot read Bygone languages, but then again, neither can her many visitors. She has been extorting tribute from the pilgrims, then making up answers to their questions while pretending to read "the words of the Bygones." Her empathy mutation helped instill confidence in the pilgrims in her. But she never expected that someone who could read the texts would come to visit. And now that her game is up, she plans to make her getaway.

The Oracle (Mutant Human) (AL C, MV 120' (40'), AC 6, HD 13, #AT 1 (knife), DG 1d6, SV L5, ML 7, mutations: empathy)

The guards are former villagers from the area, and they will try not to shoot any of the pilgrims. (The empathy mutation won't force them to kill against their will.) But they will hold back the crowd, using their rifles as bludgeons as The Oracle escapes. The PCs are welcome to follow her to try to bring her to justice; to try to bring order back to the angry mob before they hurt each other; or to try to break the empathic hold on the guards. The Oracle is gathering as many valuables as she can while her guards hold back the mob. She will then race through the back of the building, where a horse awaits for her to ride off on. Unless the PCs act quickly, she will get away. (Eventually, the PCs may hear of another oracle offering Bygone knowledge for tribute, but that's an adventure for another day.)

Once The Oracle has left, her hold over the guards will end and they'll come around. The old scribe will find himself placed in the position as the new Oracle (or "Librarian," as he calls himself). This NPC can become a valuable source of research and information for the PCs as well as a good adventure hook for future quests.

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