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While walking through the streets of a large city, you notice a commotion just ahead. If you move in for a closer look, you spot a large man wearing expensive clothing and several gold rings on his fingers. He’s having a heated argument with a few members of the City Watch in the middle of the street.
“What manner of guards are you, anyway?” the large man blurts, his face red with outrage. “My lawful establishment is under attack and you lift not one finger to help? The onerous taxes I pay put food on your tables! But if you aren’t going to step up, I shall look for help on my own. Begone, fools!”
If you sense the opportunity for gainful employment from someone who obviously has loads of gold in their pockets, you can step forward and offer your services. The wealthy man takes one look at your equipment and nods approvingly.
“This is more like it,” he murmurs. “Competent people willing to help a man of means. Well met, my friend, you’ve arrived just in time. I am Xavier Valdin, merchant prince extraordinaire! I have many pecuniary interests in the region, but one of my proudest achievements was improving the highway from this city to the next.
“Prior to my intervention, it was a pock-marked dirt track, unsuited for the number of travelers who ply that road these days. This includes a number of my own caravans, but everyone benefits. The highway upgrade was a triumph! The cobblestones prevent it turning into a quagmire in the wet, speeding up travel for everyone.
“It was only right and proper that I charge a modest fee for this magnificent benefit to the city and her citizens, so I built a toll collection post not far outside the city. The fee is quite modest and reasonable, I assure you. But some people have rebelled against the idea of fair commerce and even now, assail the post with the clear intention of bringing it down and looting what remains!
“The men I have paid to operate the toll post are trying to defend it, but they are outmatched and need your help! I will pay you to fight off the highwaymen and restore order to my toll post, but you must set out immediately, lest the thugs attempting to ruin my business succeed.” Should you agree to defend the toll post, Xavier breathes a sigh of relief, then points down the road towards the main gate.
“The post is half an hour down that road. Go now, and give those miscreants what-for! I shall try and locate more warriors to aid you.” Should you follow these rousing instructions, your journey down the highway is a pleasant one, until you see the stone outpost built across what really is a very fine road.
The sound of trouble from ahead is quite clear and if you approach, you see a few of the tollway’s defenders trying to battle some surprisingly well-equipped brigands. If you’re insightful, you might suspect they are more than mere highwaymen, forced to attack this toll post out of desperation.
Nevertheless, they appear to be in a strong position and will take control of the toll post soon if you do not intervene. If you head in, you must battle warriors and archers with the outpost walls, with only marginal support from the current defenders.
Should you succeed, the remaining defenders thank you for coming to their aid, but one last enemy remains. The enemy captain approaches warily, drawing back a heavy cloak to reveal the finest armor and a magnificent sword on his hip. He raises a hand to signal for a parley.
If you agree, he speaks to you about the real nature of this toll post. “Xavier would have you believe he is charging a modest fee for this toll post, but in reality, he is robbing travelers blind! My warriors and I were hired by a conglomeration of merchants to demolish this abomination that is ruining their business. Just look at the coffers here if you don’t believe me.”
If you follow his suggestion, the defenders reluctantly allow you to look at the coffers where takings are kept, and they are filled with gold! You hear footsteps of many people approaching, and if you look outside, see Xavier arriving with more warriors.
“What is this?” Xavier blurts in alarm as he sees you conversing with the enemy. “Delving into matters that don’t concern you? I am paying you to defend this place, not rifle through my coin!”
If you mention the sheer volume of wealth taken from travelers, Xavier is unrepentant. “I may have downplayed the profit from this venture, but your task is unchanged. Defeat this brigand and your task is complete. I’ll even double your pay if you don’t mention my takings to anyone!”
“Work with me to take down this thief and we shall split his takings between us,” the captain urges you.
If you agree to keep Xavier’s secret, you can fight the mercenary captain, taking his weapon and armor upon his defeat and being paid a handsome sum from Xavier. If you side with the mercenary and fight Xavier and his guards, the merchant keeps to the rear while his new guards try to defeat you!
He surrenders upon their demise, begging for his life. If you spare him, he flees the toll station as you take his plunder for yourself! With the toll station left in ruins Xavier abandons the improved highway and it soon once again falls into disrepair making merchant caravans trips take much longer. He also ceases his trade routes to the city as he sees it as no longer profitable which increases the prices of general goods that do still happen to make it to the city from the smaller caravans.
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Inventor of the SabreRPG system (which we love), Steve's the wonderful GM who hosted many fantastic campaigns for the Seafoot family. He's been writing, illustrating, and publishing his own books for over a decade, and is best known for The Aielund Saga. We're so glad to have him on our team writing these fantastic adventure modules, as well as Adventurer's Guides. His experience as both writer and GM makes him incredible at what he does, and we think you'll agree when you read his work!