Hey guys, I was wondering if I could get a little help with a story I'm working on.
Next weekend, I'm running my first game with a new group; two of the players are fairly experienced with 4e, and the other 2 are completely new to it (they did play a fair amount of 3e, however). The 1st level party consists of a Human Fighter (Brawler Style), A Kalashtar Cleric (Heavy emphasis on Perception and mind reading, with mostly non-damaging powers like Astral Seal), an Eladrin Rogue (Artful Dodger), and a Human Wizard (Staff-focused).
The story is set in a busy trading-hub called Strasa: a dreary, half-sunken city where it never stops raining. Essentially, Strasa rises up out of a lake; the current city was actually built upon the ruins of the original, which completely flooded out centuries ago. A series of canals flow through the city, and many of the poor folk live in small houseboats, because they don't have enough money to build their homes up when the water rises every few generations.
The area surrounding the city is basically marshland, full of foul bullywugs, warlike tribes of lizardmen, crocodiles, and thieves of all shapes and sizes.
The players have already spoken to me about their characters being part of an adventuring party together. They call themselves "The Raven Watch" (named for Strasa's specially-bred birds, known for their mastery of mimicry, that carry messages through the city), and I've furnished them with a building in a decent section of the city to use as a headquarters for the organization. When the story begins, the PCs will already be fairly well-known throughout Strasa -something like local heroes- and they're well thought of and treated well in a local tavern called "The Brazen Foal".
It will be in this tavern that the story begins.
Basically, the PCs will hanging out, swapping stories, drinking, playing games, etc, because there's one hell of a storm raging outside. It's nice and familiar in the Foal, which is well-known for its spiced bread and ales, which warm you up when it's nasty outside. Hopefully, I'll be able to set that scene up really well, while at the same time, foreshadowing some grisly events.
At some point in time, a perceptive player (or players) will notice, as a crack of lightning streaks across the skies outside, that a shadowy figure is standing outside the tavern window, looking in. It's supposed to be a real "corner of the eye" event, that's over the moment it happens. As soon as the flash of lightning's gone, the figure is as well.
If the PCs try to investigate, they won't find anything (good move, or bad move?) I'd like to play it off as something the player possibly imagined. Once that's over with, I can continue engaging the players with games and stories and whatever else they're interested in. Get them to lower their guard once again, before I hit them with something else creepy, you know?
I'm thinking maybe the wind blows the tavern door open or something. Again, nothing too obvious; just something to make them wonder what the hell's going on. In reality, it really is "just the wind" that blew the door open, but upstairs, where drunken patrons lie asleep in their rented beds, something awful really is about to happen:
Someone (or some thing - more on that later), has snuck in through the upstairs window, murdered a patron or two, and taken some grisly trophies. I'd really like this to be something that just happens, rather than an event that the players can stop, because it's really the catalyst for the whole story that's about to unfold.
Downstairs, everyone's still having a great time, but the blood on the floor upstairs is pooling up, and beginning to drop through the floorboards. At some point, drops of blood will fall down onto one of the players' cards, or plates, or foreheads, or whatever, and obviously, someone will go to investigate.
The story could go in several directions at this point, and this is where I'd like some advice.
As I mentioned before, some of the players are new to 4e, and I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce skill challenges in the form of a chase scene: Maybe the PCs look out the window of the room, and see a figure hurriedly knock over a cart and rush down an alley, or maybe the killer tossed his victim out that window, and when the PCs look out, they see a figure standing over the body, who then takes off as soon as he notices the players.
Whichever way that goes, the person they see is not the killer; just some young thief who saw more than he was supposed to, and figures he's going to get blamed for the murder, so he takes off. If the players chase after this guy, it'll be a skill challenge where the group hounds this guy down through narrow alleys and across rain-slick rooftops. I'd like to maybe make this kid an Eladrin or an Elf, because they're sort of seen as second-class citizens in Strasa, and when the kid runs into the elvish district, I could probably throw a group of elvish thugs at the players for their first real Encounter.
Anyway, what do you guys think?
Where can this story go?
Let's plan some more murders -- the more distrubing, the better.
I'd like the murderer to be a human, although I'm open to some minor deviations. Basically, I want to impress upon this group that this is a world very much like our own, where the villain isn't always some big obvious monster ... sometimes, it's just a dude who's got a few screws missing. I want the villain to be disturbing, but not over-the-top. Just, creepy, you know?
Maybe this guy takes the faces off his victims, and later on, he can assume their identities (basically, build him as a Changeling or something, rather than a Human, but he can only change into people that he's killed). Or maybe he takes their fingers as trophies, or tongues, or something else he feels like he needs. Hell, maybe he's building a flesh golem from specifically-chosen parts, and part of the story can be identifying what pieces this guy still needs, and idendifying and protecting possible targets.
I'm open to suggestions, here. I'd love to know what you guys think.