The Dweorg has a very firm handshake. "Welcome to Arlinac Town," he says. "And welcome to Discretion and Valor. My name is Dyarkin. Hand me those bags. I'll tell you about the town as we walk to HQ."
You wonder how long a walk it will be to headquarters. What will your new home be like? You came to Arlinac Town by boat. The island and town look bright and warm.
Dyarkin slings your bags over his shoulders and keeps talking. "The town has seven districts because seven noble families own the land. Discretion and Valor does jobs for all of them, and other wealthy families in town. A kid gets cursed, a cousin gets lost in the wilder-ness, a niece gets involved in a cult, any problem you can think of that might be embarassing for the town to find out about. We fix it quietly. We do jobs for the poor, too, when our coffers are full enough to allow it."
You nod. That fits with what you had heard before about the job.
Your bags are heavy but Dyarkin is walking quickly. The weight does not slow a Dweorg. "HQ is in the sellswords district. It has the longest history, even if is the smallest by population.
"Arlinac Island can be wild and dangerous, but has a nice climate. Sailing here from the continent is not a long trip. One day Maw Lute had moved her lair, Igneous Halls, to the top of Arlinac Mountain. Lord Zathan Boldfist, the famous Bergtroll monster hunter, heard about that. He and his hirelings came here and cleared the land around Arlinac Mountain of dangerous monsters. Then he paid for the town's wall. He knew people would want to live near Igneous Halls. It is a way to get treasure, if you have luck or skill, and do not get too greedy. And treasure seekers need food and rooms.
"Lord Zathan had no skill with making or running a town, and knew it. So he shared the land he had made safe with a few rich Bergtroll families who would run the town well and spend their money building the new town. These became the nobles of Arlinac Town, who still own its land.
"Lord Zathan kept a portion of the town's land as the sellswords district, where his family and others who enjoy adventure and swordplay train the town's watch, private guards, mercenaries, and treasure hunters. We sellswords are an ecclectic group. Our district is the most diverse in its architecture, experiences, and worship. Maybe you saw some buildings of differing heights with brown rooves at the far left of town as you sailed in,
"All who live in the town pay a small tax that funds the town wall and its watch. The island is still very wild. The Powers create new monsters. Working as a watchman or watchwoman is a way for a sellsword to start a career.
"The town watch is for the walls and its towers. They do not patrol the streets. Most wealthy families hire sellswords as private guards for their home and shops.
"When we get to HQ you can see the job board for each district."
The Job Board at Discretion and Valor HQ for the Sellswords District
A watchman named Gehain was once a pirate. He knows that early in the town's history some pirate treasure was buried at a place that is now a temple to Speleoth. He wants someone to do favors for the priests so they would allow him to dig for the treasure, or distract them so he could dig unnoticed.
A private guard named Dezek keeps trouble away from three adjacent stores from closing time until sunrise. Years ago he was involved in a murder. His partner in the crime, Hyphos, also started a new life in Arlinac Town. Hyphos always kept journals. Dezek knows these were hidden in a cellar under Hyphos's knife shop. Yesterday Hyphos, who had become a glutton too fond or rare meat, died of a heart attack. Dezek wants help sneaking into Hyphos's shop: someone to keep watch on the ground floor while he descends into the basement to find and destroy the journals, to finally sever his ties to the past.
The Therion couple Nolak and Janire are famous for breeding small dinosaurs. Harmless ones are sold as pets locally or shipped to the continent. Dangerous ones are trained as guard animals, hunting beasts, or sold to the town's arena. A small poisonous dinosaur has been stolen.
Dyarkin points back to the wharves and the warehouses near the shore. "Most farmers and fishers belong to navigators district. That's about half the town's people. That's also where live bowyers, fletchers, furriers, herbalists, hunters, rope and net makers, sailors, scouts, shipwrights, and woodcutters. And the people who work with the wharves and the warehouses. And a few who dive for sponges and oysters.
"That district was built by Captain Fastolm Goodspar, hero of the continent's largest Bergtroll navy. He retired from navy life. He knew the new town would need protection from pirates and sea monsters—and that money could be made running its shipyards and overseeing its shipping.
"Lord Zathan give the Goodspar family all the town shoreline and most of farmland around town. Goodspar gave new immigrants years of free rent in nice tenments safe within the town wall, or in farmhouses in the fields. The number of years of free rent was based on the family: its size, ages, and skills. Soon the town could support itself with farming and fishing.
"The Goodspar family likes to host parties with athletic contests and friendly gambling.
"Most farmers and fishers are Therions, of course. The poorer farmers have small homes outside the town walls. Richer farmers live inside the town. I'm proud to say a few Dweorg farmers (who live under their farmland) are well-known as the best vinters. Most fishers are poor and live in crowded tenemants. The herbalists have a leader named Railey the Clever who people say can find any herb on this island.
"Lord Zathan and the Goodspars made rules for a town council. Every five years all the town nominates and votes for twenty possible members of the town council. Then the noble families vote on which five of those twenty candidates actually are the new town council. Many in the navigator district feel strongly that this system does not represent their district as much as their share of the population deserves.
"Most people in that district focus their worship on Achiever. Despite the district's name, as many belong to the Toxophilite faction as the Navigator faction."
The Job Board at Discretion and Valor HQ for the Navigators District
A farmer named Silvay who lives in town has a home vegetable patch. She did not remember planting carrots, but now has a carrot patch. They are yummy, and were immediately her favorite food. In fact, everyone who eats them immediately decises these carrots are now their favorite food. A distressed neighbor whose children were already picky eaters noticed that something is not right and wants someone to check it out.
A Therion teen named Yathe has become a squirrel snag and run away to the farmland surrounding the town. His parents need help finding him and bringing him home.
A farm home belonging to Wernit and Norha is mysteriously empty, with no signs of struggle, and no tracks or other clues. A worried neighbor says Wernit dug up a magic shield in their field a few days ago. Perhaps they took it into town to try to identify what it does or sell it?
A Therion barbarian named Grun-grun works as a fisherman. He found strange black plants a day's journey south of town. Fish kept in bucket with the plants grow huge and spiny, and mean. Grun-grun has been "making" big fish to sell as pets. But someone ate one, and changed too...
The largest herb shop is called Sunshine Flower Home, and its herbalist Softmallow has heard a rumor about rare berries growing in the swamps on the other side of the island. She will pay for a map to where they grow, and a few berries as samples.
Dyarkin leads you to the center of town. There is a park, and a bridge that crosses the river that flows through the middle of the town. He points up the river. "The earthly district has more people than any but the navigators district. It is home to the foresters who live outside the walls and the crafters of housewares and plain useful goods that live inside the walls. These include bakers, beekeepers, bleachers, butchers, carpenters and joiners, chandlers, coopers, harness-makers, house plasterers and painters, leatherworkers, plumbers, soap makers, tailors, tanners, thatchers, and weavers.
"This district was the third made. Lord Zathan gave the land to Little Humble after she saved the young town from dragons. Most people in this district try to worship Little Humble. But life in a large town can make it hard to follow Sublimity Street. The town's Meek Manor is far away past the farms, and has very few members.
"The earthly district's land is the edge of the town away from the shoreline, nearest Arlinac Mountain. The district is governed by an elected Elder, although it still officially has Lamia as the noble who owns its land."
You ask Dyarkin, "Who is Lamia?"
"That's a different story," he says.
"For now look up river. Where it comes from Arlinac Mountain into the town, the wall has a portcullis that can be opened to allow logs to float through. A shrewd woman named Krutha runs the town's lumber mill, just inside the town wall there. Her mill is powered by one of the two waterwheels in town. (More waterwheels are not built, to avoid angering Achiever.) Krutha buys logs from foresters, employs people as mill workers and carters, and spends her free time helping lead the earthly district's social dance club.
"Bits of slum housing are here and there in town, but the earthly district has the worst. The run-down place named Wrestlewarren is the only place in town where the Kobalts are allowed to fight the way they like to.
The Job Board at Discretion and Valor HQ for the Earthly District
A forester named Rustly is missing. The only clue is that someone found one of his tools in the nearby woods, broken and bloody.
Several beekeepers who live outside of the town walls are upset that sprites keep taking beehives. The sprites say they are only borrowing the hives while deciding what style of painting will best capture the hives' personalities.
The Kobalt Terzi tries to maintain some order in Wrestlewarren, but his authority is diminished as he is not a true Ancestor of a complete Superfamily. He suspects that his wicked cousin Dalovia leads the criminal gang that has been stealing from farmhouses outside the town walls.
Yatovi is Terzi's younger sister and has all sorts of strange things for sale. She sold an enchanted fishing pole to an adventurer named Alam who went to explore a nearby cave complex but never returned. She would pay for getting that fishing pole back, and is sure that Alam had other valuables and useful items on his person.
A couple named Grost and Raisy oversee the town's Meek Manor. They need help because a famous group of assassins from the continent, the Women of Undesirable Reputation, have taken refuge in the manor. Everyone wants them out, but Little Humble's rules for Meek Manors forbid expelling them forcefully when locally they have done no wrong.
Halfway across the bridge Dyarkin turns and points behind you. "The caretakers district goes from the arena uphill to the wall, and from the arena to the zoo. The nobles who own its land are Lord Ronyld and Lady Jularna. I expect you have heard their story as Yengol the bard wrote it.
"Lord Ronyld still has a remarkable head for business and books, order and planning. Lady Jularna still has a remarkable heart for intuition and wonder, serendipity and the sublime.
"And they are still close friends with Lord Zathan. That is good for us! The caretakers district and the sellswords district may be on opposite sides of town, but we are close allies. The caretakers do not need to worry as much about safety. Everyone knows a troublemaker will soon be visited by a guard who will ask the troublemaker to make ammends. And we sellswords return from monster hunts and other jobs knowing that the town's doctors and taverns truly appreciate our efforts.
"That district has most of the town's inns, taverns, restaurants, theatres, concert halls, orphanages, hospitals, barbers, doctors, nannies, midwives, park staff, and others whose jobs involve caring for others.
"Maybe tomorrow we will visit the Beautifully Bombastic Brewery. A fun place! Three sisters from a noble family on the continent visited Arlinac Town and decided to stay. Their parents were very surprised! And then they open a big brewery! And it does good business! Now their cousins back on the continent work to give these "bombastic brews" fame there too."
The Job Board at Discretion and Valor HQ for the Caretakers District
The "bombastic sisters", Abasta, Alerisa, and Alira, try to concoct a refreshingly new beverage every few months. They are expecting a shipment of a rare herbs from a small village that was recently established elsewhere on the island. The shipment is several days late. They will pay someone to find the delayed merchant and bring back the herbs, or at least a report.
A lodger in an inn named Seraphax paid for a week's privacy in a room. He wanted to decipher a treasure map and its accompanying page. He was murdered, and the map and page stolen.
A visitor staying in one of the town's nicer inns is named Gaejix the Clawbane. He spent a few years working on the continent as a poet and dragon hunter. He had to flee the small village of in Blindvale after a scandalous incident. Yesterday he saw a Blindvale coin in town, and wants to discreetly hire someone to find out who spent it and if his past is catching up to him.
You both cross the bridge and walk beside an enormous building. Dyarkin pats it and smiles. "The bank," he says.
But you are busy looking up. A very big dragon perches on the bank's tall tower. It made you nervous earlier, when you saw it from the ship as you came to town.
"Maxijillian," says Dyarkin. "He won't hurt you. Just don't rob the bank. Of course, it is more than a bank. It is our temple to Maw Lute. This close to Igneous Halls of course it is big and grand, like many museums together. So many collections!
"Now we are in the merchant district. It was hard for the merchants when they were spread around in the other districts. This eventually changed. That story began when Redbeard the Pirate appeared in town. That's a dark tale few know, but I will tell it to you one night at a warm hearth to chase off the chill.
"Anyway, the merchants wanted to govern themselves. And the nobles were increasingly tired of being asked to judge tricky merchant issues. A compromise happened—the only time land has been sold in the town's history—when Redbeard agreed to retire from school teaching, "donate" most of his treasures to the town bank in exchange for the land and title, and be in charge of making sure property law and contracts were good in his new merchant district.
"So he became Lord Redbeard. He made new rules for land use and rent. He made a merchant guild with key roles. He made an insurance pool to help the families of traveling merchants who did not return. Over the years the town's merchants moved to shops in his district, where laws and taxes were good to their work.
"All sorts of merchants! Appraisers, bankers, booksellers, copyists, cutlers, mercers, pet sellers, spice sellers, traveling merchants, and warehouse workers. Some mercers run a general goods store. Most mercers are the relatives of craftsfolk in the earthly, industry, or glittering districts who sell the family goods.
"Here is something clever. His rules for rent said underpaying by 10% was a crime never punished. Ta da! Everyone in his district paid only 90%. And Lord Redbeard, as a Hiddenfolk, was seen a lot less.
"Most people in this district focus their worship on Maw Lute as they try to collect wealth and use it wisely.
"Now the merchant district is run by Lord Redbeard's daughter, Lady Nonessa the Red. I think not much is known about Lady Nonessa, but she knows almost everything about everybody. She uses a lock of her bright red hair as a calling card of sorts. A merchant who neglects cleaning the street around his or her shop might find a lock of her hair tied to a whisk broom on his dining table. A craftsman who tries to cheat a mercer might find a lock of her hair tied to a dagger on his pillow."
The Job Board at Discretion and Valor HQ for the Merchant District
A merchant named Tekhoon who crafts magical household items is the subject of suspicion and harsh words after people notice that many of his items find their way back to his shop after their owners die.
A Dweorg couple, Amgrin and Rinja Pawlin, own the most secure warehouse in town, most of which is underground. (The couple completed a quest in the Enchanted Forest to protect the land under their building from groundwater.) It may not be quite as secure as the town bank, but the bank cannot store such large lots of crops, lumber, and so forth. Right now a year's batch of special wine from a local vineyard's is there, and a rumor hints thieves plan on stealing it.
All the town knows the Bergtroll Hiyzax who writes the town's only tabloid. Many in the town do not read or write, so Hiyzax hires criers to loudly read the day's articles at the park, botanical garden, and zoo. His articles are creative and sensational. The town's nobles and other well-known people agree that having Hiyzax poke fun at them in his light-heartedly way is slightly better than being overlooked. But Hiyzax dislikes Kobalts, and a case last week of tenement arson blamed on Kobolt made him write a few articles much more angry and bitter than before. Now many Kobalts in town are worried they may be chased from their homes. Some Kobalts whisper that it might be wise to quiet Hiyax before he writes more vitrol. Hiyzax wants to calm them to protect his skin.
"Two more districts," says Dyarkin. "We walked by them earlier. But they were the last two times Lord Zathan gave away land and title.
"As the town grew it began to draw smiths and inventors: alchemists, armorers, braziers, buckle makers, carters, copper smiths, inventors, iron smiths, locksmiths, machinists, miners, stone quarriers, and scabbard makers.
"Surely as you sailed into town you saw the buildings to the right of the wharves. They have more chimneys and smokestacks. Many have vents of copper and brass on their rooves, or pipes connecting one building to another.
"Some experiments go very wrong. The worst might be the mega-basement. I still do not know what accident made space twist so much. Now most of the industry district buildings connect underground. But if you go through a door or down a passage and turn around, the way behind you can be changed. And going forward can seem no end of rooms and doors and hallways and worse.
"Many Dweorgs love the industry district, in part because Lord Zathan picked two Dweog brothers to run it. Now they are Lords Tyzak and Phazyk Aralg. But something about that district does not sit well with me. We have too many jobs there. Machines go amok. People get lost in the mega-basement. I admire smithing as much as any Dweorg, but every visit to that district makes me worry."
The Job Board at Discretion and Valor HQ for the Industry District
A Dweorg named Recil Cogpin believes that the town's arena needs some fighting machines. He tried to capture a mechanical monster to claim it is a device he created. But it escaped his shop.
A new sickness is in town that makes Therions change into their animal form while asleep, and not remember what they did as an animal. An alchemist named Kelya who told people she was close to discovering a cure has gone missing.
The Aralg brothers have political enemies. Lord Tyzak recently survived an assassination attempt. He wants to hire someone to find out who tried to kill him.
The Cassanders are a Bergtroll family recently contracted by the town to incorporate useful machinery into the public infrastructure. They moved to town, and now a few prototypes of delightfully artistic steam-powered devices are pumping water in the zoo, stirring compost in the botanical garden, and providing two street corners with light at night. The street lights keep getting vandalized. The Cassanders are unsure if the criminal is a rival machinist who is angry that the contract was given to out-of-town Bergtrolls, or a townsperson who dislikes the noisy modernity.
Dyarkin points to two tall buildings with towers. "Between the industry district and the arena, uphill just a bit from shore, is the last district. The glittering district is where most fancy artwork happens. Lots of magic stuff, art for rich homes, clothes and jewelry and ornaments.
"There live the bookbinders, dressmakers, glassblowers, glovemakers, goldsmiths, hatters, illuminators, jewelers, limners, pastrycooks, portrait painters, printers, pursemakers, rug makers, saddlers, scabbard makers, scribes, sculptors, shoemakers, silversmiths, tailors, and woodcarvers. They pay well when they need us.
"The glittering district has a fuzzy history.
"Even before Lord Zathan established Arlinac Town, the Bergtroll ruler of one of the continent's largest Bergtroll kingdoms, asked his daughter, Princess Eshana Kindhands, to travel to Arlinac Island to see if any of its mountains were a suitable place for building a new underground castle.
"Princess Eshana and her hired adventurers explored the island and reported home. Then she returned to the newly founded town to nurture its artistic growth. Eventually she married and had children and grandchildren. The Kindhands family wealth supported all the town's great architectural projects: the zoo, bank, arena, council hall, etc.
"Although Princess Eshana left the town when she grew too tall to comfortably remain, her family continues to dominate the town's artistic and social life. Was there a day when Lord Zathan officially made them town nobles (as well as Bergtroll royalty) and gave them title and land? Or did it just slowly become true, as if it was always true?"
The Job Board at Discretion and Valor HQ for the Glittering District
A Therion nicknamed Cheekpounches spends all of its time with a hamster head. Its store is often closed, and Cheekpounches is so reclusive that no one else is sure about its gender or social interests. A retired adventurer sold Cheekpounches some "treasure maps". One is especially curious: someone should confirm if it really does lead to an interesting and profitable location.
Cheekpounches has a second job. A shifty-acting visitor to town hired Cheekpounches to copy a very old book. Hidden under the back pastedown page was a small paper with a message written in an unknown language, apparently a numbered list with the first three entries crossed out. Cheekpounches copied the message before replacing the original and completing the job. But the page with the copy is now missing.
The son and daughter of two rival families, Zyreel and Illysura, eloped two nights ago. Both fathers want to hire someone to bring back the missing son. The son's own father wants to protect him. The rival father wants him punished.
Regnal Kindhands recently purchased a magic dagger. The seller said it had an unusual evil power. Regnal was told it was once a gift from either Maw Lute (part of a panolpy) or Gnash (prize from a Last One Standing contest). Not wanting to use it, he locked it in a display case. But it has been stolen.
Abasta Kindhands is having trouble rebuffing a suitor, a visiting Bergtroll minstrel named Annollo Longpiper. She wants to discreetly hire help in convincing Annollo to leave her alone, without any rudeness or forcefulness traceable to her family's name and reputation.
"What else?" Dyarkin asks himself. "I mentioned the tenement arson, and the Therion sickness. No one has offered to pay Discretion and Valor to investigate those. But perhaps learning more would make us heroes.
"I did not mention the zoo or park. Lord Zathan built those, of course. He loves them. That land is his own, not part of his family's district. No one knows what his will says about what will happen to the zoo or park after Lord Zathan dies or grows too big for town. Anyway, we get lots of zoo jobs: putting back escapted monsters, or collecting a new monster for the zoo.
Also, two day's walk from Arlinac Town is an oddly barren hill that marks where the Dweorg king Yulorg Strongthews once ruled an underground city-state named Yulorg-Ore. Many of the town's Dweorgs moved to Arlinac Town because they believe some of their relatives came from this lost civilization. Achiever and Speleoth both maintain portions of Yulorg-Ore to commemorate the accomplishments of its people and prevent the cave-complex from becoming stagnantly dark and empty. Exploring that place could be good too."
You have arrived at Discretion and Valor HQ. Time to start your new job. Time to make your own stories.
Tangent: Exploring Yulorg-Ore Works as a Dungeon Crawl Board Game
Exploring the ancient underground Dweorgish city-state named Yulorg-Ore is a great excuse to for the variant rules that allow playing Nine Powers as a dungeon crawl board game without a GM.
Achiever and Speleoth both maintain some upper portions of Yulorg-Ore to commemorate the accomplishments of its people and prevent the cave-complex from becoming stagnantly dark and empty. But the lower portions are full of monsters!
Moreover, something happened and the mega-basement below Arlinac Town has in places become connected to the depths of Yulorg-Ore despite the latter being many kilometers away. Adventurers are needed to discover what happened so the problematic connection can be undone.
Can your PC explore these dangerous rooms and halls? Learn more about the life, lineage, and technology of a lost city! Help sever the link between the town's non-Euclidean underground and a dungeon full of monsters! Explore as far as you dare while knowing the return trip through the mega-basement to Arlinac Town will be easy. But be sure to stop before you get too fatigued to continue dealing with the monsters of Yulorg-Ore.
Use one additional table to randomly determine each opponent's type of person or monster. Reroll the twenty-sided die if this result simply does not fit the other tables for generating a random monster.
1 to 2 — Therion
3 — Dweorg
4 to 5 — Kobalt
6 — Bergtrolls
7 — Hiddenfolk
8 — Ogre (roll a six-sided die for its disguise's race)
9 to 12 — Bigbeast
13 to 16 — Ooze
17 — Bugaboo
18 — Argle
19 — Mechanical
20 — Undead