“I’m here about a job” said the newcomer. The usual crowd at the Grotto stared at them in the doorway – faces grim, suspicious, annoyed, mocking. A few eyes glanced back at the surly Mr. Sargos at the counter.
“Well don’t just stand there with the door open, all the luck is getting out!”
“And the day is getting in,” one of the regulars complained into his tankard and groggily shielded his eyes from the rays of sunlight.
The stranger stepped down into the damp cellar. “I heard this is the place to be if you want work.”
Sargos scoffed. “If you want labor, you gotta stand in line behind the krabbadokks. They do anything for an orteg.”
“I was thinking something more lucrative.”
“Forest work then? Grave robbing? Tomb raiding? Baiagorn wrestling?”
“Something like that. I have a blade, and wits, and this…”
The stranger reached into their coat and pulled out a burnt, torn, and blood-splattered sheaf of paper. When opened to the center spread, it showed an illustration of familiar features: Davokar, the Eanor and Malgomor, the Pillars of Haganor, and… something new. Mr. Sargos broke out in a wide grin and rung the bell at the bar.
“Wake up you blivits! Looks like a fresh map just walked in!”
And the patrons of the Beamon’s Grotto exploded into activity.
The Beamon’s Grotto is an obscure tavern in Thistle Hold. It is owned by the surly Mr. Sargos, who hosts the tavern in the basement of his building. It doesn’t receive much foot traffic, and Mr. Sargos likes it that way. He prefers to keep his bar discreet, that way he has the time and freedom to use it as the base for his other business: organizing unlicensed expeditions into Davokar.
The people who come to the Grotto are for the most part down-on-their-luck explorers trying to make their remaining ortegs last as long as possible, and people who have burnt one too many bridges on previous journeys to find good work anywhere else.
The tavern itself is a modest establishment. It’s found behind an unmarked door a few alleys off from Haloban’s Ring. A creaking wooden stairs leads down into the basement room that makes up the bulk of the Grotto. There is a long wooden table with mismatched chairs and benches that can accommodate little more than a dozen people, and a short bar with a few more chairs. Behind the bar is a door that leads into the storerooms, and a stairs leading up into Mr. Sargos’ building.
The building is owned by Mr. Sargos and contains eight small apartments and common rooms that are usually rented out to Sargos’ favored patrons, friends, and contacts.
The Grotto caters to an undiscerning crowd, and Sargos does not go out of his way to bring in high-quality drinks or food. The majority of the Grotto’s offers are acquired from the Slaughterhouse and prepared by Matra – Mr. Sargos’ ogre. The exact foods on the menu will vary from day to day.
Stew of the Day – 5 ortegs
Root vegetable soup & bread – 2 shillings
Lung or liver with black mash – 4 shillings
Pork ribs or fried chicken – 5 shillings
Steak and turnips – 8 shillings
Tankard of stout (unspecified) – 3 ortegs
Glass of Blackbrew (unspecified) – 1 orteg
Glass of wine (unspecified) – 1 shilling
A bed for a night – 5 ortegs
A room for a night – 1 shilling
An apartment for a month – 8 thaler
The Grotto’s Patrons
The Beamon’s Grotto is meant as a starting point for a loose group of players – a collective beyond the “party” bond that could serve as a mission hub and downtime area for a rotating cast of players and characters in an open table group, and serve as explanation for several of the quirks that come with playing a West Marches-style campaign for Symbaroum.
Creating a Starting Character at the Grotto
The Grotto’s Patrons start with rolled attributes (2d6+3, assign values) and 50 points of free experience (so they can start with five abilities on Novice level or one on Adept and two on Novice) and may take Boons and Burdens. If a character from the Grotto dies, you make a new one using these rules. Experience does not carry over from character to character, and a party might have characters of wildly different experience levels.
After rolling attributes and selecting abilities and boons and burdens, answer these two questions:
- What happened to bring you this low?
- Why can’t you find honest work?
- What lead do you have on a potential expedition into Davokar? (Roll on the Leads table below)
Looking for Work
“We cracked a vault two months back. Not much in it, but the wizard we had with us got really excited about one of the engravings on the walls. Said it gave the location of some Symbarian prince’s lost palace somewhere in the Mire.
Vakotan fell out with the magister a few days later and caved the poor man’s head in with a rock. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to grab his reproduction of the engravings.
I know someone who can help decipher it, and if we’re quick about it, I think we can find that palace before anyone else!”
The West Marches style of play works best when adventures can be completed in one session to maintain group flexibility (the ad hoc session planning means that it may not always be feasibly to get the same group together two sessions back-to-back). As such, I would suggest planning a number of small one-shot adventures, and clues to their location that the players can use to travel there. These clues are then what you can hand out to each of your players based on the Leads they roll during character creation.
Let the player characters share their leads and then decide among themselves which adventure they want to go on. You can keep the rest in reserve for future sessions.
It’s even possible that several characters have leads on the same location – which would put some pressure on a party to follow a lead before someone else can get there first!
- You have been on a previous expedition that found a ruin but had to leave parts of it unexplored. You know the location well.
- You have acquired a map to a location supposed to have a valuable find. You may be able to navigate there.
- You know someone who can lead you to a ruin they have found, for a share of the spoils.
- You know of an expedition that recently scored a big haul, and where in the forest they hid most of their treasures
- You have a curious object that points towards a location in the forest, but you haven’t dared find out what’s at the end.
- You were the sole survivor of an expedition that encountered the lair of a powerful undead. Something of immense value was left behind.
Before setting out on an adventure, each player selects (or rolls) a Boast and a Motivation, and connects these with another player character.
These are rumors and opinions your character has of a different member of the party, or lies you tell to get them on the team. Select another player character and select a boast below that applies to them.
If the boast is proven true (any check involved is successful), both you and that player get a bonus point of experience.
- This one always brings back something! (Once per adventure, the selected player can re-roll a roll on the treasure finding chart)
- My friend here is an expert! (Once per adventure, the selected player can re-roll a Loremaster roll)
- We need protection – I know just the person! (Once per adventure, the selected player can make use of the Bodyguard ability on novice level even if they don’t have it – and may re-roll it if they do already have it)
- That’s your old hunting ground, isn’t it? (Once per adventure, the selected player can re-roll a Vigilant test to navigate or to spot danger)
- It’s okay, my friend knows the dangers. (Once per adventure, the selected player can make use of the Beast Lore ability on novice level even if they don’t have it – and may re-roll the ability if they do already have it)
- Don’t worry, they’re tougher than they look! (Once per adventure, the selected player can attempt to use Recovery on novice level even if they don’t have it – and may re-roll the ability if they do already have it)
- I’m only here because you promised to pay my bar tab.
- I need a big score to help my family, and jobs have been scarce.
- I just need to get away from the city for a few weeks, somewhere no-one can find me…
- I’m tired of being a nobody. If I make a name for myself as a capable adventurer I’ll be famous!
- No-one will support my studies and theories anymore. The fools! I will show them! I will prove them all wrong!
- I just want to kill something. It’s been too long.
The Beamon’s Circle
The magic circle he kept in the back storeroom was one of the two arts Mr. Sargos had mastered before being thrown out of the Ordo Magica. The other was how to craft the ingenious ritual seals which would immediately transport the holder to said circle. He would sell these illicit marvels for a hefty fee, but he was also willing to offer them to intrepid adventurers for free, in exchange for a cut of whatever they brought back to the Beamon’s Grotto.
One of the unique offerings of the Grotto is Mr. Sargos’ secret magic circle and the ritual seals that allows their carriers to Seven-league-stride directly to that circle. It allows the Beamon’s Grotto crew to drastically shorten travel times, and offers parties an emergency route back to civilisation.
The circle itself is located in one of the lower storerooms in the back of the Grotto, surrounded by a heavy iron cage that locks from the outside, and a Sanctum circle to protect from scrying. Sargos also routinely re-draws the circle with unique wards to avoid unwanted visitors should the circle’s existence become known by the authorities or other undesirables.
Mr. Sargos will sell the seals to his patrons for 20 thaler a piece, or for a 10% cut of whatever loot someone has on them when they arrive back at the circle.