Salt and Sand - The Spy Ring
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By HoratioAtTheBridge

The Spy Ring

Both the Realm and the Tri-Kahn have placed agents in Chiarascuro to monitor the player Circle until the strike force is in position. Linna Iselsi has several agents she's recruited over the years as well as a few new people she's recruited specifically for this job. Sara Almas is her right hand, with a considerable network of her own. If Linna is compromised, Sara has the occult skills needed to get in contact with the Mnemon Cayla and the organizational skills to keep the spy network running. Abd al-Malik is the Tri-Kahn's representative in this matter. He has brought several members of his clan, sufficient to form a Size 1 battle group, to keep tabs on the player characters. He can also draw on his contacts in the city to gather more warriors if needed.

The two groups do have overlapping membership, and Linna was quick to get in touch with al-Malik when he arrived in town. They do coordinate their efforts and can step in to back each other up when needed.

NPCs

Abd al-Malik - For this adventure, add the intimacies discussed in Salt & Sand: The Docks of Chiarascuro

Sara Almas - For this adventure, add the following intimacies:

Major Ties: Linna Iselsi (Worshipful Adoration), The Player Circle (Hatred of Anathema)

Delzhan Warriors - This QC can be used for a variety of warriors in service to both Linna and al-Malik. Three specific examples follow, but the ST can add their own characters to suit their chronicle.

Tarik

Tarik was recruited by Linna specifically for this mission. Tarik is a member of Yusuf's guard and has prodigious gambling debts. Linna paid those debts off in exchange for him keeping an eye on the player characters during his duties. He also has a lot of ties to the soldiers and gambling dens in town, which makes him a potentially useful source of information. Add a 5 dice "Gather Rumors" and a 6 dice "Gambling' skill to his Actions.

Defining Principles: Gambling Addiction
Defining Ties:
Major Principles:
Major Ties: Linna Iselsi (Dependence)
Minor Principles: Delzhan Honor
Minor Ties: Yusuf (Loyalty to Boss), The player Circle (Fear)

Mahir

Mahir is al-Malik's cousin and has joined his family member is this mission. He does not necessarily share his cousin's political views, and he views this particular mission as a rather dishonorable betrayal of people greeted as guests, but his loyalty to his family outweighs his pity for the Circle.

Defining Principles:
Defining Ties: Abd al-Malik (Loyalty)
Major Principles: Delzhan Honor
Major Ties:
Minor Principles:
Minor Ties: The Realm (Antipathy), Gazal the Flower Girl (New Love), The player Circle (Regret)

Haidar

Haidar is a blunt instrument, but even blunt instruments have their uses. Linna uses him as extra muscle around Chiarascuro. He doesn't have any particular job or reason to be at Yusuf's, but he might be assigned to follow the PCs around town or show up as backup for another NPC.

Defining Principles:
Defining Ties: Money (Love)
Major Principles: Cruelty
Major Ties: Linna Iselsi (Fear)
Minor Principles:
Minor Ties: Tarik (Owes Haidar Money), The player Circle (Idle Curiosity about whether he can take them in a fight)

Nosy Servants - This QC can be used for the variety of servants that have been recruited by Sara Almas to help her collect information that she passes on to Linna Iselsi. There are dozens of these, but the following three examples can be used in case the players interact with one of them.

Najya

Najya was appointed by Yusuf to keep the Solar's rooms, and Linna has recruited her to gain access to the Solar's inner spaces. They may catch Najya going through their things. Najya's daughter is ill, and Linna has arranged to pay for her treatment as long as Najya continues to provide good information.

Defining Principles:
Defining Ties: Basima, her daughter (Love)
Major Principles: The Sacred Duty of Hospitality
Major Ties:
Minor Principles:
Minor Ties: Yusuf (Loyalty to Boss), Linna Iselsi (Shame), The player Circle (Apprehension)

Abu

Abu is a good boy. Sara loves her son, even if he is a bit slow, and Abu loves his mother. He works in the stables and sees who comes and goes. He always tells his mother who he sees, because Abu is a good boy.

Defining Principles: Abu is a Good Boy
Defining Ties: Sara Almas (Loves his mother)
Major Principles: Delight in Dancing
Major Ties: Cats (Love)
Minor Principles:
Minor Ties: The player Circle (Dull Curiosity)

Rayyan

Sara is blackmailing Rayyan over several of Rayyan's indiscretions. Rayyan is not a particularly reliable spy, but has a way of getting access to information that other people might not be in a position to receive. Add a 5 point skill "Dig up Gossip" and 6 point skill "Pillow Talk" to their Action list.

Defining Principles: Lust
Defining Ties: Sara Almas (Terror)
Major Principles: Indulgence
Major Ties:
Minor Principles: Joy in Gossip
Minor Ties: The player Circle (Morbid Curiosity)

Investigating the Spy Ring

Read Intentions - The players should get a sense that they're surrounded by hostile figures from the initial scene, but it takes a bit more work to determine that they're being spied on and by whom. As Read Intentions helped to clue them in to the existence of a spy ring, it can be used to identify particular members. Let them make Read Intentions actions against the various NPCs listed above as they interact with them, factoring in the -3 penalty for working against a crowd if they're attempting to get a read on a room full of people. Each of the spies has an intimacy related to the players; though just about everyone they interact with regularly is going to have a similar intimacy. Feel free to send the PCs after a string of red herrings if they decide to start treating every person who takes an interest in them as an enemy. Sara Almas should leave an impression as she makes a warding sign against evil when they pass, and Mahir's feelings are certainly somewhat odd. Abd al-Malik has a particularly strong feeling and is likely to arise as an early object of suspicion. If the PCs make Read Intention actions aimed toward other figures, such as Sara Almas for Rayyan or Linna Iselsi for Tarik, they can start to piece together some more actionable intelligence.

Lore - Lore can be used to give players ideas on what they might try next by informing them of how a spy ring might work. The following ideas can be gained with a Difficulty 1 Lore check. Give additional ideas for higher threshold successes:

  • Check for spies among the servants and guards
  • See whom everyone defers to, especially if that person is not in a traditional seat of authority.
  • Check who might be vulnerable to recruitment by spy masters, such as those who need money or could be blackmailed.
  • Watch places where spies might meet with their handlers, such as local bars or market places. The White Stallion is a local pub popular with Yusuf's troops, and the Market of Flowers is where the servants go to buy food and supplies for the household.

Lore might also be used to confirm suspicions if the players are stuck. A successful roll might tell them that Najya's persistent interest in the Circle is not consistent with her evident nervousness around them. What's pushing her to stay close even when she clearly doesn't want to?

Awareness - Vigilant characters might catch the spies in the act. Once per day, pick one spy to attempt to gather information from the group. Oppose their Listen At Doors or Trailing skill against the party's Perception + Awareness. If the party fails by less than 3 points, they get the sense that they're being watched but don't know by whom. A success means that they see the spy acting oddly but can't pin anything on them definitive. A success with 3 threshold successes means that they catch the spy red handed - perhaps Najya is going through their things, or Mahir has his ear to the door of a private room at the White Stallion.

Investigation - Inquiring about specific characters can turn up details about their backstory that can help identify their likelyhood to be spies. The players might also roll to investigate the household as a whole, in which case they receive one clue per threshold success on the roll. This can also be used to discover information about Sara, who otherwise stays in the background.

  • Difficulty 1 - Reveal one detail such as Mahir's relationship with al-Malik, Najya's sick daughter, or Tarik's gambling habits. Could also reveal the Qadir clan's preference for alliance with the Realm, and al-Malik's membership in that clan.
  • Difficulty 3 - Discover who Sara is, that she has a great deal of influence within the house, and that she's a devotee of the Immaculate Faith. Reveal that al-Malik is a highly respected member of the political faction that seeks a closer alliance with the Realm.
  • Difficulty 5 - Learn about the stories of Sara's Dragonblooded parentage.

Interrogating the Spy Network

Once suspects have been identified, the party can use social influence actions to attempt to convince them to tell about their part in the conspiracy. Admitting that one is a spy comes with huge costs, so the party must leverage at least a Major intimacy to uncover this information. Intimidation and bribery can be highly effective tools in motivating cooperation.

Lower level members - the servants and warriors will not spend willpower to resist interrogation, but any intimacies of fear or loyalty they have toward their handler would apply as bonuses to their Resolve. These spies really only know what they've been told to do, but they also know their handlers and would be able to point the Circle toward al-Malik or Sara as someone with more knowledge of the conspiracy. Tarik, Najya, or Haidar could point them directly at Linna. They can also give information about how they pass information up the chain (location of dead drops, etc). Give each member a 50% chance (75% for Rayyan) to know more information:

  • The Party will be ambushed 7 days after their arrival
  • Yusuf is part of the plot (Mahir knows this for sure)

al-Malik and Sara - Both of these ringleaders are highly motivated to not divulge information abou tthe plot. Both will spend as much willpower as necessary to avoid giving away information, particularly if tortured or threatened. Sara uses her devotion to the Immaculate Faith, her esteem for Peleps Deled, and her love for her family as fuel for Decision Points to protect the Dragonblooded. She will not spend willpower, however, to defend knowledge of Yusuf's involvement. al-Malik, meanwhile, will use his Hope in the Future, esteem for the Realm as a valuable ally, and devotion to Chiarascuro to avoid revealing information. He won't spend willpower more than once to defend Linna, however, as he has little respect for the spy master. Keep the retry conditions in mind for this interrogation, and let the players try different threats or approaches in their efforts. Once broken, Sara and al-Malik can each provide the following information:

  • Yusuf and the Tri-Kahn are both involved in this plot, though the Tri-Kahn is not contributing troops
  • Linna is a Dragonblooded spy who's running the spy ring in Chiarascuro. They can also say when she's likely to make an appearance at the White Stallion, the Market of Flowers, or Yusuf's estate.
  • Details on the methods by which the spies pass information to each other and to the Realm
  • Details about the timing and location of the ambush
  • Details about the members of the ambush - Mnemon Cayla and Peleps Deled, plus Realm garrison troops

Aftermath

By the time the players have unraveled the spy ring, they've eliminated one of the threats in the city. They also have leads on Linna's location, and if they're not already aware of it they have clues pointing to Yusuf's involvement and the reasons for it. It is still beneficial for them to track down Linna before she gets backup, but at this point they have enough information to foil the planned ambush.

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