Nothing to Declare

Nothing to Declare

Dock Captain by Chris McFannThe full adventures in Streets of Zobeck cover noir, crime, and street adventures of all types, including introductions. This scenario is designed to segue an established party new to Zobeck into one of the adventures in Streets Of Zobeck. It provides a feel for the twisted machinations and greed-driven schemes the player characters will encounter. In Zobeck, everyone has an angle, and if you look like a mark, they will come after you.

This scenario assumes the characters are approaching by river. When the riverboat is about 15 minutes out from the dock, have the players roll a DC 20 Perception check. A success lets the PCs notice a kobold has leapt overboard and is swimming to shore. This is a spy for Jaroslav, going to report the party as a group of marks ripe for a shakedown. A DC 25 Perception check later on lets the PCs spot the same kobold lurking around the docks.

Read the first view text when Zobeck comes into view.

As the river curves around the last set of hills, the forest thins, and you get your first look at the Free City of Zobeck. Chimneys emit thin smoke from atop tall houses. The river circles around a small hill, the top of which supports a castle or citadel. Your boat turns to avoid a long train of barges slowly being pulled upriver by oxen walking placidly on the shore. Other small craft ply the waterway, their crews arguing and squabbling.

As the ship approaches the dock, you see a small crowd of people awaiting the boat. Some are well dressed, likely waiting for families and business partners. Others are shabby and seem to have other intentions. Several blue-coated, brass-buttoned officers stand waiting as well, including a large, severe man with an up-curled mustache.

The gentleman with the fine mustache is Jaroslav Strauz, a connected and corrupt dock official, who has four customs officers with him (these count as a Watch Captain and Guard Officers, respectively; see Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide). Jaroslav awaits the PCs, alerted to their presence by his spy, and intends to shake them down hard. He speaks to the PC with the highest Charisma score as the group step off the gangplank.

“You will come with me. We have some matters to discuss before you may enter the city.” Jaroslav points to the squat, solid blockhouse set back from the piers. A large clockwork golem clicks and puffs on either side of the door.

Jaroslav’s Racket
Jaroslav explains the group has illegal, imported gold and magical weapons and that any goblinoids require permits. He says the adventurers should go to jail, but he is willing—out of the kindness of his heart—to work as an advocate for the group in the legal system of Zobeck. He then demands a bribe of 100 gp per level from each member of the group. He says 20% of this goes toward a fine and the remaining 80% is his fee for “legal services” to prevent the group from being imprisoned for smuggling.

Possible Resolutions
While Jaroslav has the support of both house Greymark and the Cloven Nine (both of which get cuts of his takings), he does his best to avoid antagonizing major groups or embassies. If the adventurers mention any of the following groups as friends or allies, this will give them opportunities to talk their way into a much smaller bribe.

Table 1: Pulling Strings

Demand to speak with / suggest connection to Diplomacy DC Bluff DC
Elven / Dwarven Embassy (elf/dwarf only) 25 25
Arcane Collegium 20 25
Criminal Organization 30 30
Cloven Nine 20 20
Merchant House 25 25
House Greymark 20 20

Use a Diplomacy check (DC based on the table) to negotiate for a lower bribe. Use a Bluff check (DC based on the table) if the PCs want to convince Jaroslav of their connection to a group they actually have no connection to; Jaroslav’s Sense Motive is built into the DC.

A failed roll involving criminal groups get Jaroslav quite excited, as now he has proof of the travelers’ evil intentions. Intimidating or fighting the dock officials will make the party criminals in Zobeck. If combat breaks out, both golems will charge in as the dock officers make a fighting retreat.

If combat does ensue, Jaroslav uses the dock officers to screen him, and if the combat last longer than three rounds, he slips out a concealed door. Even if the PCs persue immediately, Jaroslav has vanished into the confused and gathering crowd. The PCs cannot leave the blockhouse unobserved, and the violence will be discovered within the hour. The group become outlaws in Zobeck, and the authorities pursue them all the way to the edge of the Margreve forest.

If the party makes their roll, Jaroslav settles for a smaller bribe of 5 gp per level from each party member. He will likely also demand that the party do him a favor, which acts as the adventure lead-in.

If the party fails to talk their way out, Sister Ludwiga, from the sisterhood of Lada, arrives and demands to see Jaroslav. Ludwiga needs adventurers and has a spy at the port. She knows of Jaroslav’s scam and threatens to reveal it to his superiors, loyal members of her faith. Jaroslav is unhappy but immediately releases the party. He won’t forget this, but he can’t take his frustration out on Ludwiga, so he targets the PCs with petty mischief.

As soon as she has the party outside, Ludwiga hussles them down the street, saying, “Listen carefully, this is Zobeck. Either you stay on your toes here, or you’ll find yourself on your face, likely picking up your teeth. Now, I’ve done you a favor, so you’ll do me one. That’s how this city works.” She hands over a square of parchment. “Go to this address and help this man, or I’ll have you in chains by nightfall. And you tell anyone that I sent you, I’ll deny it. Now go, and watch your backs.”

With a shake of her head, she is off into the crowd.

Table 2: Adventure Hooks from Ludwiga or Jaroslav

Adventure Contact Name Address
Everyone Lies Grigori Silk Scabbard
Rust Mr. Corpulent Lower Zobeck
The Fish and The Rose Ziv the Sly Silk Scabbard
The First Lab Orlando Arcane Collegium
Rebuilding a Good Man Michul Nul Office – the docks
The Ripper Hendryk The Docks
Flesh Fails Hadlen Osrick Hommal’s Botanical rooftop (at a party)

This introduction to the city will certainly frustrate and entertain your party. It’s one of those situations where physical power will get them nowhere— and should help them to understand the city as a place where power struggles often involve social and political power rather than brute force.

Welcome to town. Don’t make a mess of it.

9 thoughts on “Nothing to Declare”

  1. Nicholas Milasich

    That’s my sister. Thanks for the comments everyone, it’s my first time having something published!

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