The Assassin's Knot

Baron Grellus of Restenford is dead. All clues point to Farmington, a small town about 18 miles to the south of Restenford. The party has been secretly contacted in Restenford by the wizard Peltar to find out who murdered the Baron and to bring the murderer to justice. Peltar really wants to continue his researches in peace, but the death of the Baron
threatens the stability of the whole region.

The Baron was found strangled at 8 AM Monday morning. His bedroom was locked from the inside. No furniture or other objects were overturned or broken; however, three clues to the murderer were found in the room. First, a small red ruby (value 50 gp) was located near the body. Second, a golden lute string was found under the bed. Third, a red leather button was found in the Baron’s hand.

Restenford castle has been sealed to outsiders until the Baron’s wife and daughter recover from the shock. The effort to speak with dead gave no clues, and all attempts to raise the Baron met with failure. However, Peltar has acquired the following information:

An old man with long white hair was seen eating at a local Restenford inn. He wearing a sea-green robe with the symbol of a golden trident on it. This symbol is known to represent one of the major sea deities worshipped on Corwyn: Myrival, Goddess of the Sea. A temple to this deity is located in Farmington. The old man also displayed a beautiful golden holy symbol, a trident with bright red rubies on the points.

A man in dirty traveling clothes appeared at a local tavern where he had a few drinks and played the lute for the people in the tavern. He stayed a few hours and then left. The lute had unusual golden strings.

A man came into town to buy a few barrels of beer and have them shipped to his inn in Farmington. He wore a distinctive golden vest with ornate red buttons. When shown the button found in the Baron’s room, the wine merchant identified it as resembling the ones on the innkeeper’s vest. The guard at the south gate of Restenford (whose road leads to Farmington) remembered each of the three men. They arrived one after the other, about an hour apart, between 7 PM and 9 PM Sunday night. None of these men were seen to leave Restenford, but a later search of the town did not find them.

Peltar belives he has identified all three. The first is Hamish, the high priest of the Temple of Myrival in Farmington. The second is Balmorrow, a merchant living in Farmington. The third seems to be Abraham, the innkeeper of the Whispering Willow.

The party knows that Farmington does not enjoy a good reputation. Dark rumors suggest that Farmington is the rumored base for a group of assassins who operate right under the nose of the town’s Lord Arness Redfang. There is no proof that such a group exists, but a common phrase in much of this area is, “If you want someone killed, go to Farmington.” It is up the party to find out who killed the Baron and why, and to bring the guilty party back to Restenford if possible.

For those of you not in the know, the module starts off the day after Baron Grellus of Restenford has been murdered. Pelltar calls upon the PCs to investigate the matter because he's too high profile of a character to do the snooping himself. Plus he claims not to be interested in politics, even though we all know that he's been pulling the strings of Restenford for years now.

He may be too high profile to conduct the full investigation, but that doesn't stop him from inspecting the crime scene. And, fortunately, he's discovered three clues, each of which implicates, he believes, a separate person who was seen in Restenford on the night of the crime. Each of these suspects is a resident of the town of Farmington, a day's travel to the south. A search of local inns, drunk tanks, and brothels that morning turned up none of these gentlemen; clearly they've fled back to Farmington one step ahead of the law. The case is ironclad, right?

Once the PCs travel down the coast to idyllic Farmington which is home to a highly secretive assassins guild, will quickly learn that each of the suspects is a prominent, respected member of the community, Abraham the Innkeeper, Balmorrow the merchant and Hamish the High Priest of Myrival. Each claims to have spent the entire day alone in their quarters and thus has no alibi, even though each lives in a communal residence in a small town where even a trip to the outhouse would fail to go unnoticed—it should be noted that the map is possibly the only published D&D material ever to include latrines. Surely at least a servant would have brought them their meals? Nonetheless, none of them has even the slightest motive to want the Baron dead, nor does any of them have the means to sneak into a castle and murder a dude who, despite being an incompetent ruler, is still a pretty tough fighter.

For those who don't know, here's the lowdown on the murder plot as written in L2 Assassin's Knot: the deranged abbot Qualton, suffering from psychosis, thinks that if he kills off the baron and marries his daughter, he'll get to be the replacement baron and move into Grellus's regal abode. So he makes contact with the assassins down in Farmington. But since the Lord of Farmington, named Arness, is in league with the assassin's guild and decides to use Qualton's plot to his own advantage. Ultimately, depending on the success of the PC's investigatory efforts, the assassins will kill off the Baron's wife and daughter and finally Qualton as well, leaving the Baron's seat empty for Arness to usurp.

But by implicating three innocent and highly respected members of the community, the assassin has brought the focus of the investigation squarely onto Farmington which is problematic for a few reasons:

The assassin responsible for Grellus's murder is the head of the notorious guild. Have you ever heard the expression don't shit where you eat? By extension, you should also not shit somewhere else and then intentionally leave a shit-stained trail of shit-scented footprints back to your dining room table. Especially when…

The baron's murderer is not only a professional assassin and CEO of the Farmington guild, but also has a day job working as an advisor to Lord Arness, ruler of the town. Arness is hoping to capitalize on the plot by filling the power vacuum created by the Baron's death—though let's be honest, he was never holding much power anyway. How pleased can she be that now, just as she is ready to set her putsch in motion, she has to deal with a team of investigators at her doorstep?

Especially when…
If the guild was looking for a scapegoat, they had the perfect patsy in the form of Qualton the Abbot, who, besides being thoroughly unstable—which they certainly must have learned when they vetted him as a client, is actually guilty of the crime since he hired the assassin in the first place! Frame him for his own misdeeds and let his psychosis shine through during the trial and your work is done for you; no one bothers casting a glance at Farmington.

But what really intrigues me is that evidence in the write-up in L1 indicates that the sequel was supposed to be set in Restenford itself, not in Farmington. A few clues exist that might give us an idea of Lakofka's original intent for the follow up module:

Qualton, Abbot of Phaulkon, having lost his marbles because of a psionic attack, is intent on marrying the Baron's daughter in order to take over the Barony. His write-up in L1 specifically says to keep his lunacy under raps until L2. Clearly the PCs were intended to interact with this dude.

In addition to his other real estate in town, Pelltar has a lease on the tower in the Baron's castle. There is specific language in the terms of the lease that allow him access to the tower even in the event of the Baron's death. Obviously this was meant to allow the action of L2 to seep into the castle. As an aside, what kind of landlord signs a lease with that kind of language in it?

The dude in the bait shop is actually a spy for the Duke of Kroten. This has absolutely no bearing on anything in either L1 or L2 but I've always wondered if it was originally supposed to have some significance. Was he, in addition to spying for the Duke, the point man for the Guild? The guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who can get stuff done for a fee? If so, would the Duke have known about the assassination effort even before it happened, therefore making him complicit?

In L1 it seems obvious that it was Lakofka's original vision for the sequel that the PCs would be skulking about in Restenford looking for a killer, not racing off to Garrotten right away. The indication that Pelltar would have access to the tower at the Baron's "castle" even in the event of the Baron's death is only significant if the plan was to have someone taking hold of the Baron's throne right away; someone who does not want Peltar seeking justice for the baron's murder. This implies that maybe Pelltar has to surreptitiously hire the PCs to investigate the crime. Which would make sense if Qualton did manage to take over the Barony; obviously it would be in his best interest to obstruct the investigation at every turn.

Perhaps the bait dealer was intended to be a red herring to distract them from the case. Or else the Duke of Kroten had some beef with Grellus, and his spy was gathering intell. Or maybe he doubles as the point of contact for the assassin's guild. And perhaps there was never meant to be an assassins guild—maybe it was supposed to be Kroten who took out Grellus.

Or perhaps Fairwind, the Baroness, was in on the hit, having been humiliated by the milquetoast Grellus's continued incompetence. That actually makes more sense from a quick transition of power stance since Abbot Qualton's insane plot was never going to see him on the throne. But judging by her "haughty" ways and lawful neutral alignment, it seems more likely that she just wants to put as much distance as possible between herself and this backwater burg full of rabble rather than sully her footwear on the streets of Resty ever again.

My suspicion is that TSR decided that they didn't want to spread the adventure out over two separate publications which would have required aspiring DMs who bought L2 to then go out and acquire L1 in order to be able to run the thing. Admittedly, I woulda' been pretty freakin' annoyed if I'd had to do that back when I ran L2 in the 80s. Remember, in the pre-internet days you could only buy what your local supplier put on the shelves, so if they didn't have L1, you couldn't just go track it down on Abe Books or wherever. So, in order to make L2 a self-contained module, they moved the action down the coast and left Restenford in the dust. And while I find this a bummer in that I think Assassin's Knot would have been a more interesting adventure if the Restenford angle were explored more deeply, this is somewhat offset in that we get a second, fleshed-out town setting on Lendore Island.

Every year, the empire of Taldor celebrates the Grand Day of Exaltation. On this prestigious day, the Grand Prince is empowered to elevate a commoner to the ranks of nobility. The event itself is the embodiment of formality, with the elevated commoner selected months or years in advance. What makes the day truly special is that the preceding week is a holiday throughout the empire. Nobles, senators, and hopeful petitioners fill the capital city of Oppara for galas, performances, and parades. This flood of visitors swells Oppara to almost double its size, and many view the lead-up to the Grand Day of Exaltation as harking back to the glory days of the empire. To the nobility, the week before the Grand Day of Exaltation is a time to conduct important business deals, issue noble proclamations, and hold private parties. With so many prominent politicians arriving from across the empire, the Taldan senate uses Exaltation Week to vote on matters of nationwide importance.This year’s Grand Day of Exaltation is poised to mark a historic shift in the governance of the empire. Princess Eutropia, daughter of Grand Prince Stavian III, has forged a powerful coalition of noble bastard children, reformers, and—perhaps, most importantly—senators to vote down the ancient law of primogeniture. The law states that royal power can pass only to a male heir—a succession that cannot be enacted due to Eutropia’s status as the current Grand Prince’s sole heir. Rumors have circulated about the princess’s quest to strike down primogeniture for years, and the nation remains divided on the vote, with several nobles viewing it as a shameless power grab by Princess Eutropia. Others see Eutropia as a stabilizing force that could unify the empire and usher in a new golden age for Taldor.Princess Eutropia is the firstborn child of Grand Prince Stavian III. She stepped forth into the political arena only following the death of her younger brother 20 years ago. Prince Carrius II, like Eutropia, was beloved by the people of Taldor, and many hoped the boy would succeed his ineffective father and usher in an era of change. When the prince died in what was reported as a riding accident, Eutropia’s grief uncovered a deep well of empathy. More understanding of death and suffering, she became a crusader for the poor and for the basic rights of every Taldan citizen. As her work repeatedly ran up against the old-fashioned values of Taldor, Eutropia became a crusader for women’s rights as well.Unknown to Eutropia and the people of the Taldor, Carrius’s death was an accident, but one dealt by human hands. Grand Prince Stavian’s jealousy over his children’s popularity eventually gave way to paranoia and a growing suspicion that the still-teenage Carrius was plotting his overthrow. His contempt paved the way to an abusive relationship with his son. One dreary day in the castle garden, while beating his son over the matter of horse grooming, Grand Prince Stavian III accidentally shoved his heir down the stone stairs of the stable, a fall that snapped the boy’s neck. The Grand Prince and an Ulfen Guard named Herog Svalkson—the only witnesses—insisted the boy was thrown from his horse, and a momentous week of mourning was held across the kingdom. As Eutropia, nobles, and commoners alike all wept for the young prince, Stavian quietly executed the only witness to his crime. Stavian forbade any attempts to resurrect the boy—arguing that so pure a soul belonged at Heaven’s gate—ensuring none would learn of the filicide he had performed.Only weeks after Carrius’s death, an organization known as the Immaculate Circle interceded. One of Taldor’s hundreds of aristocratic secret societies, the Circle fancies its members as being masters of life and death and inheritors of secrets carried to the grave. The Circle conjured the spirit of Svalkson, the murdered Ulfen guard, to tease out Stavian III’s secrets and learned the true nature of the young prince’s death. Knowing that such a secret could bend the Grand Prince to their will, but would be worthless once revealed, the Circle’s members have sat on the terrible truth for decades, waiting for the perfect opportunity to leak this damning fact.As the Adventure Path begins, the Grand Day of Exaltation approaches. Princess Eutropia and her allies stand poised to end primogeniture and pave the road to the first female empress of Taldor. But to Stavian’s paranoid mind, Eutropia’s bid for power can only mean that she is planning to kill him and usurp his throne. Unwilling to give up his power or his life so easily, Grand Prince Stavian III formed a secret alliance with various agents from neighboring nations—Andoran bankers, Chelish nobles, and Galtan royalists—to import a small private army. Rather than stop the senate’s vote, Stavian intends to let the wheels of politics turn, and then execute his daughter and those who supported her actions as traitors to the empire as they celebrate their victory!

“Crownfall” begins with the player characters serving as the undercover agents of the Lady Martella Lotheed, the illegitimate daughter of the prestigious Lotheed noble family. The campaign traits detailed in the War for the Crown Player’s Guide, available online for free at, offer potential hints to both why the PCs are in attendance at the senate festivities and how they came to the attention of this burgeoning spymaster; if you don’t use these traits, you may wish to provide your
players with other options for how Lady Lotheed first contacted the PCs and why. They may be minor nobles looking to make their own impact in Taldor’s social scene, similarly estranged members of the Lotheed family, or relative unknowns associated with Eutropia’s various reformation campaigns, recruited specifically because the nation’s pompous aristocrats don’t know anything about them.As Martella’s covert agents, each of the PCs attends the Grand Day of Exaltation festivities at the senate building in Oppara with a specific mission.

This adventure assumes the campaign starts on the Grand Day of Exaltation, and does not provide any dedicated time for the PCs to explore Oppara or to get to know one another. You are encouraged to include additional content before the adventure to further cement the ties between the PCs, as well as introduce the players to Oppara and the empire of Taldor. This also allows player characters to learn what their missions and requirements are and still have time to shop for supplies. The week-long festival provides ample time for you to add in prior encounters or additional social scenes to establish the PCs’ relations with one another. None of this is required, however, as “Crownfall” jumps straight into the action. The campaign assumes the PCs have already met with Martella individually and may or may not be meeting one another for the first time as part of a pre-mission briefing. Among other resources that may be listed in their campaign traits, Martella provides each PC a 30-gp line of credit at her favorite tailor shop, Thread Rare. This is enough to acquire a courtier’s outfit at no cost to the PC, or the character can provide the remaining 45 gp for a noble’s outfit for the senate festivities; in either case, Martella also arranges the loan of enough high-quality costume jewelry to complete each outfit.Lady Lotheed plays off her interests—and her reason for hiring the PCs—as a scheming young noble hoping to topple and take control of the arrogant family who rejected her, a half-truth on the young engineer’s part. What she will not reveal is her connection to Eutropia and that all her activities this evening are to help ensure the vote against primogeniture goes smoothly. Much of the War for the Crown Adventure Path continues this theme of the player characters staying out of the national spotlight and distancing themselves from Princess Eutropia. As the bright scion of the Stavian family line works to win the trust of the Taldan people, the PCs serve on the front lines of the shadow war raging out of most peoples’ sight.PART 1: ALL THE KING’S MENThe adventure begins in the capital city of Oppara, heart of the Taldan empire. Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Taldor, the First Empireprovides additional information on the nation of Taldor, while the Oppara gazetteer on page 62 details the city itself. While neither of these resources is required to run “Crownfall,” they do provide additional insight into Taldor’s culture, geography, and politics that help shape the events of this adventure.

Visitors flock to Oppara in the days leading up to the Grand Day of Exaltation. The populace of the city doubles during this time, making Oppara larger than any other city in the Inner Sea region, save Absalom. The self-importance of the already prideful Taldan people swells in equal measure. Street vendors sell traditional Taldan foods—anchovy skewers, anglebobs, canal crossings, clamguards, jubilee pie, honeyflake, long wine, yonder tarts, and more—including regional delicacies from separated provinces such as Andoran mince and Chelish raven cake. Family banners and provincial flags drape the sides of most buildings, with merchants hawking heraldry ranging from replica banners of the old Armies of Exploration to wooden swords and handheld Taldan flags for children. Taverns offer themed drink and food, with varying bars adopting well-known nobles from the long history of the empire as their mascot or self-declared patron.Alongside all the pomp and circumstance filling Oppara is a noteworthy moment in history: the imperial senate is poised to hold a historic vote to end primogeniture. The potential end of the millennia-standing law of succession is the talk of the town. Streets and taverns are abuzz with conversations; some wish to see the law thrown down to pave a way for Princess Eutropia to ascend to the throne, while hardliners (especially elder nobles) believe the vote to be another wound in the great history of the empire, allowing not only the rabble-rousing Eutropia to inherit family power, but every ill-deserving woman. Regardless of the outcome, both sides of the debate agree that life will go on, and despite the serious ramifications of primogeniture’s potential end, the streets of Oppara hold no signs of unrest during the jubilant celebrations of the Grand Day of Exaltation.

CROWNFALLBy Thurston HillmanPathfinder Adventure Path #127, Levels 1–3As all of Taldor prepares to celebrate the Grand Day of Exaltation, the senate prepares to vote on whether or strike down the ancient law of primogeniture and allow Princess Eutropia to become Taldor’s heir apparent. The PCs attend the senate gala as guests of a noble named Martella Lotheed, acting as her agents to conduct minor petty intrigues. But Grand Prince Stavian III is convinced the Senate’s vote that night marks a turn to treason, and he unleashes his mercenaries to slaughter hundreds. The bloodbath triggers eons’ worth of protective magic—most long forgotten—teleporting the PCs and several others into the forgotten sublevels below the capital. The PCs must brave long-lost dangers to free themselves and rush to the aid of Martella Lotheed. Upon saving her from more of Stavian’s hired killers, the aristocrat reveals her true agenda as a spy in the employ of Princess Eutropia.SONGBIRD, SCION, SABOTEURBy Crystal Frasier and Richard PettPathfinder Adventure Path #128, Levels 4–6Now agents of Princess Eutropia in her bid for the throne of Taldor, the PCs must assist her in reclaiming her lands from her father’s former allies. Chief among these are the members of Martella Lotheed’s estranged family, who have managed the Stavian country estate for generations and now refuse to relinquish it. Without a military force to rely upon, Eutropia needs cunning agents to usurp control from the Lotheeds while undoing the damage their callous rule has done.THE TWILIGHT CHILDBy Ron LundeenPathfinder Adventure Path #129, Levels 7–9With a base of operations secure, Princess Eutropia asks the PCs to forge an alliance with the fickle Avin Prefecture far to the north. In Yanmass, Avin’s capital, the PCs discover a host of troubles, including an agent of Maxillar Pythareus—Earl Yander Merkondus—trying to woo the city to support the general’s bid for the throne. The PCs must find and stop the source of mysterious Qadiran raids while investigating a strange new cult in the city that worships a young man with miraculous healing powers. The raids are false-flag attacks organized by Pythareus’s agent Merkondus to once again inflame hostilities between Taldor and Qadira, but the cult is something else entirely. While the leaders of the Cult of the Twilight Child have their own nefarious agendas, the subject of their faith is none other than the long-dead Prince Carrius II, apparently risen and returned to Taldor in the nation’s hour of need.CITY IN THE LION’S EYEBy Mikko KallioPathfinder Adventure Path #130, Levels 10–12With the twin revelations that Prince Carrius II is returned from the dead and Maxillar Pythareus is trying to provoke a new war with Qadira, Princess Eutropia turns to Taldor’s greatest intelligence agency, the Lion Blades. While Eutropia investigates her little brother’s resurrection, the Lion Blades train the PCs in the arts of deception and disguise to help them infiltrate Pythareus’s stronghold: the fortress-city of Zimar. In the end, with evidence of Maxillar Pythareus’s betrayal of Taldor and attacks on her people to advance his own agenda, the PCs must fulfill their duties as newly appointed Lion Blades and bring this enemy of Taldor to justice.THE REAPER’S RIGHT HANDBy John ComptonPathfinder Adventure Path #131, Levels 13–15Even with Maxillar Pythareus’s bid for the Taldan throne crushed, a dire failsafe now bars the two remaining candidates—Princess Eutropia and her long-lost little brother, Carrius II—from ascending to the throne. Without an heir apparent, Taldor begins to unravel as every noble fights tooth-and-nail for the Primogen Crown. To find a legitimate ruler the nation can unite behind, the PCs must plunge into the myths and lore that surround Taldor’s earliest founding and eventually pass into the Great Beyond to seek the blessing of Taldaris, First Emperor. But first the PCs must find the legendary figure, lost somewhere in the infinite city of Axis, and make their way back before assassins render their mission moot.THE SIX-LEGEND SOULBy Amber E. ScottPathfinder Adventure Path #132, Levels 16–17As the PCs attend a royal funeral, Prince Carrius reveals that his returning memories point squarely at a cult that brought him back from the grave and dispatched assassins to eliminate his sister. He directs the PCs to avenge his sister by wiping out the Immaculate Circle, but they return from their mission to find themselves labeled traitors and assassins, accused of murdering Princess Eutropia by Carrius—now Grand Prince Carrius II, emperor of Taldor! Carrius II does not sit on the throne of Taldor alone: six terrible, overwhelming legends of kings long past rule through his mortal frame, using the boy as a vessel to return their empire to glory through a path of blood and fire. The PCs must face Taldor’s greatest champions—both the living and the legendary—to free Taldor from the rule of monsters and restore Eutropia’s soul to her body.