Monday, July 5, 2021

Maximalist Weird Fiction Mercenary Contract Generator Appendix A: Investigations

Summary: These are complete but open-ended contracts for use in weird fiction mercenary campaigns with an interwar tech level. This post contains the first of ten categories: Investigations.

You can find further context and explanation at the bottom of this post.

A: Investigations: High-risk detective work
B: Special Reconnaissance: Physical surveillance in hostile conditions
C: Military Intervention: Direct action in support of allied military activities
D: Military Assistance: Train, lead, advise and inspire allied military and/or security forces.
E: Stability Actions: Ensure that a vulnerable polity, individual, or process thrives by engaging with threats on its behalf
F: Counterconspiracy: Social infiltration and undercover proactive security
G: Counteroccult: Hunt strange creatures, assassinate occultists, minimize the fallout of occult catastrophes, counter malign entities, and safeguard items and places of cosmic provenance
H: Influence Operations: Persuade, influence, subvert and deceive under delicate and/or hostile circumstances
I: Extractions: Recover personnel and assets from hostile forces and other dangerous situations
J: Civil Relief: Prevent atrocities, relieve suffering in cut-off areas, and set up systems of sustenance and protection for people who are under threat of deprivation and violence

Contract Index
Surgical Redirection (IAF1SR)
Rapscallion Cavaliers (IAF2RC)
Rogue Colony (IAF3RC)
A Bat Out of Hell (IAO1ABOOH)
The Barghest of Brightmarrow (IAO2TBOB)
The Crimson Freighter (IAO3TCF)
Bring Order
Crime Wave
The Runestone of Lead and Mercury (IBOCW1TROLAM)
Might Makes Right (IBOCW2MMR)
Civilized Auxiliaries (IBOCW3CA)
Rampant Corruption
Exocosmic Waste (IBORC1EW)
Deus Vult (IBORC2DV)
All For the Cause (IBORC3AFTC)
Underworld Proliferation
Predator Patterns (IBOUP1PP)
Urban Artillery (IBOUP2UA)
Lithium Silphium (IBOUP3LS)
Develop Partners
Detective, née Thief Taker (IDP1DNTT)
By, With, and Through (IDP2BWAT)
Triple (etc) Threat (IDP3TET)
Battle Brothers (IDP4BB)
Constitutional Kingpin (IIC1CK)
Mechanical Elemental (IIC2ME)
Sky Raider (IIC3SR)
Cargo Occult (IIS1CO)
Nipped in the Bud (IIS2NITB)
Snap Judgement (IIS3SJ)
Agent of Chaos
The Master (IUAOC1TM)
Manna From Heaven (IUAOC2MFH)
Unwelcome Advice (IUAOC3UA)
Fiasco (IUC1F)
The Quandary (IUC2TQ)
The Pillar of Salt (IUC3TPOS)
Selection (IUK1S)
Precognitive Predation (IUK2PP)
Charismatic Killer (IUK3CK)
Unravel Plot
Developmental Pruning (IUP1DP)
Scrying Shame (IUP2SS)
Royal Prerogative (IUP3RP)

IAF1SR Surgical Redirection: Marcellus Cressae is a famed surgeon noted for his ability to reconstruct shattered nervous systems, as well as complexes of muscle and ligament. He sought willing subjects for novel augmentations and began offering his services to shady, violent organizations in need of the most dangerous enforcers possible. By creative re-routing of nerves, muscles and ligaments, Cressae selectively deadened his clients to pain, increased their strength while reducing their range of motion, or gave them the ability to disjoint themselves and slip into secure places and out of prisons. This had the side effect of forcing their reliance on expensive antibacterial drugs that Cressae was only too happy to supply. When his clients began to make efforts to coerce him to provide his services for free, Cressae employed his assistants to perform his tried and true surgeries on himself, and then followed up with experimental rewirings and novel integrations that he would never have attempted a client, no matter how much he was offered; the danger to his reputation for creating a true monstrosity was too great. Now that he’s been put on the hit list of an international criminal syndicate, this has ceased to be a consideration, and perhaps his surgeries will allow him to perform even greater feats of efficient medical dexterity. One of his protégés has been cornered attempting to kidnap a child for his master, but shot himself rather than be taken alive; the time has come to act directly against Marcellus Cressae before he can begin to further expand his arts at the expense of others. Find him and capture him, or if he cannot be kept from his implements of life support for long, then make sure he can no longer perform his enhancement on the world’s outlaws and underworld enforcers.

IAF2RC Rapscallion Cavaliers: King Drakus of Timpiriot has been convicted by the republicans of his kingdom of conspiring to alter the prayer books to provide greater popular support for the divine right of kings. He has gone into the highlands with his household, including armed manservants, knights (who serve as tank commanders) and his yeomen (who serve in war as motorcycle lancers with supplementary submachine guns). The knights and gentry are not considered criminals and are simply carrying out their ancient charter; the kingdom would greatly prefer that the king be delivered to the high court of justice without the bloodshed of a war (though some degree of sanguinity is to be expected in such an operation). The trouble is, although the tanks and biplanes of the knight are easy enough to scout, the exact location of the king is unknown. Discover his whereabouts, seize His Majesty’s person and deliver him to the Tower of the Capitol.

IAF3RC Rogue Colony: Galastar Mardona is a famous explorer from the city-state of Ringtrove. He has persuaded numerous universities, industrialists and nobles to contribute funds and equipment to his latest expedition, but instead of looking for new opportunities for his patrons as agreed, he has founded his own colony. He and his men have claimed and begun to utilize all of the resource sites he’s yet uncovered, and he’s made a deal with a local tribe for protection against his creditors. Mardona’s creditors and the city of Ringtrove have an interest in this colony and do not wish to destroy it, but Mardona must answer for his dishonesty. Find him and apprehend him or somehow force or convince him to pay the city-state what they’re owed; this will involve a great indemnity, but the city-state is willing to let Mardona stay on as governor if it would be less trouble than invading their colony-to-be.

IAO1ABOOH A Bat Out of Hell: Tero Mulfinwast was a high-ranking noncommissioned officer in the City of Dramodrogue Air Cavalry; glider troops with a reputation for behind-enemy-lines brutality. After being demobbed, Mulfinwast continued his raiding as a bandit, teaching his men to construct rudimentary gliders and using them to suddenly descend on merchant caravans from the mountaintops, or having a hired-on biplane pilot drag one or more of his gliders on a preplanned attack. He’s even used this method to intercept a freighter on the high sea using a motorboat with a releasable glider frame around it. Currently, Mulfinwast and his gang (the hard core of which consist of Air Cavalry deserters and demobs) inhabit a lumber hill fort. Find this base and bring him and his lieutenants to justice, but be aware that his palisade and treeforts have gliders in them which he may use to escape if cornered, or may even send his men after you in should you be detected in a disadvantageous position.

IAO2TBOB The Barghest of Brightmarrow: Liamar Callwellow, the Barghest of Brightmarrow, must be stopped. A guerilla who never gave up the gun even after the culture of the conquerer and the culture of the conquered have more or less merged, he has continued his war for the last 25 years and extended it to cover the people who’ve betrayed his cause; his people. His activities have descended into absolute depravity; he has gone from robbing and releasing passers by on the highway to kidnapping whole families for the sole purpose of eating them. His men are disgusted by and horrified of him, but continue to cooperate from his silver-or-lead strategy of plunder sharing and horrific internal repression in his warband, which is driven by informing. His old, grizzled companions trawl the towns and garrison bars looking for likely recruits, who are then inducted into the band via acts of absolute brutality and warned that any waver in loyalty would lead them to become the next initiation ritual’s focus. Liamar lives and stashes his plunder in a series of fortified caves that go up the inside of a mountain until reaching his personal den near the apex. What the government doesn’t know about him is that something about the nature of his cannibalism has begun to transform him; he can see in the dark with eyes that shine green in the shadows, and he now has the ability to swallow and dissolve just about anything, and he is able to dislocate his jaw and perform limb-severing bites; this is, in fact, how he’s been able to shape and expand his caves so comprehensively.

IAO3TCF The Crimson Freighter: There is a sprawling, floating shantytown on a calm stretch of inner sea where pirates steam their ships in preference to breaking them for scrap or selling them on the black market; when they arrive, they weld their new acquisitions to the great amalgamation and become the landlords of this new real estate. Even warships are added, purchased by the King in the Crimson Freighter and used as artillery batteries with their hardened magazines as state bank vaults. This King is the chieftain of this great floating fortress, which is called Crate, or the City of Crate; this king is Jastallin Krandalwick, the world’s most wanted pirate. He rules from his Crimson Freighter, a blood-colored submarine that surfaces in his secret dock at the very center of Crate; the depth charges, torpedoes and flank cannons of the Crimson Freighter have doomed many attempts to bring ‘King’ Krandalwick to justice. You must succeed where they have failed, for if many more captains flock to his banner then his ability to terrorize the continents from the sea will soon rival the Cynthian Empire’s. If you happen to kill or capture any of these captains along the way, provide proof and the client will reward you with their market value.

Bring Order
Crime wave
IBOCW1TROLAM The Runestone of Lead and Mercury: Agents from the isle of Glossolalia have smuggled a radioactive runestone into the city-state of Seraphimortis. This runestone is pouring lead and mercury into the environment and the bodies of the residents, gradually driving everyone to paranoia and impulsive violence. The players are susceptible to this as well, and should they spend more than a week or two in the city-state they will find themselves forced to roll to control their impulses; their behavior reflects the increasingly irritable, scatterbrained and suspicious natures of the city-state’s citizens.
The Glossolalian agents have hidden the runestone:
Beneath the Capitol: The government is enacting unbelievably harebrained policies; the party will find judges, law enforcement officers and statesmen to be utterly arbitrary and/or disinterested.
At the Docks: Ships are no longer coming and going, but rather floating in communities of vicious but unfocused sailors attempting to work on their ships but often can’t find anything that needs doing. Captains draw up exquisite plans but can’t seem to marshal their crews at the right times.
The Manufactory: The city’s primary manufacturing plant has been hardened with concrete, fortified with sheet metal and is staffed 24/7 by twitchy workers and thugs who control access with utter suspicion and hostility. Whatever was once produced here is no longer being produced; raw materials still enter as the factory owners rack up massive debt but nothing leaves the building.
The players have been contracted to uncover what has become of the city.
Glossolalian thugs with dirks and machine pistols provide roving security for the runestone; they try and blend in but they have been exposed to the mind-melting metals of the runestone for longer than anybody. They are prescient; they carry bolts of silk of unknown provenance, and when they wrap this around their forearms it fractalizes into their bloodstream, leaving their flesh raw and red-speckled. This puts them into a dissociative state in which they can commune with the Machine Elves and be advised by them. A Glossolalian Statue Man guards the runestone chamber itself; this is a Glossolalian high priest whose body has been unnaturally stretched and distributed throughout the inside of an enormous grinding statue. His hairless and bloodshot face is visible, and if you look between the cracks of the statue you will see his limbs and body wound throughout it like a gum. The statue has steel cables wound around it like a mummy’s wrapping; when the Statue Man wishes to attack, he will whip the stone segments of his body around in a circle and disgorge the cables, which will cut through just about anything in the vicinity. 
The Glossolalians have done this at the behest of the Machine Elves so as to curtail the future progress of mankind.

IBOCW2MMR Might Makes Right: The city-state’s old authoritarian religious system has broken down and been replaced by a new philosophy. The old religion was about conduct, not conscience, and when it was defeated by the city’s social and industrial modernization, a strain of individualist anarchism became the free man’s code of honor. Now everyone is out to get theirs.
The city’s security forces have turned into thieves so nobody feels inclined to work with them, and the city’s leadership have become scheming potentates and so nobody believes what they say. Not everybody is corrupt because the players have been hired to try and help get things under control and act as a neutral, mediating force.
The players have a dual problem to solve: the crime rate (because most people are committing whatever crimes they think they can get away with or bribe their way out of) and the philosophy underlying the crime wave; the players have to find some way to help the city move on to a new state of mind or a new philosophy, a new movement away from individualist anarchism, or the city will become internationally socially radioactive and will lose all of its trade contracts and productive enterprises as social trust plunges to zero; they’ve already been pretty minimized, though there are missionaries who are attempting to step in and fill the religious void (though they’re generally laughed at and called caitiffs, curs and castrati). Until the players successfully inculcate a new religion or philosophy, things are going to remain crazy in this city.

IBOCW3CA Civilized Auxiliaries: The city-state of Crimiveria rests at a strategic crossroads between soaring peaks, tumbling crags, fetid bogs and fenwalled forests. A recent attempt by the city-state to bring about peace between the nearby warring bandit tribes has resulted in a proxy war within the city-state because almost every single production apparatus, element of government, merchant and noble house, and sports or fraternal association has been coopted by one of the warring bandit tribes and used as pawns in this struggle between the wilderness peoples. Unions, gangs, philosophical societies, no one has been fully spared the influence of the bandit tribe chieftains and shamans. Historically these tribes have been geographically cut off from one another and unable to launch decisive military operations, but the opening of the city has opened the battlefield that the tribes feel will determine the final victor. The players have been hired by the (relatively powerless) high government first to bring order to chaos in the streets as members of the various tribes fight each other in bloody ambushes and skirmishes, and their auxiliaries in the sailing corps or weaving guild fight as well in the bars, back alleys and battles of their tribal overlords, second to end tribal influence over the city-state’s organizations (who are alternatingly intimidated by the most vicious means, skinning and sodomy, before being paid off with crocodile skins and precious silk socks), and third, if possible, to bring peace between the bandit tribes. This last would entail a huge bonus but the tribes feel themselves very near to victory over one another and so the path to peace is currently totally unclear.

Rampant corruption
IBORC1EW Exocosmic Waste: Objects are beginning to float in the air; buildings are morphing, materials are shifting composition. Reams of fractal color like the emissions of a crystalline neon flamethrower can be seen here and there by day and night; people are becoming psychologically mutated. The party has been hired to discover what is going on.

This city has something that makes it practical to be used as a dumping ground for occult objects (occult catacombs or a lead-lined vault complex) so occultists across the continent are sending their objects and runoff here because they think it’s a safe place for these things. This is wrong and the occult waste is having bizarre effects on the city and its populace. The party has been hired to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to it, but they face a double threat from the environment itself (with the aforementioned effects) and from the corrupt landowners or politicians who have allowed occult runoff to be dumped in their city (and would be executed if this were discovered) and who will do everything possible to bring about the end of the investigation, from murdering the players’ employers to murdering the players themselves. Then a third problem, that the players can contribute to solving for an additional commission if they wish, is what to do with the occult artifacts themselves. The corrupt people who’ve been secreting away the occult artifacts have contacts across the continent’s occultists, and if truly pressed by the party they can call upon these malign men for aid in keeping their secrets. 

The trouble is, a lot of these occult artifacts are either highly unstable and are likely to wreck the city for all time if they’re disturbed, or act as the fetters or property of strange entities that have either developed as a result of their resonant emissions or been settled and colonized from outside the cosmos, or were already associated with an artifact; these entities will alternatingly try to get the party to destroy the city and try to get the party to fail their mission depending on the personal intent of the entity. An entity may pose as an angel or some such and say “we want the same thing, which is to bring about an end to the situation in this city”; it may be essentially on the level or it may be totally deceitful and have destructive malevolence as its raison d'être (50/50).

IBORC2DV Deus Vult: This city has been taken over by a crusading order of knights or a fraternal military order. Their legal judgements are determined by the donations made by plaintiffs and those proposing new projects.

The situation is being entrenched by the fact that these knights are of the same faith as the city-state, and they defeated and replaced a government of hated heretics, so much of the populace is completely on their side. Furthermore the knights are expert warriors and are mostly convinced of the righteousness of their actions. Consummate armored warriors with expert squires and military arms, largely supported by the clergy. Difficult quarry, but there's like, there's a faction of rationalists in the city (mostly merchants, engineers, scientists etc) who are perfectly aware of how corrupt and deleterious the new situation is. Justice is being perverted but most of the city feels that it's the natural order of things, and they're glad to be free of the heretics, but the situation still has to be solved and the behavior of the knights is still in violation of the city-state’s law code, they’ve just gone unprosecuted so far in the afterglow of their victory. Those able to bribe the knights don't want the system to change because they're doing really really well under it, so they’re willing to dispose of the players and work with the knights to accomplish this, perfectly willing to make friends with the players and set them up for the knights to slaughter them. So the players have to change the situation either by removing all the knights or by causing a moral schism within them (inspiring them to be Paladins or similar). The most corrupt knights are willing to bring fire and havoc on the city to try and root out the players and punish the people who are supporting them, up to and including destroying the city “because it's become corrupt” even though the knights are the ones who’ve become corrupted (they feel that their behavior is the natural order of things; the just reward of a pleased deity).

IBORC3AFTC All For the Cause: The finances of a city-state or military order are being garnished by an unknown criminal. Money has been funneled out of the system, and state motorcars, firearms and medicine have disappeared in transit, as well. The city has a complex financial system and the city-state’s finance minister has hired the players to investigate the leak.

The actual source of the theft is a secret brotherhood within the government that is dedicated to preparing for and combating a threat which it feels the central government (or king etc) has refused to take seriously:

The Cynthain Empire or other imperial force / The Anarcho-Syndicalists / The massing tribes / the Red Charter Companies or other organized bandits / occult organizations.

The nature of the organization can be summed up by one of the following two options:
A: Replace the government + kill the party
B: Serve the government and people by any means necessary; most of the organization would like to work with the party, but there is a No Witnesses subfaction that wants to kill the party and any other outsiders that are aware of the organization’s activity. The government may be totally intolerant of conspiracies and so would be willing to kill the good people in this organization, and hence the party is presented with a moral dilemma.

Either way, the city-state government/king may decide to take the threat seriously as a result of this clandestine organization’s activity; if the organization is legitimized, the party might be hired to work alongside them, and if the organization is rooted out for conspiring against the state then the party might be kept on to act in their stead.

Underworld proliferation
IBOUP1PP Predator Patterns: There is a fetishization of dangerous predatory or venomous animals in this city-state: tigers, bears, nasty jellyfish, poison dart frogs and the like. This has resulted in the current fashion movement towards really bright ostentation and a culture of interpersonal deadliness. The city's nobility, the unrestricted mercantile upper classes and the city’s professional criminals wear crazy, colorful, ostentatious patterns all the time and they prominently carry weapons as ornamentation and enforcement tool (mostly a smattering of pistols and rapiers but occasionally something larger). They decorate their homes with dangerous animals, but there's such a demand that the very few tame predators that were once on the market have been bought up long ago, and so now poachers are just capturing them and shipping them in. The city-state is monitoring this but is having little luck curbing the practice because these people *do not like* being governed and many of them are involved in shipping or have friends in the excise office.

The players have been brought on to unravel the syndicate that is poaching and providing these predators to the city’s higher orders.

A lot of these people use dangerous animals in traps in their homes as part of their ostentation; they’ll give guests tours and show them the pit traps filled with physalia, the thin painting with a starved tiger behind it or the poison dart frog hopper. This is an arms race of ostentation and the GM is encouraged to get as creative as possible with it. The people who are *directly* involved in the business will have the most venomous and carnivorous abodes of anyone, and their meeting places may have these traps as well. Many of them travel around in public with pet tigers on two-way chains between pairs of armed manservants; these will be released in a pinch, causing chaos if not always the maiming of the PCs.
The PCs will find an even darker side to all of this; most of these animal smugglers were human traffickers before entering their current line of work and still have prisoners from those days, who may be kept for lean times or periodically fed to predators and scavengers when a demonstration is needed.

IBOUP2UA Urban Artillery: Surverila is a wealthy, modern city-state with a big problem. Two or more factions have an insoluble rivalry which has escalated from random brawls with pipes, fists and bottles to handguns and knives to automatic weapons and bombs. Now they’ve begun to arm themselves in a way that is outstripping the city-state’s somnambulant military; battles are now being carried out in the city’s gleaming streets using flamethrowers, anti-tank rifles, mortars, artillery, armored cars and dive bombers. The city-state is holding back from engaging these rival forces out of fear of engaging in a final death struggle; they’ve wanted to wait until one side emerges victorious but exhausted before pouncing, but there’s no sign of the conflict resolving and their beautiful and prosperous city-state is being reduced to ash and rubble. The city-state government has hired the players to root out the arms dealers and bring an end to the import of military weapons, ammunition and spare parts to Surverila. There may be corruption involved at the port or the city gates; the smugglers, the corrupt officials and the warring factions will all act against the players once it becomes known that there are mercenaries attempting to root out the import of high explosive weapons and such.

Roll from the following list to determine who the factions are; if you roll the same thing twice, it means that the groups have coalesced around two rivals or two ideological strains.
Monarchists / Theocrats / Republicans / Ultranationalists / Anarcho-Syndicalists / Noble House / Industrial Baron / Underworld Syndicate

IBOUP3LS Lithium Silphium: A new drug is proliferating in the city state which makes its user super fast with unbelievable reaction time and greatly increased anaerobic muscle capacity. This is paid for with extreme hunger due to metabolic warping, and so those are using the drug must be very well fed or they will lose control midway through their high. Use of the drug is very hard on one’s joints, but it is easy to build up muscle during the recovery period due to one’s extreme hunger.

A crime lord has been giving silphium lithium to some of his enforcers when they go out on raids; he'll give him a huge feast beforehand or he'll have it ready for when they get back, or both. Oftentimes they’ll keep tins of corned beef stacked in with their grenade bandoliers, as well, and bloody cut fingers are a marker of these enforcers (from feverishly opening the tins and scooping out the fatty meat, heedless of the sharp rim).

Raiders, hitmen, bank robbers and such are all able to make miraculous getaways while on foot, climbing up telephone poles, leaping through windows and breaking down doors and such. The trouble is they sometimes become so hungry they end up breaking into homes and businesses, brutalizing people for food, or in extreme cases committing cannibalism. The hunger on this drug is no joke; if someone in the throes of it does not eat, they really will go into a state of shock and die. This can happen if they neglect to bring proper food, or if they don’t ration what they have on them. This can lead to extreme violence if blocked from a meal, or to eating whatever somewhat-edible biomass is nearest, from filthy trash to someone’s dog.

Unfortunately, the city-state government felt it needed to create its own lithium silphium task force after a number of responding officers were killed by hoodlums-turned-supersoldiers who were using the narcotic. The newly-formed Flying Squad began by using confiscated silphium lithium to get even with the crooks but have graduated to producing the narcotic themselves. 
The players would be wise to avoid direct combat with enemies who are on silphium lithium; tripwires and close-range ambushes are advised. The Flying Squad certainly doesn’t seek to take prisoners; generally, wounded syndicate raiders are stripped of food, handcuffed and allowed to thrash themselves to death.

The players must take down the lithium silphium traffickers and bring about an end to the superpowered criminality plaguing the city. The problem is that the drug gradually deranges the long-term user and instills paranoia and megalomania; once the criminals have been dealt with, it will be found that the Flying Squad refuses to lay down their narcotic potentiator, and have their own plans for the future governance of the city. Unless the players feel like being expelled from the city at gunpoint (possibly without pay due to stealing the Flying Squad’s thunder), this will likely lead to a showdown with the Flying Squad or a further contract to rid the city of them.

Develop Partners

IDP1DNTT Detective, née Thief Taker: Historically, this city-state has had no law enforcement besides thief takers. These were semi-legitimate bounty hunters, often drawn from the criminal population itself. In many cases, these men were primarily thieves, and simply delivered their rivals (or friends) to the authorities as a sideline, capturing them or setting them up for a fall. 

The central government (or ruling nobility etc) has developed to the point of establishing a professional police force, and have elected to bring on their historical roster of thief takers as full time detectives.
The party has been brought in to professionalize, lead, and be an example to the detective force during this establishment period. The party have been deputized by the state and hold a higher legal authority than the detectives; that said, the thief taker detectives are not used to taking orders, especially not from leadership that isn’t based on charisma, so the players will have to handle the personalities of these former criminals and possibly separate the wheat from the chaff (ie put some of them in prison) as they work to gain the detective force experience and breathing room to act against the criminal underworld.

Some of the thief takers actually do wish to go legit and make the most of the new system, but others will wear the badge but more or less plan to continue as before. Many of the former thief takers, whether or not they plan on becoming professionals, have deep webs of interpersonal obligation with the underworld and may still be entwined in endeavors with corrupt officials. 

The son of a detective is married to the daughter of a major crime lord. The detective and his daughter-in-law want him to go legit, but his son and the crime lord do not want that.
One of the detectives had a corrupt judge get him off of a severe sentence when he was still a thief. Now he knows that this judge is corrupt, but he owes the man his life/freedom. The detective is repentant but conflicted about what should be done about the judge.
One of the detectives has connections to an occult figure who gave him good luck in his thieving days but is likely to come calling for a favor someday, and their fates are intertwined by more than social obligation.
The entire family of one of your best detectives are all part of the underworld; thieves, killers, con men, prostitutes, madams and poisoners. His work is indispensable but he doesn’t want any of his family arrested until they’ve each been given several chances to reform.
And then finally, some of the detectives are still essentially criminals or have become even mere corrupt, but there’s a kind of Blue Shield situation where even the legitimate detectives are hesitant to act against the bad eggs because the department is so young and vulnerable to dissolution, and however bad the bad detectives are the department has still brought in a lot of real bad guys. That said, the conduct of the detectives now will determine public support (and thus budgeting and availability of intelligence) in the future.

IDP2BWAT By, With and Through: The players have been hired to stand up a uniformed police force for the first time in the city-state of Ramarca. They’ll need to organize the training of the first class of police and instill them with their culture; this initial group (of a dozen or so men) will then carry on the training and organization of future classes of police officers. The players will also need to “show them how it’s done” to some degree; some of these officers were very high quality but a few of them were just out of a job and have no experience dealing with dangerous situations. The players will need to help them set up recruitment with this in mind (many of the policemen will want to bring in their brothers and cousins; other suggestions could be recruiting big impartial farm boys from the plains and paddocks, hiring tribesmen who are prickly but fast and cunning, or taking on reformed criminals who know the underworld inside and out).

In opposition to this program is an underworld syndicate which has operated in the streets with more or less total impunity. They want to dissolve the new department or coerce it to the point of controlling it, and are willing to go after the families of the new officers and attack random civilians (e.g. throwing grenades into markets) just to attempt to coerce the government to stand down their force and allow business as usual.

There’s a variety of ambient crime in the city and the players get to decide how the PD will respond to that; they’re likely to need to accompany the patrolmen on raids, particularly against the main crime syndicate, who the officers will probably be secretly terrified of.

Once the syndicate has been suppressed and the PD has a self-sustaining system, the players’ contract is complete. They may want to have the city-state set up wanted contracts on some of the crooks; the players can fulfill these for extra cash, but if they help set up the PD to do it, then the beat cops will get extra experience and the cash can go straight to their operational fund.

IDP3TET Triple (etc) Threat: The city-state is extending its security capabilities over a region that has a few hamlets and the homes of lumberjacks, prospectors and freeholding settlers. A sheriff has been given jurisdiction over these wooded hills, and the players have been hired on to help him establish law, order and public safety in this hinterland region.

The sheriff is just one guy, but he was an experienced pioneer and bounty hunter before being retained by the state. He can be relied upon to handle some situations alone, but will need help to cover his region, first from the players and later from deputies.

There is an occult cavern complex filled with ruins that seem to posit an impending golden age of mountaintop cities poking from a sea of algae. 

These caverns are porous and a site of tripartite trouble: when the sheriff first takes up his charter, the caverns are haunted by bandits who treat them as a great subterranean palace appropriately decadent and decrepit for wasted men of the wasteland. Over time, the caverns become a destination for occult pilgrims, who begin as a friendly curiosity for the bandits but soon become a hostile nuisance. Finally, as the occultists begin to settle and establish alchemical rectories within the opulent recesses of the cavern complex, a xenostygian civilization decides that it must purge the occult upperworlder taint before the occultists can manifest the all-flooding algal upwelling heralded by the original erection of the complex. As such, they will indiscriminately attempt to kill all surfacers in the region, from the occultists and 
The xenostygian vanguard are sewn into the bellies of giant spiders and manually hooked into their nervous systems. The spiders have conduits running along their limbs connected to refillable gall bladders filled with hyperacid inside the pilot’s compartment; the pilots can spray this acid to destroy flesh, wood and textiles. Should their spiders be slain or maimed, the pilots will cut themselves free and continue the fight with their double-barreled razorbola chainshot handguns (designed to kill or delimb rampaging spiders) and shrimpclaw knives.

Once the xenostygians have cleared the complex of most occultists (at great, barely-explicable cost) they will begin to collapse key chambers and stelae. They will leave themselves a path to continue harrying the surface region.

The party and sheriff must deal with this all while responding to domestic violence, dangerously impure moonshine stills, inheritance disputes, poaching, outlawry, livestock rustling and the like, and the need for wilderness medical and mail systems as a bonus.

IDP4BB Battle Brothers: The players have been contracted to set up a militia in this region. This differs from unconventional warfare scenarios in that this is primarily a security force to guard against banditry, creatures and the occult instead of a military force in a discrete conflict. The players must recruit militiamen from the regions surrounding the city-state, train them, and help them understand both how to deal with not only armed, organized threats like bandits but also civil crime like domestic violence, tax evasion and livestock theft. These militiamen are likely to be rough men fresh from a life of labor under the sun; this differs from the sheriff scenario where it's a professional lawman, these are farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks hired or conscripted by the state. 
You can do direct recruitment, searching for the kind of guy you need, or you can put the word out in the markets that you’re recruiting.
Recruiting table
1 Farmer (shotgun or hunting rifle)
2 Fisherman (handy with knife, net, boat and ship)
3 Shepherd (horse and revolver)
4 Miner (extremely hardy)
5 Drover (coach gun, great with a horse & cart or carriage)
6 Rover (can blend in as criminal / when in an urban area)
7 Lumberjack (huge axe, great against doors)
8 Blacksmith’s Apprentice (strong, can repair metal objects)
9 Herbalist’s Apprentice (good vs infections, shock, arterial bleeding, broken bones)
10 Hunter (bolt-action 30.06)
11 Mechanic (motorcycle, can repair complex machines)
12 Carpenter (can quickly construct hides as well as maintaining militia facilities)

(Optional) Starting Dispositions d10:
10: Fanatical
7: Spirited
5: Committed
3: Morbid
1: Seditious
If conscripts: -2
If provided with a full, comprehensive kit: +1
If the militia has a great reputation: +1

The more operations they go on, the more seasoned they’ll get until you can make your initial band into sergeants and then officers for independently patrolling militia squads and platoons. Leading them from the front and showing them how it’s done can be teachable, but you won’t get the heroes who are necessary for the creation of a real militia tradition unless you let the militia lead itself on dangerous actions sometimes (with you as a backbone and intervention/reinforcement element), with all the chaos, confusion and sacrifice that this will entail.

A patrol period (anything from a day, a week or a month depending on the desired tempo of your campaign) might turn up the following example situations:
1 Presence patrol: Meet some locals (offer to host your militia or make another proposition)
2 Lost child or tourist
3 Family dispute
4 Illegal enterprise (bad hooch, poaching, coin clipping)
5 Ruffians who’ve been drinking
6 Men who are up to no good but are not intrinsically hostile to militia, ie on vendetta or cattle raid
7 Lone outlaw
8 Wilderness site of unknown provenance (ruin, caverns, unexpected pillboxes)
9 River pirates (lightly armed)
10 Bandit gang 
11 Dedicated rebels/plotters
12 Bandit tribesmen on a vision raid (may have unexplainable powers)
13 Secret slave operation (outlaw military force using slaves to mine, construct a base, cut lumber for resale etc)
14 Corporeal monster
15 Lone occultist in his hideout
16 Cynthian Sea Legionnaires on a chevauchee (infantry armor, interwar military weapons and vehicles)
17 Xenostygian or cryptostygian raid
18 Multiple occultists
19 Mutably phasic or semi-temporal monster
20 Unkillable monster

The state that is employing you may be willing to provide you with seed money for the militia, particularly if they’re conscripts, but of course you can offer incentives if Myou like (anything from bonuses to bounties to the greenlight to loot outlaw sites etc). The state may be willing to provide weapons and provisions, or you may need to source these yourself and perhaps set up some kind of farming system for the militia in the least resource-rich scenario.

IIC1CK Constitutional Kingpin: The influential King of the constitutional monarchy in question has become a racketeer; a black marketeer of large internationally-relevant items like stolen tanks and aircraft, a trafficker of narcotics, and an extortionist of unprotected nobles. Investigate the King’s misdeeds and build an airtight case against him; he is too well-connected to be successfully investigated by domestic opposition, but the high judges have not been corrupted and will convict the King if sufficient evidence can be brought against him.

IIC2ME Mechanical Elemental: The Minister of Infrastructure has come to dominate most of the city’s construction firms, and he has had many of the city’s new construction projects retired or piped in novel ways that allow for more direct control of electrical levels and water pressure than would normally be afforded to the state infrastructure apparatus. As a result of this he has the power to selectively demolish houses via high-pressure flooding, as well as filling larger buildings with water and causing local blackouts or power surges. He and his cronies have the power to quickly redirect the city’s sewage system into the water treatment plant’s central annex; this is no joke and would actually lead to thousands of deaths and a permanent decline in the city’s fortunes. The Minister has constructed a control center deep in the most undesirable recess of the city’s sewers from which he and his men can direct the city’s fortunes; the sewage channels leading to this control center are guarded by mercenary tribesmen who patrol beneath the surface of the sewage carrying harpoons and sharp grappling hooks to pull infiltrators down beneath, where they are drowned and left to rot. Discover the full extent of the Minister’s mechanical tendrils and bring him and his cronies to justice.

IIC3SR Sky Raider: Zeppelin shipping was briefly thought to be the way of the future until the invention of the nine-winged enneaplanes, huge flying boats that are used as everything from flying cargo containers, luxury yachts, transports for airborne troops and mobile radiotelegraphy stations. Now zeppelins have largely been relegated to observation platforms or carriers for biplane quick reaction forces. 

Tercio Zinfandel, also known as the Bloat King, invested in a fleet of zeppelins at just the wrong time and has found little use for them. Now several of his zeppelins have been stolen and towed out into the hinterlands around the city of Gazmandrine, where bandits have equipped them with flak cannons and have begun to shoot down enneaplane air transports. Pickings from enneaplanes shot down at altitude by flak guns are likely to be slim, and the city council suspects Zinfandel of cooperation with the bandits; rough men in incongruous garb have been seen entering and leaving his manor house by night. Find out if Zinfandel has intentionally created this situation to open a path for zeppelin shipping or if he has truly been robbed and coerced by the flak robbers. Shooting down the zeppelins and searching the wreckage is unlikely to yield much solid evidence; one possibility for getting aboard the enneaplane would be to get on board a plane with a higher flight ceiling than fully-laden enneaplanes and parachuting onto the top of a zeppelin before sliding down the exterior superstructure to the gondolas (several of the stolen zeppelins were cargo freighters; one was a luxury yacht and another was some kind of laboratory). 

IIS1CO Cargo Occult: A cargo freighter struck a mine in a peaceful river far from any warzone and promptly sank. Investigate the conditions and implications of this mess.

Reasons for the sinking:
(1) River pirates are blocking the river so that subsequent shipping can be raided from the shore via canoe etc, which is likely to occur while the party is investigating the sinking
(2) An order of civil knights preventing the secret cargo of the freighter from reaching its destination, though it has now entered the river [mutational agent / spirit eels / invisible but water-displacing entity)
(3) This was intended to create a water-bottom outpost for aquatic xenostygians who are inhabiting the wreck and will attack anyone coming down in diving suits while wearing their own horrific diving suits whose air tubes go down into the earth, not up to the surface.

IIS2NITB Nipped in the Bud: The Starling & Shrike academy (or wherever mercenaries of your type are trained) has been bombed and a number of young children and their teachers have been killed. Discovered who could have infiltrated the remote city’s tight defenses and carried out such a crime.

The actual perpetrators: The Cynthian Empire (or other conquering empire) / the Crag of Songs Kilers (or other murder cult) / Anarcho-Syndicalists / rogue agents in the employ of a foreign power / malcontents who have come to believe that the system creates a negative life-value for those going through it.

If the perpetrators are not members of the organization themselves, then they were assisted by a few members of the organization. Reasons for such aid:
Ideological sympathy / Family member held hostage / Blackmailed about hitherto-disguised professional failures / Massively bribed

IIS3SJ Snap Judgement: A glassblower has been murdered. He was a man with many wealthy clients; some suspect his operation was primarily a means of international black marketeers to launder their money.

In truth, he’d been severely abusing his apprentices, burning them and cutting them with shards of broken glass, but in their culture the apprentice and master are tighter than family, bound together for multiple lives, so this is the prerogative of the master if he sees it as his duty to inflict severe punishment. The apprentices conspired to kill their master, as this was the only way they would become honorably free to take up apprenticeships in other glassblowing workshops; abandoning the man was out of the question unless they wanted to begin a new decade-long apprenticeship in some other trade (and being taken on after abandoning their last master was highly unlikely).

The players will have to decide if they want to turn in the apprentices or not.

Agent of Chaos
IUAOC1TM The Master: A mysterious, unpainted ship of riveted sheet metal sailed into the harbor of Garrulia one day with no apparent crew but a man standing upon the conning tower in a white mast. The ship crashed into the city’s major wharf and beached itself in the middle of the commercial district; the man in the white mask darted onto a nearby rooftop and was not seen again that day. Hours later, enormous black whales of unknown taxonomy began to surface in the harbor, seemingly gathering in a semicircle around the ship. Then, all at once, they opened their mouths and began emitting stone-crushing sonic blasts into the harbor district and the neighborhoods adjoining, above and beneath the city’s great staircases. They blasted more or less indiscriminately until the ship was reduced to shrapnel and the lower city reduced to rubble; then they descended into the water with nothing but a smoking bubbling and have not been see again since. What has been seen is the man in the white mask: he was first witnessed in the clocktower of a tall manor, and then on the mountain slopes above the city. Find and stop this man before he brings further calamity upon the town.

IUAOC2MFH Manna From Heaven: Great Loom is a library city with few foes; tucked away in a high forest valley, with many defensive allies, the weavers and bookbinders of Great Loom have enjoyed a great period of peace, prosperity and general pleasantness. No more. Someone is seeking to drive the Great Loomers out of their ancestral home by aerial delivery, but apparently without damaging the city proper. Unmarked enneaplane transports are flying over Great Loom at unpredictable intervals, and when they get over the city their bay doors open and a terrible payload descends upon the city. It varies per lift, but so far the planes have dropped black widows from web-filled cargo bays, jungle centipedes packed so tight that they had to be pushed out from within, gem-showers of poison dart frogs dropped from low altitude over the city’s fountains and ponds, greased kraits and scorpions. You are being hired to determine the origins of these enneaplanes, find the organizer(s) and bring justice to the ones who have slaughtered so many Great Loomers in their beds.

In secret, the nearby city of Feyglade is running the project to depopulate Great Loom without spreading an international pandemic. Feyglade was formerly a civilized city-state that was taken over by prairies nomads; the civilized folk now serve their tribal overlords. They have acquired some land in the mountains near great loom and turned it into a cavernous airbase using labor from the piratical Red Charter Companies. Now men of Feyglade operate and maintain the airplanes involved in these envenomed airlifts, while the breeding caverns are operated by the tribals who dump crickets and mice into the pits, which are then emptied into cargo bays below that can be hooked into the enneaplanes. This airbase is also a blacksite for dissidents from Feyglade; they are placed in the cargo bays before the breeding pits are siphoned into them while tribal chieftains watch and chortle with pale and sickening city-state civil ministers standing nearby. The chieftain Mgodemog is in charge of this operation, and when he is not coordinating airlifts he is dining on feasts of roast snakes and insects with his companions.

IUAOC3UA Unwelcome Advice: A mysterious warrior has come to the City of Plategarnish. He always wears a white silk mask which admits no colors to his features; how he sees is not certain, but what is certain is that he is a profoundly deadly killer when given time to get to his pistol. What is even deadlier is his strategy; he has completely undone the balance of power in Plategarnish, causing it to spiral back and forth between the city’s rival factions by offering absolutely and valid counsel in succession to each of the city’s Houses, Clans, Guilds and Commissions. His ideas have always been better than those of the leaders he seeks to advise; those who have followed his advice have found victory, those who have not have suffered defeat. The bloodshed resulting from the successful actions he alternatingly proposes to each of the city’s factions has been tremendous, and a few of the city’s neutral factions have contracted us to unmask this gratis mercenary and remove him from the picture; there is too much destruction being wrought upon Plategarnish by his circular advisement.

IUC1F Fiasco: The storm sewers of Salaveria are no longer draining. Every time it rains, they fill. Their drainage sites are now underwater. The city has not yet been able to deploy divers. Soon the city will be flooded, and it will flood until the water pours out through the city’s porous walls. You have been hired to determine why the city has flooded and what might be done about it; this is a civil affairs operation on the face of it, but in truth it’s a criminal investigation. The Krakenstool Shipping Co is blocking the city’s outflow channels with decommissioned ships; this has the minimum fig leaf of legitimacy that Jools Marsech feels he needs to prevent a felony conviction in a court case. His hope is that he can use the Salaveria’s lowland position to turn it from a city that relies upon ground cargo transport to a city of canals where he can become the sole agent of transportation.

IUC2TQ The Quandary: The previous mercenaries sent to safeguard Mastrilar’s Commission on Corruption have disappeared; gone under the radar or murdered. Travel to Mastrilar, covertly determine what has become of the mercenaries, and then safeguard the Commission from behind the scenes.
In fact, the previous mercenaries have been bribed with extremely generous terms from the Mastrilarian exchequer’s corrupt steward. Some of them will be waiting (in furs and luxury automobiles) to ambush the second wave of mercenaries to save the state finances some further garnishing; if, however, their attempt is undone, the corrupt elements of the government will make a similar offer to the players with one modification: accept a huge bribe to provide security for the state exchequer and its agents, or eliminate the chief surveyors in the Commission on Corruption and the payoff will be doubled.

IUC3TPOS The Pillar of Salt: There are rumors in the city of Weepingfault. A conspiracy of pious men are plotting to destroy the city.

Weepingfault’s city government is corrupt, the streets are being torn apart by violent crime, and the nearby city-states and pilgrimage routes are having whatever isn’t nailed down stolen by the agents of the city. This is not our usual client, but the complete destruction of Weepingalt is not the solution. So we will get to the bottom of this and put a stop to it if we can.

Indeed, there is a conspiracy of relatively-together people who have become so disgusted by the descent of their city and so horrified by the crimes that it plays host to and commits on a daily basis that they have resolved to have it destroyed. They have made contact with an entity deep in the earth ensconced in a pious xenostygian conspiracy in the heart of a great stalagmite, and they are mapping the caverns between the stalactite and the city for the day in which the stalagmite will rise up through the earth, penetrate the corrupt heart of Weepingfault and destroy the city as the city-stalagmite rises into the sky as the world’s newest mountain. The entity must know just how the caves are laid out so as to guide the stalagmite through the fault lines of the earth; it is less concerned about the morality of the people of Weepingfault, but it is willing to listen to the men of the surface city and offer them its benedictions in the heart of its deepest xenostygian temple.

IUK1S Selection: People are turning up dead in a city, state or in a rural region nearby some kind of great edifice, an ancient ruin or temple that is an object of fascination for those nearby, or a natural rock formation (that may be the creation of some kind of entity). People are turning up dead nearby, dumped in the fields or streets, and so it's assumed that there's some kind of murderer on the loose and the players are contracted to find out who's doing the killing and put a stop to it. The secret is that those who’ve been killed were enticed into participating in a set of deadly challenges. A testing program where failure is death; a trap-tower (in a city or rural region, possibly under the earth in a vast vault or inside a mountain).

Why are people being tested? [To enter a monastery and be trained in stasis-inducing inner peace or warrior monkhood / To enter the service of an entity who wishes to find a way to escape the world, take over city-states and then the world, or amuse itself by directing the exploits of men / To enter the service of a spy order, either for the king or an independent international organization / To enter a place of great energy; cosmic, managenic, mutagenic, industrial].

There’s a good chance that an organization will send the survivors after the players; these are likely to be some extremely strong, agile, crafty individuals to have survived the ascent or descent that has killed so many. The players may also be able to convince those they encounter to alter their recruiting tactics or prevent people from entering the testing chamber; up to you.

IUK2PP Precognitive Predation: Explorers have been getting murdered recently in the city-state; torn apart or crushed. The players have been contracted to find out why and put a stop to the situation:

A: The dead were thinking of exploring an ancient ruin complex, temple or palace in the jungle or in the arctic. The stewards or agents of this place have been made aware of it due to [having infiltrated the city / occult scrying] and have begun murdering the explorers to prevent the expedition. 

B: An organization doesn't want this expedition to take place because [they're trying to do it first / they've been aware of a bunch of resources in the area that the expedition is getting ready to go to and so they don't want the city, state or industrial combine that’s planning the expedition to get their hands on that stuff] and are sabotaging the expedition preparations and murdering the explorers.

C: There's some kind of creature in the area that the expedition is planning to explore. The existence of this creature is projected across time so it knows that explorers will be coming to its territory so it's killing them preemptively or in the future (and force-retroactivating their deaths throughout the whole timeline). The thing will only attack you when you're alone (whether it’s attacking you now or in the future when you arrive at its hunting/mating/breeding/metamorphosing/metastasizing/manifesting grounds) and will start trying to annihilate the players; they will experience the attack in the present or in the future, whether it occurs in the present or in the future, ie if it is the present but the projection of the beast is attacking them in the future, they will suddenly experience being alone in some kind of freakish ruin and being assailed by some kind of half-existing polyp, shade, colony, silicon-clad azotosome or mutagenic heptapod. The creature may be intelligent or operating on instinct.

IUK3CK Charismatic Killer: A vigilante who’s a legit mass murderer but only targets debatably-bad guys. He should be at least a somewhat appealing character if that’s possible for your players; however, investigating him will find that he’s killed at least one or two false positives; he will regret this but it won’t stop him. Then it’s up to the PCs whether to let him keep on keepin’ on or take him in, however he’ll try to get the PCs to join him. Use a steelman argument; try making the best possible argument you can for his position even if you don’t agree with it. Later you can show cracks in his argumentation ability or personal character.

Unravel Plot
IUP1DP Developmental Pruning: A secret society is plotting to banish its city-state’s sages and thinkers into an extradimensional space as a way of shaping the civilization or preventing it from developing in a particular way. They want their civilization to be more: [Warlike / Pacifistic / Scholarly / Action-Oriented / Masculine / Feminine] and so they are imprisoning people who they think would carry the civilization in the opposite direction of what they want.

The prison is segmented throughout extradimensional space, accessible from a portal chamber whose location is known only to the conspiracy (secretly it’s a stone sea vessel like a kind of octagonal space shuttle with a portal in its very heart); to reach a particular cell, you need a hexadecimal key that will allow you directly access the cell in question, or if you know your target is in cell (e.g.) 16 and you’ve been able to access cell (e.g.) 8, you can skip eight positions forward and access your desired cell. The trouble is, the space that these sages etc are stored in is also used to keep all kinds of creatures, entities and people imprisoned in perpetuity. A lot of creatures in this world are essentially unkillable but could potentially be imprisoned in a space outside the cosmos, and many such creatures are contained here; so when you e.g. fail a logic test to get the right cell or get stuck moving to a new one, you encounter [A great vanished villain from history / A psychopathic killer who has been imprisoned here and forgotten as punishment / An antediluvian hero e.g. some kind of supreme caveman warrior of unthinkable prowess / A horrific monster of total asymmetry and possibly noncarbon or noncontiguous matter basis e.g. locally bound radiation / An entity, possibly invisible, who has some malign wish like preventing mankind from developing technologically or changing the atmospheric basis of earth to e.g. chlorine]

Now, in the course of imprisoning the sages in this place, the conspirators made deals with several people and entities imprisoned in previous epochs; these people and entities usually believe that the plotters can imprison them again at any time, because usually they were imprisoned by some kind of surprise, occult manner the first time around (actually the conspirators can’t do this). Many of the conspirators will be accompanied by these people and entities when in their private places (residences or meeting areas); roll on the previous table to determine who this is when you enter such a place. There may be more than one, each serving a member of the conspiracy.
The players’ job is to unravel the conspiracy and rescue those who have disappeared.

IUP2SS Scrying Shame: A bunch of people have disappeared in a particular city-state and the government or the family of the people in question have employed a shady group of occultists to spy on those who’ve been kidnapped and find out where they’ve gone to. The occultists have been unable to locate those kidnapped, but cannot and will not give up on their mission due to the pact that they’ve made with an entity for the ability to spy on discrete locations. They can’t say “I wish to view so-and-so”; they can only view places that they know of from above, penetrating them via starlight. They’ll begin making unreasonable demands of the city-state so that they can gain an expansion of their powers.
Perhaps this is [A cessation of normal economic activity / The direct participation of the entire city-state government in occult rituals / Human sacrifice to their patron]. The city-state are desperate to find the kidnapped people (they’ve been using bloodhounds) but have been unable to acquire a recent trail; they are terrified of the occultists and regret bringing them on, but are also unwilling to act against them. 

In truth, the people who’ve been kidnapped have been taken to coerce the city-state towards [Land reform / Anarcho-Syndicalism / Monarchism / Revanchism]. The kidnapees are being driven around the hinterlands at high speed in motorcars or trucks; the purpose of this is to keep them moving in case they’re informed upon by woodsmen sympathetic to the city-state, but it has the dual effect of preventing the occultists from fixing their gaze upon the right spot at the right time.

The party’s got a double-whammy on their hands; they have to find those who’ve been kidnapped and restore them to their polity, and they have to bring about an end to the occult situation. The occultists can primarily scry, but if threatened can encase discrete objects in a 2” layer of obsidian; in the headquarters the city-state has turned over to them, one can find a number of obsidian man-shaped coffins. If cracked open, one would find a rotting corpse of one of their political opponents. Their final sanction, if the city openly turns on them, is a ritual that would encase the entire thing in a 2” shell of obsidian, but this would take some time to execute and most likely they would barricade themselves (under siege) beforehand. The occultists don’t want the party involved and are likely to have someone scrying on the party as long as the occultists know where the party is located.

The hinterlands are dangerous; rife with bandit tribes and with strange creatures that periodically sortie forth from the bogs that lie between the high, sharp hills. There are many bridges here from a previous age of attempted expansion; the kidnappers rely on these to move their captives around.

IUP3RP Royal Prerogative: Somebody’s been digging tunnels beneath the city-state but nobody’s sure why. The streets are locked down by guards in the evenings, but still the excavations continue. Possibly the lockdown is because of the tunnels, possibly they have an infestation of bad creatures (from the City-State Generator) or an actual monster or serial killer or something, but for argument here the city is locked down because of hummingbats, which vibrate silently in the air in front of your front door before seizing you by your shoulders and devouring your brain, or if they’re strapped for time they carry you up into the air over the city and drop you so that your brains blast out over the cobblestones and then alight to daintily lap up your brains. Some suspect the tunnels have to do with the hummingbats, but why not just tell the crown what’s happening then?

People think that this is an attempt to undermine the city, to create a Gunpowder Plot-type situation, but the city guards haven’t seen a thing. The reason for this is that the city guards are being bribed or ordered to remain silent by the King himself, who is having the tunnels dug to find the ancient city that once stood where the modern city stands; it eroded in the time of the ancestors but its palaces and towers may have been built strongly enough to survive in some kind of contiguousness beneath the earth. Once breached, the King and his Marshal, Steward and Huntmaster will enter the undercity to search for the regalia of his ancestors.
He is doing this to [Sell the regalia on the black market / Because he reveres his ancestors and wishes to walk in their footsteps / Because the regalia possesses occult powers that he wishes to coopt / Because he has learned that a xenostygian civilization is undermining the ancient city complex and he must reach it before they do because the jewels function as a key to vault full of strange weapons]. The ancient city is [trapped out the ying yang / prone to severe collapses / inhabited by a xenostygian civilization different from the last one / the playground of some kind of sadistic monster / inhabited by the  cstasis-surviving ancestors who will immediately move to reclaim what is theirs and impose their ancient value system on it].

Further Summarization:

Once I’ve posted all of the contract categories, I will post a generator for the context of running one of these contracts along an archetypal story structure and intensity curve. The generator will be generic and intended be parameterized by the content of the contract it is slotted with (in terms of drawing appropriate material for rewards, revelations, betrayals, villains, allies and crescendos, etc). I will also include non-generic content in these categories.

These contracts are written with elements of the world of the Starling & Shrike mercenaries that is featured in some of my blog’s content. You can look at how fully-fledged S&S agents are constructed here, but I would also be happy if you ended up using the gist of this material in your own games with the serial numbers filed off and plated over with gold scrollwork.

There are many city-states mentioned in these contracts but they are not necessarily fleshed out here. You can find a city-state generator that is flavor-compatible with these contracts here.

If you come up with any contracts you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments.


  1. This is so, so good. Your imagination is just so rich - the sheer amount of ideas presented here (and coming in later posts) is amazing. You're starting to get to the point where you have enough material for S&S that it could be it's own RPG. I actually really want to give this world a try with my players at some point down the line. We are probably close to a year out from concluding the current campaign at the rate we are going, but at some point, either as a "break" or after we conclude the campaign, I am going to do a one-shot (at the very least) with the S&S material and see how it goes.

    1. Thank you very much. I hope that you get value out of it, both now and in the future should you employ my output in your own games. I’ve considered putting together a PDF with everything, or one with stories and one with RPG stuff, but I may do a few more things in this vein first.

      One idea I really like for an RPG book: Recommending different systems depending on the feel the GM wants, since the system I use is stripped down like a motherfucker.
      The d6-based system I use: Lightning-fast, lightning-focused, lightning-deadly
      OSR: Weird Fiction Vietnam War
      PbtA: The chaos that is unleashed by conflict and the race against time
      Delta Green: Psychorealism
      Gumshoe: A sense of mounting revelation and horror
      Dread: A descent into the underworld, and hell take the hindmost

  2. What do the codes after the titles mean?

    1. They’re just a composite of (1) the category, (2) the number within the category, and (3) a codename; so for Surgical Redirection (IAF1SR), it’s “Investigations Apprehend Fugitive 1 Surgical Redirection”. This is sort of a “codename-oriented” format, which is different than the “client-oriented” format in my Gardens of Anomie post from February 2021. The codename-oriented contracts are intended as a kind of templated format for freelance mercenaries (not associated with any actual in-world organization), while the client-oriented format is for the city-state of Starling & Shrike, which contracts out its citizens as mercenary detectives and financial investigators to foreign clients. The S&S contract in Gardens of Anomie is D114 SR0002 PR0001, and the client is Duke Marcus Summerbird. The idea behind the format is “Client->Type”, so D114 is Marcus Summerbird, the 114th duke whom Starling & Shrike has contracted for in its history (sort of his client tag). This contract is the second Special Reconnaissance contract S&S has conducted for him, so SR0002, and also the first Personnel Recovery, so PR0001, adding up to D114 SR0002 PR0001.

      The idea with the codename-oriented format is you could roll IAF1SR as a result on a d100 table or something, or pull IAF1SR out of a hat on a piece of paper, and know quickly where to look for the full contract in the contract table, without needing a specific page number (I might use page numbers if I ever publish this, but for now the codes serve as a quick reference)


Art - First Run