Magical mystery tours: Three GURPS Dungeon Fantasy adventure seeds for bards

Three… bardventures?

No. Let’s not do that. What we have here is simply three adventure seeds that highlight PCs of the musical persuasion, though of course other Dungeon Fantasy professions may be involved. The scenarios came up while I was writing Dungeon Fantasy: The Musical! feat. Bards, a look at all things bardic that could go into a future Bards installment in the Dungeon Fantasy Denizens series.

I didn’t include the storylines in that article because the Denizens series doesn’t deal in adventure seeds, and because no one would use these ideas anyway. But what the heck. They do no good sitting in my slush pile. So here you go: a musical mission, an audio odyssey, and a choral conundrum – together, a trio of ballads waiting to be sung.

On to adventure. To sword! To horse! Tosackbut!?

First up is a short entry, ideally for a group with multiple musical PCs. It’s an adventure on the waves; maybe we’ll call it “High Cs on the High Seas”. Meh. How about “Flushed with Excitement”… Er, no, that may make jokey sense when you read it, but is needlessly irreverent. Hmm. Let’s just call this one…

A Titanic Decision

The PCs, possibly all bards, have been invited to a great convocation of magical minstrels who will sing a drought-wracked land back to health. Alas, along the ocean route to the concert, their ship is pulled into the feared Maelstrom! As the vessel spirals closer to the vortex’s deadly eye, only its swift life boats offer a hope for survival – but there are too few boats for all hands.

The captain makes an incredible request: He begs the PCs to stoically remain among those who must go down with the ship, and see off the stalwart crew’s last moments with an emboldening concert on deck! 

Do the PCs choose their skins over heroics, perhaps seizing one of the life boats? Can they call upon magics that will save the doomed ship? Or will they bravely spin downward into destiny, to the strains of “We Are the Whirled”?

No? Frankly, I don’t blame you.

Okay. How about this next one? A longer mission for any PC group with a bard, its overarching theme suggests an old maxim as its title: “It’s Not Paranoia If They’re Really Out to Get You”. Too long, though. For something shorter (with a hint of foreshadowing), “A Bolt from the Blue” could work. Or “A Shocking Finale”. Hm. I’m currently alternating between that title and the more direct…


Once again, the PCs are chasing down rumors of strange treasures: a bejeweled sword with divination powers; a tome of forbidden alchemical secrets; a fabled wand that summons lightning from the heavens and channels it through the wielder to electrocute anyone touching metal for dozens of paces around – in other words, the usual insane stuff of dungeon fantasies.

The trail of the artifacts leads to a far-off city. On the way, the PCs are sidetracked by intrigue when they rescue a noble’s caravan from highwaymen. The profusely grateful lord, Jevin, reveals that he’s on his way to the city’s palace to accept the crown as its new prince! But he claims the bandits were the assassins of rivals, tipped off by spies among his own retainers. Worse, he believes the palace retinue awaiting him also hides enemy agents, who are determined to eliminate him before the crown touches his brow – during the coronation ceremony itself, if necessary!

Trusting strangers more than his own attendants, Jevin requests the PCs’ aid in sniffing out schemers at the palace until the crown is safely his. Once there, however, playing the role of nosy constables proves to be unpleasant work. One encounter: When the PCs question several members of the palace retinue whom Jevin particularly mistrusts, the attendants simply appear saddened by the suspicion of their lord-to-be. Eager to ease his mind, they nobly offer to step aside for as long as the prince likes, and even suggest that the PCs take their places: the PC knight as head of guard, the wizard as chief adviser, the bard as maestro of the palace orchestra, and so on. Jevin agrees. The next morning, the dismissed attendants leave the PCs with advice and tools to help them in their new positions, before silently departing the city.

Despite the powers of the PCs’ new offices, further sleuthing turns up no conspirators. The PCs may suspect there is no plot; Jevin is certain that the PCs’ presence has simply caused conspirators to take their schemes deeper into the shadows. His growing list of harsh security demands and targets for “interviews” causes strain throughout the palace.

Coronation day arrives. The ceremony begins under a bright blue sky in the palace courtyard, but the mood is tense. Clad in fine metal armor (for tradition… and protection?), Jevin stands before the palace orchestra to receive a musical welcome. As the PC bard waves an exotic magical baton to strike up the band, the other PCs can only stand close by and peer about warily, their moods as dark as the odd clouds suddenly roiling overhead.

Is Jevin seeing knives where there are none? Is he mistreating the palace retinue, including those dismissed attendants who appeared to be loyal subjects? After all, they were more than helpful as they departed, concerned only that the ceremony go perfectly. The stoic bodyguard generously lent the PC knight his shiniest ceremonial plate armor to wear. The kindly adviser gave the wizard a fine copper staff of office to hold. Even the thoughtful maestro made good on his offer of aid. On the bandleader rostrum this morning lay the jagged-shaped magical baton the maestro had urged the bard to use, promising it would make him a better conductor…

Yep, I worked too hard for that one. But the primary plot of the prince’s plight is a playable premise! (You see, in case it’s a bit too obtuse: The dismissed attendants are indeed conspirators. The “conductor’s baton” is actuallly the artifact that summons and channels lighting; in conducting the ceremonial march, the new “maestro” will unwittingly summon lightning and actually conduct a few thousand volts into everyone around, especially Jevin and every other schmuck touching metal. . .) 

Well, let’s take one more shot. Maybe this one will go down just right. We could title it “The Pint-Size Paisanos”. Or maybe “A Made Minstrel”. But I think we’ll just go with…

This Sing of Ours

A Halfling choir has settled into the neighborhood of Little Hobbitoni. Named for their half-height stature and squeaky voices, these choristers – the Mezzo-Sopranos – are the talk of the town. They strike up a professional acquaintance with the PC bard, and even invite him to take part in a few well-received recitals.1

The bard is in for a surprise, however, when the mini minstrels take him into confidence as “a friend of ours” and divulge the secret behind those apple-cheeked smiles. The waist-high warblers are actually a gang of goons who use performances in guild halls and manors as opportunities to case the joints!

The outfit’s cantor and diminutive don, Badabingo Badaboombadil, makes the bard an offer2 he can’t refuse (or even hear without bending down low): When the sawn-off songsters hit a warehouse, run some pipeweed3, whack a member of the rival Goodfallows gang, fence swag to the Gamgeeno clan, or just make stuff fall off an ox-waggon, the bard will earn “points” as an “associate” by aiding “the action” with his wizardly magics and musical enchantments. (His ability to reach top shelves and boost the lil’ mobsters to window sills hasn’t gone unnoticed, either.)

Concerned friends, sensing dangerous associations, warn the bard against picking up bad hobbits. Dismayed merchants, suspecting who’s behind the recent wave of heists, capers, and ankle-bitings, ask the bard to help bag the burglar balladeers. To further confuse things, a rival underhill crime boss4 steps out from behind an ottoman to offer an even better position in his Family: not lowly “associate”, but full-blown “samwiseguy”.

What to do? Will our troubled troubadour pick a gang and accompany the half-pint hoodlums on their low-down larceny? Will he decline the offers and beg the cherubic chiselers to just forget about it? Will he sing like a canary to the merchants’ guild, at the risk of a knee-capping? Or might he even try to bring the two mobs together, with himself as Godgaffer5?

1 Specifically, the bard fills in for absent contralto Merrio “Tricksy” Brandibucco, a “stand-up guy” said to be away for a few years as “a guest of the kingdom”.
2 As is traditional, the “business proposal” is made at second dinner over a Hobbitoni dish of short noodles and franks, known as half-linguine.
3 Longbottom Lightning… Harfoot Hash… Bag-End Balrog… Merry Jay… Peregrin Toke…
4 Viddo “Da Capo” Curlyono, a thick-necked, hard-skulled, native Shirecilian (and fine countertenor). Also known as “The Bull” or “The Minotaur”. (“Shouldn’t that be ‘Minitaur’?”, a knight once cracked. Once.)
5 GM note: Any joke by the PC about two Halfling mobs equaling one normal mob will be met with cold silence, termination of discussions, and a wee pony’s head on the PC’s bed in the morning.

Hm. Keep trying, you say? I don’t know; I would have guessed the above are plenty trying already.

Anyway, that’s been fun. Maybe there’ll be more if anyone’s interested!

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