Rose

An adventure hook for use in fantasy tabletop games :

Nestled in a valley wreathed in rose bushes, the town of Prattle sees very few visitors. A proud, albeit xenophobic people, Prattle hosts many long standing customs and deeply rooted townsfolk. A traveler might note the town’s vast vineyards, dilapidated keep, the empty grassy streets, its obsession with rose décor and aged populace. The Petal Kettle Inn rents rooms for the night to those that have the gold and the patience for haughty conversation.

The poor service and whispers behind the back are magnified further by the constant questioning of the inn keep, “When will you be leaving?” Someone with a stomach for abuse might stick it out a few days and never see a man or woman below the age of 70.

However, there are two days a year where the town throws off its frump and the streets fill with color. The elderly townsfolk retreat inside while the young take over the city. During the Prattle Rose Festival, the population swells with city visitors in a celebration of spring. Young folk from all corners of the world gather in blissful jubilation, fueled by the town’s renowned wineries.

Outside the sin and wine, the true meaning of the festivities is unknown to visitors. At the end of the two days, a great pageant is held for the most beautiful, vestal youth in town. The winner is entreated by the Count to his tower, and that night, a gorgeous chariot carries her off to wed one of his many handsome sons and live in luxury forever. The next day, the streets go sober, and the fevered delights quickly diminish.

The Count no longer attends the pageant in person and stays locked in his tower. When pressed, the townsfolk insist they just saw him or that he made a grand appearance the previous year. The town works hard to keep the visitors entertained on the final night. While expensive at the celebration’s opening, over perfumed spirits are given away freely in the final celebratory hours. By the end of their drunken stupor, many visitors go home missing friends and acquaintances they arrived with, and if things go Prattle’s way, this year shouldn’t be any different.

 

Motivations

Relation - You are related to a participant in last year’s Rose Festival who disappeared. You have arrived in town one year later to look for answers.

Participation - If you're here from the nearby cities or universities, chances are you're here for the party.

Business - Whether you're looking to get people drunk or sell to drunk people, a lot of money can be made during the festival.

Guilty Conscious - Your family left Prattle when the Count first asked the townsfolk to partake in his ritual. You return now to reclaim your family’s estate and put an end to the corruption.

 

Backstory

Twenty-five years ago, the Count’s wife fell deathly ill, gripped by a mysterious illness. He conscripted the young of the village to venture far and wide, looking for a cure. The world is a dangerous place and only a few conscripts ever returned from their adventure. One of the few that did returned with a powerful spell that would bind the Countess’ life with that of the rest of the village.

Publicly, the Count announced his wife dead and planted rose gardens all throughout his kingdom to mourn her. Secretly, he gathered the populace together and promised them everlasting life should they participate in his ritual. Many left, but those that stayed remained the Count’s loyal servants. Two years later, Prattle began holding elaborate festivals, enticing travelers from far and wide. After two days of celebration, a pageant was held, and the Count selected his new bride. Some say they still live together, and he now selects wives for his many sons. Some others suggest the count could never settle and instead collects all beautiful mistresses for himself. Still others insist he builds the chosen a house out in the country where they live out their lives like princesses.

Anyone old enough to remember the first pageant has a vested interest in its continuation. The townsfolk’s everlasting life is dependent on the delivery of a new host to the Countess’s spirit. The young host’s life-force is drained slowly over the year, but as spring approaches, the Countess shares the youth hood with her enthralled townsfolk, giving them two days of renewed youth. The process ultimately drains the last of the previous year’s “winner’s” life but allows the festival to entice more possible hosts to the village. The remaining populous is fully aware of the Count’s secret but are now completely dependent on its power. They cannot cross beyond the rose bushes that mark the ritual’s reach or their years will instantly catch up with them.

 

Note to DM

Any town or city environment is bound to be full of people. It is difficult to manage so many characters, particularly if you're a new dungeon master. Upon arrival, your players will most likely gravitate toward the first few characters they meet. Keep these people interactive and use skill checks to pass the party’s days along quickly. Allow each character their own set of oddities to witness. As their suspicions mount, gather them before the final night to sneak into the keep behind the winner’s carriage.

 

Possible Oddities 

  • Despite her insisting she's the shop keep’s daughter, you recognize one of the hosts as an ancient woman from the days before.

  • In an improvised sporting event, a host refuses to cross the town borders to retrieve the ball.

  • Older patrons notice they are mostly ignored in favor of youth.

  • The Inn’s many rooms suggest a single inner sanctum where the visitors can be spied upon.

  • Regardless of the hosts’ youthful looks, they have many elderly ticks and hobbies.