I was inspired to write an adventure sketch from Trey Causey's blog post over at the Sorcerer's Skull. The adventure is inspired by a number of movies where a gang of ruffians, mercenaries- adventurers to a man or woman are hired to do a job by shady types, get betrayed, and probably have to slug it out. Causey uses the movie 'You Can't Win 'Em All' to demonstrate this. I've seen the Wild Bunch. So let's take a look at this hook.
Location: Sandedge and the Sun Elf Sultantate
Our story takes place in the port town of Sandedge, a cosmopolitan city that is located within the sphere of influence of a Sultantate of 'Sun Elves'. These tan skinned, dark haired beings are known to worship such powers as the Star, Strength, and the Chariot. It is a time of uncertainty as powerful families within the Sultantate have arisen to challenge the ruling Sultan's authority. But that strife seems distant to Sandedge, even more, it breeds opportunity. We begin in medias res with our party guarding a shipment of runelock muskets created in Scarabae and shipped to be supplied to the Sultan's most elite sharpshooters. The process is being organized by a pair of Gnome brothers, the Lockmores.
Possible Complication: The GM might note the players have also been contacted by rebels or a rebelling family and have been offered a greater sum to hijack the shipment from the Lockmores. Political maneuvering might be required to convince the other guards to go along with the plan; convince Percival Lockmore to move the shipment to the rebels; stealth to steal the equipment; or a combat to hijack the shipment. Any action could have the consequence of making an enemy of the Sultan's government or the Lockmore family- if Percy is killed they will swear a blood debt on the party.
Possible Twist: Player's may also not necessarily have a waiting contact, but may decide to steal equipment and sell it on their accord. Some work around Sandedge might put them in contact with the Theives' Guild, the rebels, or 'The Eyes' the Sultan's secret police. they may make a fortune, get betrayed already, or have to run out of town with their cargo in tow.
Mechanics - What Do Runelocks Do?: Traditional flintlocks use a system where powder (such as blackpowder, or magical-alchemical sources such as redpowder or smokepowder) are loaded both down the gun and into the 'pan'. The gun is cocked and when the trigger is pulled the flint strikes a piece of metal that causes a spark, lighting the pan, and then sending the fire into the breech firing the gun. A Runelock replaces the need to place gunpowder in the pan (also known as panning the frizzen). Instead, a rune of fire is carved into the metal hammer, and when the hammer strikes the pan, a self-igniting flame jets into the breech and fires the gun. This action could do things such as increase rate of fire/reduce reload time or add a +1 to Attacks by increasing accuracy.
The Adventure Begins
The party probably delivers or tries to deliver the runelock weapons to the contact. Either delivering them to the weapon in full, or the partial amount they made off with. They also could be in the process of selling their first load if they are true thieves using the opportunity. As mentioned, the civil war has bred opportunity. Their benefactors have a line of pay silver being sent to a garrison of troops in the region. While the Sultantate has figured a way to do so via teleportation magic, their benefactors have a plan to enact a ritual to snatch the box-mid spell. The party is either A) Tasked with using their magic-user type to perform the spell. They are given the the necessary reagents but the party must accept a liaison to make sure the rebels or rebel house get their cut or B) Escort an NPC magic-user to a place of power in order to conduct the spell.
Complication -Random Encounter: Between the meeting point and the place of power, a GM might want to slip a random encounter. This is a land of sand, pyramids, and bad lands. So: scorpions, scorpion-men, raiders, fire elemental, fire beetles are all very legit. Also perhaps a scene of carnage between Sultan's troops and either innocents being trampled or engaged in a brutal fight with the rebels.
Character Development: Perhaps also use this time to have the characters talk about how they might feel about being involved in a civil war, especially if the character is a member of the Elven race. Maybe chat with the NPC liaison or mage sent with them.
Ambush or Betrayal
The party escorts their magic-user contact to the place of power. Enacting the rites at the proposed hour they literally steal the cashbox when it's either enroute, or from a secure location that summons it to them. The box is emptied into a separate container and the party escapes- undoubtedly the Sultan's 'Eyes' will soon descend on the place by tracing the magical signature that conjured the silver away. The party makes their way to the contact point either to be ambushed by the enemy or betrayed by their contact after the silver is exchanged. They have to fight their way out!
Complication - Enter the Runelock: During the Ambush/Betrayal the enemy reveals what has been setup earlier- the deadly runelock weapons. Their snap and crackle with terrible ferocity. The party might some surprises of their own, maybe they kept a few guns back and successfully hid them. Or, if it's an ambush, the Sultan shows his might by using his deadliest troops to engage the party.
Complication - Is This a Double or Triple Cross?: Another factor is the benefactors the party are working for that claim to be rebels may reveal themselves to be thieves, rogues, or anarchists wishing to stir up trouble. Perhaps more complicated, the party is ambushed by the true rebels and the party has a chance to flee with this newly emerged party or flee on their own into the desert.
What's Next? The party has been betrayed, in the middle of hostile territory with a civil war occurring, and few allies that can be totally be relied on. Conflict breeds opportunity. The party may strike out to recover what they feel is rightfully theirs. They may avenge their bruised pride on the people that betrayed them. They may take up the cause of the rebels, if the rebels offer more or their cause somehow aligns with the party's morals. They may decide just to book it back to Sandedge for the first boat to Scarabae with enemies closing on their heels. Wherever they go, trouble shall probably follow our heroes.