Sunday 31 March 2024

Tales of the City Guard: A one-shot adventure

On Friday I decided to run Tales of the City Guard for my gaming group, and as it was just before Easter, I gave it an Easter/spring equinox theme. I set the adventure in Summerford (the same settlement used in Horrible Henchmen and Tales of the Little Adventurers), and I modified a stock art map the players' reference, adding the locations from all three micro-settings. I also decided to include references to Saga of the Goblin Horde, as Summerford was always intended to be set in the same world.


Summerford is still dealing with the aftermath of an attack -- an undead army had marched on the town and caused considerable damage (a reference to a Horrible Henchmen adventure I ran for the same group in the past). But that was months ago, and the townsfolk are now trying to put it behind them.

Celebrations for the Spring Equinox have already begun, and there are many visitors to the town, with people dressing up in costumes, and children painting eggs.


A party of adventurers has returned from a trip to the mountains, with treasure they’ve collected, along with a special delivery for the mayor (a dragon's egg). After they arrive they'll start spending gold and getting drunk, but as they are special guests of the mayor, the guards can't throw them out.

The adventurers were hunting in the mountains, where they stumbled across a group of goblins carrying treasure and a dragon's egg. It was a tough fight, but the goblins were already injured, and the adventurers managed to kill them -- however, the goblins were actually a Redfang gang that Chief Bignose had sent to steal the egg from some hareborn (i.e., Egg Hunt!). When Chief Bignose discovers the egg is missing, he sends a crew into Summerford to cause damage and recover his egg!

The goblins sneak into Summerford and cause quite a bit of trouble, setting fire to the Phoenix Tavern and a few other buildings. During the height of the celebration, the egg will be revealed, painted by Summerford's finest artists -- and as everyone cheers and the fireworks go off, the egg will suddenly begin to hatch, calling for its mother.

Map of Summerford

The following map was originally Angelus Rebuilt from Elven Tower Cartography, but it also made a good fit for Summerford, and the license allows me to change the labels.

Character Creation

The players create their characters as described in Tales of the City Guard, except they're all sergeants, and they each have 3 guard tokens. The concepts in Tales of the City Guard are relative -- a "rookie" means they're a rookie sergeant (i.e., they've only just been promoted to officer), while "officer" means they're a lieutenant.

The guard tokens can used like the gang tokens in Tales of the Goblin Horde.

Scene 1: Guard Duty

On the first day, the PCs are on guard duty at the southern gate, dealing with various visitors passing through. I could have asked the players to make crafty challenges to spot any threats or problems, but I preferred to handle the first scene through roleplaying. Most of the visitors are unremarkable, but a few special encounters can be used to spice things up:
  1. A completely naked "nobleman" strolls through the gate -- he's covered in mud, with one eyebrow shaved off. Claims he was at a party, and would rather not talk about it.
  2. A group of peasants who claim to have captured a unicorn, which they plan to sell at the market (it's clearly a donkey with a horn stuck on its head).
  3. The party of adventurers mentioned in the overview (human paladin, dwarven cleric, elven mage, halfling rogue) pulling a cart with a blanket thrown over it, underneath is a dragon egg and a load of treasure, but all their paperwork appears to be in order.
  4. A trope of actors, including the famous "Cassandra" (two halflings who sit on each other's shoulders, another reference to a Horrible Henchmen adventure I ran in the past).
Feel free to add more encounters! That evening the guards meet at their local tavern for a drink, where they can grumble about the long hours and low pay. Each player can roll a d6 on the following table (or choose a result if they wish) and use it to help narrate a short story about why the joined the city guard -- they can also roll on the twist table for further inspiration if they wish:

  1. Your mother and/or father were soldiers or guards, and you wanted to follow in their footsteps.
  2. You grew up on the streets, but a grizzled guard took you under their wing.
  3. You are noble-born, but your parents forced you to sign up for a few years to learn some discipline.
  4. You used to be a criminal, and were given a choice—serve one year in the city watch or spend a year in jail. You did your time in the watch, but you liked it and decided to stay on.
  5. You served in the military but didn’t like something about army life, so you transferred to the city guard.
  6. You signed up because you needed a job, and nothing else appealed (or perhaps you didn’t have any other options).
Scene 2: Chaos in the Streets

Over the next few days there are various incidents around the town, and the guards have to rush around dealing with them. I handled this by creating 9 event cards as follows:

  1. A child got stuck up a tree while trying to get her pet cat down, make a standard agile or brawny challenge to get her down safely.
  2. A tavern is on fire, and there are people inside! Roll a standard crafty to rescue them or a standard brawny to extinguish the fire.
  3. A gang of young thieves has been stealing from the tourists; make a standard crafty challenge to give them a stern telling off, or a standard brawny challenge to chase them down and scare them.
  4. Pickpockets in the marketplace! Make a hard brawny challenge to catch them.
  5. A dishonest merchant has been conning tourists; make a hard agile challenge to hide and catch him in the act.
  6. A house is on fire and it's beyond saving, but there are people trapped on the top floor. Roll a standard agile challenge to reach them from a nearby building or a standard brawny challenge to rush inside and rescue them.
  7. Investigating a crime scene where someone was murdered, make a hard crafty challenge to spot the clue that leads to the criminal (a bloody handprint with a missing finger).
  8. A gang of thieves have stolen fireworks that were intended for the celebrations! Make a standard agile or crafty challenge to shadow one of their members and recover the fireworks.
  9. A wheel has come off a wagon, and it is blocking the road; make a standard brawny challenge to help lift it while the owner replaces the wheel, or a standard crafty challenge to pressure some other people to help.
For the first day, I drew two cards for the morning and two cards for the afternoon, and each of the four players could choose one of each (i.e., one of the morning events and one of the afternoon events) to tackle -- with the caveat that at least one player had to deal with every event.

For the second day, there were two events in the morning and three in the afternoon. The cards provided a prompt, but the scenes were described in more detail during play.

Each evening the guards gathered in a tavern to share stories over drinks. I had them each roll on the twist table and narrate another entertaining incident they had to deal with during the day.

Scene 3: The Mayor and the Egg

The celebration is underway, and the PCs are all on patrol, looking out for pickpockets and providing crowd control. This scene focuses more on roleplaying and interaction with townsfolk. At the height of the celebration, the mayor brings forth the dragon egg, which has been painted by the town's artists, although the artistic style is very abstract. This leads to much discussion by the gathered crowd about what exactly the artists painted.

I asked the players to describe what they thought the painting looked like -- and had them all roll on the twist table for inspiration!

Scene 4: Goblins!

Suddenly there's a huge commotion, as a huge wooden tower bursts into flames and topples over -- the crowd scatters, and there are screams and shouts. The guards see a contraption behind the fallen tower, along with a massive bugbear and several grinning goblins! The players probably want to attack (mine certainly did), but more screams catch their attention and they look back to see another group of goblins stealing the egg! The goblins have loaded the egg into a cart and they're running off with it, with a canitaur (a goblin/dog centaur) pulling it at great speed.

This can be handled as a chase sequence and a combat. The approach I used for the chase was to assign 3 effort tokens per player, they then had to make agile challenges for the first round (to duck and weave through the crowd), crafty challenges for the second round (to spot which way they goblins had run), and brawny challenges after that (stamina to keep running).

Once they'd cornered the goblins, I assigned 6 effort tokens and allowed the players to choose their combat style, but the challenges were all hard -- these are hardened Redfang goblins!

Scene 5: Hatching Time

When the guards finally return with the egg and give it to the mayor, it begins to wobble, and then cracks open! A little hatchling pokes its head out and starts to chirp -- a minute later, the crowd goes silent as a loud roar echos in the distance. Not long after, the dragon swoops in on the town, burning houses and looking for its hatchling!

When I ran this, one of the players grabbed the egg and ran for the southern gate. She almost made it! I treated it as a hard brawny challenge with 3 effort tokens, and gave her 3 rolls -- she managed to eliminate 2 of the tokens, making it as far as the slums before the dragon struck. She was also able to take cover in a house at the last minute, although one of her guards was incinerated.

Once the dragon reclaims the hatchling it flies away, leaving the guards to deal with several fires. I assigned this task 6 effort tokens and allowed the players to choose which trait they rolled to deal with the fire (agile for using ladders and planks to rescue trapped citizens, brawny for fighting the fires, or crafty for organizing bucket brigades). The players were able to eliminate all the tokens, so I decided the damage to lives and property was minimal.


As this was a one-shot, I asked everyone to roll once more on the twist table and use the symbol to narrate what their characters did after the adventure. For example, one of the players rolled a chained prisoner symbol, so he described how the mayor tasked him with finding and arresting a scapegoat to blame for the attack. Another rolled a sleeping icon, so he said he went for a nap! Another player decided to quit the city guard and go back to the army.


  1. This is great, Richard. Love the actual play write-up to show how you brought it all together!

    1. Thanks, Matt! I couldn't decide if the write-up should be an actual play or an adventure for other people to run, so it ended up being a bit of a mixture!