Help with a plot: An auction of Kompromat


Advice


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Plot seed: a cleric of Mammon has some compromising material on a highly placed politician. Details TBD, but let's say they're letters showing her guilty of treason or some similar crime. The cleric has somehow obtained them. Being a cleric of Mammon, he's arranged an auction to sell this material to the highest bidder. However, the various bidders will include evil characters who may want to simply take the kompramat by force, torture its location out of him, or whatever.

So, help requested: how can our evil cleric best secure his auction? He's 10th level, so will have access to 5th level cleric spells, and can buy or blackmail access to arcane spells too. Assume he has a fair amount of money to burn.

My first thought: use Lesser Planar Ally to summon a devil, have the devil take the material to Hell, returning only for a pre-arranged rendezvous and handing the material to whoever has the code phrase. The winner of the auction gets the rendezvous date, time, and code phrase. This doesn't solve the "kidnap the cleric and torture it out of him" problem, though.

Note that I'm not looking for an absolute and final solution -- just one that would be difficult for PCs or NPCs below let's say 10th level to overcome.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


With access to arcane magics, he can simply use the age-old Illusory Major Image of himself with divination magic from a remote location, or something similar (make up a custom-researched spell if you want -- you're the GM!). Nondetection to prevent others from finding his remote location.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The typical method that is used is that someone (using a devil is probably overkill) holds it in secret, and will be able to take action if the owner is harmed/interfered with. Since that bad guys know (or even just suspect because they aren't totally stupid) that such a contingency is in place, and they don't know all of the details, trying anything would be risky.

Of course regular bodyguards and stuff like that would be a feature too.

Trying to make it absolutely impossible for the material to be seized or stolen isn't really necessary (or practical) all you need to do is make it risky and expensive enough to try that no one will.


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Assuming most of the action or planned attacks are assumed to occur during, in, or around the time and location of the auction, there are a few steps I can think of.

First, the 3rd-level spell:

Enter Image:
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Enter image will greatly increase your cleric's ability to prepare and plan for any underhanded doings. I am not sure how or whom will be attending the auction, but assume that each invitee is approached and given a simple gold coin or a brooch or pin bearing the cleric's image (they need not know specifically that it's him, just that it's a distinctive-looking item). They are instructed that they must have the item visible to be allowed admittance or something like that. This works best with a brooch or pin, which the assistant will place on the character (though they won't be insistent if one resists, though they will attempt/offer to place it on another before handing it over) since a pin is more likely to be worn, allowing better visibility for the cleric, as opposed to a coin, which might be dropped into a purse or pouch. Your call on whether just one member of a group is given the item (like, not all the bodyguards of one person) or all of them are required to have it.

So now the cleric can cast enter image from his safe or secret room and, as long as he concentrates, can see and hear what's going on around the item (all the items, within 500 feet, which should cover the auction ground or location at least). So assuming there's time before the auction where groups gather round, he's very likely to overhear any groups planning attacks, sneakiness, underhanded dealings, or maximum bids (and then he'll know something's up if they go over it significantly). Lone or single individuals will still likely be dangerous, since they aren't likely to discuss plans other than muttering or talking to themselves, though he can also see around the items, so if there are maps or gear laying about he might be able to piece together an idea. Remember that the DCs for Perception to observe things around the item are at +10, so even Taking 10 the cleric is likely to hear and see anything normal audible or visible (DC 0), since he's likely to have a good Wisdom. Some extra ranks might not hurt.

Additionally, the cleric can do this ahead of time too, well before the auction. For instance, if a party knows that anyone interested in the auction must be at a public park, square, or marketplace and wearing a distinctive item, like a purple flower. He will have assistants moving about the area for maybe an hour, at a certain time, and anyone they see with that particular accessory, is given the image item and said to present it when they arrive at the location. The cleric can then be nearby, and hear everything being said or referred to by the parties after they get the item (and the PCs probably will say things, after the assistant moves away).

Depending on the area and how busy it is (park, marketplace, etc.), this may give watchful PCs a chance to spot other groups or individuals that they might run into later at the auction (they can't be hiding or the assistants won't be able to spot them and give them the item or reveal the auction location). This would allow PCs to use Knowledges and such to recognize potentially well-known individuals and possibly to even speak or engage them. Some parties will not be interested, but others will likely also be curious about the PCs and their motives so might try and find out more as well. This might allow for coalitions or alliances or even for someone to use the PCs as a distraction or patsy.

For extra fun, you can say the cleric had an arcane associate cast magic aura on each of the brooches. It has a 1 day/level duration, so even a 2nd or 3rd level caster is fine. The assistant will very clearly state that the brooch is specially enchanted, but only as a way to ensure the brooch is genuine and is easily identifiable. As such, make the brooches' magic aura resemble something they clearly couldn't be, like a +5 unholy vorpal greatsword. Even someone who can't beat the simple DC against the 1st-level magic aura will clearly see that that's not a real aura, but that aura does make the brooch detect as strong magic when searching or viewing for such auras and also (because of the unholy) makes it detect as evil for such effects as well. This means the brooches are very easy to spot, since such powerful magic brooches are probably rare and has the additional benefit of making detect evil attempts during or around the auction detect many, many such auras (and require extra concentration to sort them out from the actual creatures wearing them, since they're in the same square), even on any good or neutral characters. So PCs can't be sure without spending extra time scanning.

The real reason for this, is actually to conceal any times when the cleric is using enter image. The items won't otherwise detect as magic (probably unless being used), but this will also make it likely that the items will be ignored at later points as magic sources once they've already been initially scanned.

So now the cleric has at least some early warning system of possibly who and what to look out for (possibly even some new blackmail material), but for additional defense during the auction, consider having a statue or other likeness of the cleric set at the podium (or dais, stage, whatever). It's wearing a full robe and masked cowl. As the auction starts, the cleric, in his safe room within 500 feet, enters the statue fully (he can see and hear from it before entering it fully, just in case anything occurs prior). At that point, it should fully take on his appearance and he can move its limbs, talk, gesture, etc. (just can't move the statue around). For dramatic effect, he announces he's arrived and reaches up and pulls back his cowl or mask (if he's not afraid of people actually seeing him) and then lowers it back down, concealing himself. This could be quite a shock to anyone who saw the robed figure standing stock still for a significant amount of time or even peeked and saw it was a statue.

If anything goes wrong and the statue is attacked, the cleric returns to his body and the statue resumes its normal appearance (though fully robed and cowled, so it might not be obvious). Attackers might assume he's using a statue spell (way too high level), and waste time chipping away or beating on the statue, giving him and his minions more time to prepare, buff, or even escape. Bonus points if the statue is trapped or rigged, say with an ooze or swarm of some kind or some other nasty effect that occurs if it's destroyed, but the logistics of that are your call.
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There is also a spell called genius avaricious, which is too high for the cleric himself to have cast, but if it's possible there is a higher level cleric (or he had a scroll), perhaps he sacrificed 3,000 gp for the mammon's mantle effect. This would protect him from poison, disease, and aging as well as stabilizing automatically (and make him bleed golden blood, which is just cool). The Charisma bonus is nice too. Additionally, he can heal by swallowing gold. You say he has plenty, but maybe for fun you have him do a few preliminary auctions "just to get everyone in the mood". Maybe a map of the sewers (which is not rare, but restricted and closely-guarded by the Cellarer's and Plumber's Guild), a skeleton key that opens a great many locks made by a specific locksmith or brand (maybe a 25% chance to open any of them or a +4 or +6 if used to try and lockpick one), or even blackmail material on a lesser individual (though not any he learned on a participant or attendee at the auction, that is just asking for trouble right then; maybe later), possibly an introduction letter and private show from the noted entertainer Mr. Jingles (just as soon as he returns from his latest outing with his adventuring party). Any gold coins or gems get dropped down a small slot or hole in the podium or whatever to a secret location (where the cleric may be hiding if using the above enter image tactic).

Otherwise, the planar ally idea is good. Having it appear to the highest bidder with the item is likely to be a good tactic, but obviously this only works if the cleric is known as being reliable for delivering 'the goods'. Possibly, for safety, he has had himself affected by modify memory to not remember the details, so torturing or interrogating him won't work. Whether he announces this openly or saves it for when he's going to be tortured is up to you. This way, he detects as being truthful and maybe this is actually a common thing for him (or believed to be), so if the victim buys off the evidence, he can't just blackmail them again. If no one bids enough or something happens that cancels the auction, the devil delivers the goods back to him (at some later time, possibly even having been paid extra to free or release him if it finds him in a compromising position) and he can relearn it (possibly also with some notes he left for himself).


He never tells his auctioneer the location it IS. Only where it will be after the auction completes. Auction is completed by magical contract which activates a single-use teleport ring upon securing of funds in a private location. Can't steal it off your pigeon can't tell you where it is.


I feel like you could possibly abuse the spell Blood Biography.

The idea is that you can abuse the "Brief outline of the events that caused its wound" clause of the spell. Using this, you can use this to provide information.

"I went to [Insert Location here], and cut my hand directly over the hiding spot for the blackmail materials."

You can prepare a scroll of the spell to the winner of the auction, as well as the vial of blood needed for the spell. This way, if someone steals the "Secret package", they will only find a seemingly useless vial of blood (just write "Devil's blood", and they will think they just stole a spell component pouch by accident).

Used effectively, you can add multiple layers of secrecy- you can make it so that the cleric himself does not know there the documents are hidden. In fact, you can arrange it so that the cleric doesn't even know whose blood it is.

Have a servant hire someone to hide the files and fill the blood vial. Heck, do it spread shot- provide 3 sets of files (A, B, and C), have servants hire 3 people for 3 hiding spots- and the servant doesn't know which set was the real set. You don't even need to figure out how to manage it. Just hand all the vials over to the winner of the auction, and let him do the wild goose chase.

Obviously, you kill the guys that hid the documents. This simplifies things- no loose lips, and no will saves against the spell.


Pizza Lord wrote:

Assuming most of the action or planned attacks are assumed to occur during, in, or around the time and location of the auction, there are a few steps I can think of.

First, the 3rd-level spell:
** spoiler omitted **...

Pizza Lord, I like this a lot, and I think I'll use it. It's canon that Mammon is a disembodied spirit who manifests by possessing his treasure trove, so it's VERY thematic to have a cleric of Mammon use this spell. The pins are good too. They get distributed in advance; sophisticated bidders may understand what they are, but certainly the cleric won't advertise it. The statue will be wood or stone but covered with finely beaten silver.

Nice one; thank you.

Doug M.


lemeres wrote:
I feel like you could possibly abuse the spell Blood Biography.

I may not use this here, but in general I like the idea of an intelligence service, or someone needing to send simple coded messages, abusing this spell.

Quote:
Obviously, you kill the guys that hid the documents. This simplifies things- no loose lips, and no will saves against the spell.

Cleric of Mammon; goes without saying.

Doug M.


Other ways to abuse the spell is to use the "dried or fresh blood" option. I mean... it seems like a fairly basic skill for a devil worshiping cleric to write things in blood. You could write a fake message with the blood, and then get the real message from blood transcription.

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