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I thought I would share my notes on how to expand the bank robbery investigation in the beginning of book 2.
Copper Hand missive
Instead of being handed a list of 6 leads and Ralso's journal entry about the letter, the players start with only a single clue: the letter Ralso got from the Copper Hands. If the players didn't recover this on their own, perhaps someone else cleaning up the murder hotel did or even better maybe Ralso willingly divulged its location to the PCs as part of a plea bargain. it simply says "R, Got a job if you’re interested. Big money in plain sight, strike while the streets are soaked with tourists. We need a jimmy. You in?" with a Copper Hand seal. To decode it they would either need Ralso's cooperation or a Decipher Writing DC 19 check (Lore Underworld or similar also work). If you think it's fun you can give the players partial clues like "R refers to Ralso", "streets soaked with tourists refers to the radiant parade", "big money in plain sight refers to a bank" and "the seal is from a gang called the Copper Hand"... and see if they can figure out the rest on their own. At any rate, at the end of this stage, one way or the other, they should have learned at least that there's a group of thieves called the Copper Hand who are planning to rob a bank using the radiant parade as a cover.
Radiant parade route
if the players express interest in investigating the radiant parade, they might learn that while the main event takes place on some specific date (of your choice), there is also a number of rehearsals they can attend. While the main event goes through every district (except the puddles), the rehearsals take place in one district at a time, cycling through districts each day, with partial attendance from floats while many floats show up in varying states of completion.
Here is the route of the radiant parade that your players should get access to soon after they express interest. Each district segment is marked with a different colour. On the big day, the parade will start at the Hall of Nations and end near the Starstone Chasm.
By attending rehearsals the PCs can get info on the floats or speak with the participants. The Copper Hand thieves attend only the last rehearsal that takes place at the Coins, obviously with fewer people, unarmed, without the clown/stitchskin and their ship float has no mast nor sail.
Talking to the participants or following the participants back to their workshops after the rehearsal might trigger the scene that in the original AP happens at the tannery. Reflavour the NPCs and scenery as necessary depending on where it happens. The important clue that gets uncovered is that there was a float or theatre machinery depicting Aroden raising the Starstone out of the ocean but the pneumatic telescoping cylinder part that did the lifting was stolen, ruining the best part of the effect. Most of the float makers reside in the Ivy District having a background in theatre prop making. But of course if the PCs pay close attention they might notice that the ship float is one of the few that goes somewhere else: to the Foreign Quarter. They can follow it there to the thieves' warehouse on Richmore street in Vudratown.
Here's some descriptions you can use for the rehearsals:
(Coins district only) there's too many people, it's already crowded on a normal day, the addition of the floats and the tourists completely erase the notion of personal space
fireworks, crackers, kids in colourful costumes
some vendors have not packed up their stuff so some floats don't fit causing a traffic jam
most floats seem non-functional or half-finished, most are not yet painted and some props or details are missing
lots of ads, almost all floats are sponsored by some shop or church which is displayed prominently
Cayden Cailean float has the hiccups and appears to drink a never ending mug of beer, with illusionary foam and drink spilling continuously on his chin
clockwork Iomedae float with raise shield action
siege engine float with some sort of crowned angel statue on top (Kharnas)
empty chariot with decorative axes with a huge "Oggvurm Blood City Champion" sign
keleshite float with dancers dressed as djinns breathing out smoky clouds in various shapes and designs, the sign says "Lucky Nimbus" (this one might catch fire and cause a ruckus at your discretion)
ship float with no sails or mast
At some point the PCs need to try to narrow down the potential banks that might be targeted. They can cross-reference an index of the city's banks with the parade route or just walk the route and check what banks are on the way. If the players don't come up with this, have Ollo or Bolera gently nudge them e.g. "if only we had a way to filter the banks to know which ones to focus on". Letting them roll a skill check for ideas is also fine. One way or another, they get a list of banks located along the route of the parade.
Show a rough sketch of each bank's layout to the players if possible to help them visualise the place and how the robbery might play out.
Orvington: Run it as written. Extra clues if the PCs keep coming back: Perception DC 10 to notice Urthar is on unpaid leave, Craft DC 20 to notice the iron bars are of exceptional quality, Nature DC 15 the dogs are excellent guards. Security: dogs, iron bars and guards etc indicate it's pretty good (walls withstood the Fiendflesh Siege after all :P).
Penny & Sphinx: Run it as written. Extra clues if the PCs keep coming back: Perception DC 20 collapsible ladder, Craft DC 20 iron bars to conference room are decorative, Society DC 20 Kolo duties/salary reduced. Security: indirectly indicate that it's so-so, the decorative bars should be the best clue they can get about this fact. The large lawn and tall fence should be emphasised.
Stonesworn: Run as written, possibly simplifying the spider/xill encounter. Extra clues if the PCs keep coming back: Craft DC 20 walls are exceptionally thick, iron filigree is of exceptional hardness and very well integrated with the stone. Security: make a big show of the magical rune-covered vault "turn around so I can input the code that unlocks the door", make sure to comment on her obvious adventurer background or the proprietor.
Chadraxa: She might mistake the PCs for token guards and ask them about the complaint she has filed (Urthar owing her money; depending on the conversation she may inadvertently confess to the vandalism). She might also mistake the PCs for representatives of the Mudcrackers who came here to resolve her business permit approval case. She does not tell them about Percen Droan unless they ask specifically about him. Chadraxa insinuates she has some very valuable intel but helping her with her troubles or otherwise convincing her to talk should at best produce a simple clue like "talk to the float makers" or "X bank has very tight security". Extra clues if the PCs keep coming back: teenage couple trying to sell a grandfather clock they stole (red herring), smugglers and other criminal elements the PCs might have missed from elsewhere might show up here to do business.
Vault of Abadar: The only bank outside of the Coins that is on the parade route. Should be obvious from the construction and the Brotherhood of Abadar Vigilance Committee barracks being housed right next door that the security here is impeccable.
Asking other district guards
The PCs might decide to send a note to other districts to ask if they have heard of this Copper Hand gang. If they don't, maybe Ollo takes initiative and does this anyway. In that case only the Mudcrackers send a positive response. Ziraya tells them she's seen a symbol that depicts a copper hand on some smuggler delivery crates she witnessed a few days ago, leading the PCs to the smugglers' lair.
If the PCs actually visit other district guards and show Ralso's letter and the seal on it, they might learn more. Melipdra of the Sleepless Suns might recognise the seal but wouldn't know the exact location of the thieves' lair, knowing perhaps that they are based in Vudratown. Runewulf of the Graycloaks will for sure recognise the symbol but not the name, noting they've been looking for a gang like that. He might or might not be willing to talk about a patrol chasing the suspects and losing them after they descended into the catacombs. If the players insist on exploring the catacombs, gently remind them they are on a timer about a certain bank robbery.
The Token Guard is of course too corrupt to tell them the truth, but industrious PCs with some serious time investment might convince someone to spill the beans about the Copper Hand bribing them to delay their arrival at Penny & Sphinx on the parade day or find other evidence of the deal. If the PCs look up the goblin burglar Quidle, they are told no goblin of that name had ever been arrested but maybe they can manage to take a peek at the prisoner log and see that the name was actually in the files but crossed out. Don't forget to tell the PCs about how there's a queue of criminals outside the building, waiting to pay 1 copper each to bail out their comrades.
The PCs might get here by following the ship float during a rehearsal or asking Melipdra about the Copper Hand symbol or some other way. Gathering information (DC 15-20) might reveal the following info (takes at least 4-8 hours each): pickpockets have increased the past few years (crit: especially since this Donavon Rachoir showed up), some of the names of low-ranked Copper Hand associates (crit: names of higher-ups), sightings of weretigers and fiends (crit: the location of a building they were seen entering, which is of course the thieves' hideout), a troubled bespectacled young man that is never out and about by himself (Gribse). If they ask around specifically about Rachoir: his death was a result of some gang war business. If they ask around specifically about Fayati: enigmatic, quite the character, full of mystery and finesse.
If the PCs investigate the ownership of the warehouse or Rachoir at the Sleepless Suns, they might learn he owns a lot of properties in this neighbourhood: The warehouse where the ship float is stored, a 2-story townhouse where 4 poor families are squatting, an old 4-story tenement building with a doss house on the ground floor (the thieves' hideout), a dilapidated building, only the façade is okay, the insides are completely gutted and ruined.
Stake-out: If the PCs find the warehouse/workshop where the thieves store and work on their float, they might examine the float closely. A DC 20 Craft check should let them know it can be made to sway left and right wildly and that there is no hollow space to store loot or any other bulky object. If they decide to do a stake-out, run it like an infiltration subsystem. The objectives are a series of events that happen around the warehouse which the PCs might listen in if they bypass obstacles and get close enough.
The objectives/events are: (1) Aarushi stands guard since last night, (2) Timos comes from the hideout after sunrise and tells her the masts are ready and he needs help carrying them, (3) they leave together (the warehouse is left unguarded) and go to the thieves' hideout, which is about 15 minutes walk away, on the way they talk about how many cylinders there are and how all 3 must be placed inside each other to make up the mast, (4) they return carrying the thickest cylinder, which looks wooden but that's just a coat of paint, they discuss what tools they might need, (5) they go inside the warehouse and install the cylinder on the ship, they talk about how impossibly heavy the drill is and how they have a special carrier guy for it sent by "the others", (6) they go to the hideout to take the second cylinder, discuss about how the pocket stage works on the way nervous about whether it will malfunction, (7) while installing the cylinder they discuss how many teams there will be (initially two but second team will split later), (8) they are having trouble installing it and argue loudly about "why do we need it to extend so high?" "we need it to cover the distance between the fence and the window", (9) they leave arguing about how it should be installed all the way, (10) they come back with Gribse, joking on the way about him making an escape attempt, (11) inside the warehouse Gribse shows them how it must be installed and instructs them on how to press the button to activate it, (12) they leave for the day
Possible obstacles include: (long-distance) Avoiding the thieves noticing them, possible crash with children playing on wheelbarrow/skate, curious old man asking them lots of questions. (close distance) Thieves notice them as they leave or come back, thieves search and seek around the premises for anything odd. (inside the warehouse) too much noise, thieves are whispering, thieves angrily throwing tools around might hit them.
Accumulating awareness points causes complications: the thieves stop being so chatty, they lower their voices, they check the warehouse for signs of intrusion, they become suspicious of anyone approaching and so on. Too many awareness points and they call things off, possibly alerting Fayati that their whole operation is in jeopardy.
Hideout: If the PCs find the thieves' hideout before the robbery, the thieves will be more relaxed than as-written and won't be preparing to hightail it. If the PCs ask for advice, Ollo or someone else tells them that raiding the hideout now might not bring in enough evidence for a successful criminal conviction (if tested, this proves false actually, since there's lots of loot and other illegal things in the hideout) and will surely alert the thieves their bank robbery plans are not secret, which will make them change things up, invalidating any prior investigation and clues.
The PCs might learn about this by asking the Mudcrackers whether they've heard of the Copper Hand or not. They haven't heard of it per-se but Ziraya is perceptive enough to connect the name with the symbol she's seen on some crates the smugglers have been moving around. Alternatively the PCs might wander to the Stilt House trying to help Chadraxa, in which case try to find any excuse for Ziraya to ask them about the case and comment on the related smugglers she has been watching.
If the PCs locate the smugglers' ledger, they do not automatically learn that the Penny & Sphinx is the target of the robbery. They discover instead that the Copper Hand had ordered some mundane items like sails, paint, clown make-up, pirate costumes and other things that would be appropriate for building a ship parade float. They also discover that they ordered some caltrops and other things they need for the robbery (check their inventories from the robbery chapter for examples). If they question Droan, he might reveal that the leader of the Copper Hand is called Fayati and is of Vudran descent, tidbits about her personality and possibly even that her hideout is in the Foreign Quarter. He can also reveal that she wanted to buy some sort of extendible pneumatic telescoping cylinder which he couldn't sell to her because he hasn't the slightest idea what that is or how to acquire it.
What happens if the PCs fail the smuggler lair? The smugglers won't stick around for long, they will split up, divide the loot and lay low for a few weeks. Luckily, if the PCs or Ziraya are in the vicinity they can follow one of them. After confronting them there might be a chase (sample obstacles: festival crowd, twisting alleyways, wooden fence, guard dog, rickety rooftops) and upon arrest they could exchange their freedom for the location of Percen Droan's hiding place, where the PCs get a second chance at fighting and catching him, this time with fewer grunts around.
(Optional) If the PCs have any contacts with Forae Logos or the Learned Guard you can present them with a new "unrelated" case. A librarian insists a book has been stolen but that makes no sense because it's such a common book that is not worth stealing. In fact what happened is Fayati stole it for fun instead of purchasing it from a store like a normal person. The title of the book is "The Tallest Masts of the Inner Sea" and obviously she needs it to research her ship float.
Putting it all together
Cross-referencing the parade route with the bank registry yields 5 possible banks as targets. From investigating the banks, it's obvious Chadraxa isn't a serious target. The Vault and Stonesworn employ extremely serious defences and security measures. That leaves Orvington and Penny & Sphinx. Of those Orvington is probably a bit stronger. From investigating everything else they might learn that the Copper Hand will use a ship float which can sway left and right and has an extendible mast. Penny & Sphinx is the only bank where this sort of arrangement is relevant due to its tall fence and large lawn.
If they don't figure out which bank is the most likely target, they might have at least learned about the ship float, so all that is left is follow it during the parade and wait and see which bank it attacks. Obviously this way the thieves get a head start. Conversely, if they figured out the bank but not the float, they might be a bit more surprised when it sways and crashes into the lawn and the window.
The whole investigation took 9 sessions before my players were confident enough to skip to the day of the parade. If you want something shorter, just select some of the above parts you think are superfluous or long-winded and skip them.
Feel free to add your own notes and ideas about how to expand the bank robbery investigation in this thread. All contributions are welcome!