I finally noticed your tag line - it just occured to me that I'm communicating with THE Mark Lawford. May I say sir, that Lords of Men has been my favorite AM publication so far. The advanced combat options are a great expansion without bogging down the game; the interference chapter is invaluable in exploring the relationship between the order and mundane elites. While my players are clamoring for high fantasy, the fiefs, peasantry, politics, and titles chapters are really helping to ensure that the fantasy is grounded in a realistic, coherent medieval world - I drew on the peasantry chapter when narrating their journey across the countryside and arrival at the village in RotR, and was particularly thankful for the description of the Iberian system of titles. The mews and stables rules will come in handy when we finally get to the covenant (more on that later).
Finally and most importantly, the massed combat rules. I've been playing fantasy rpgs for 25 years; I've seen countless systems struggle with mass combat, failing to varrying degrees. This was the first time I've seen a system that works! It allows for the players to significantly contribute to the outcome, be involved in strategy, tactics, and individual heroics, maintains a narrative feel, and doesn't force playing out the entire battle or reduce the outcome to a few die rolls. Some things are a bit loosly defined, but by integrating combat groups, morale, and (most lacking) fleshing out the effect of success/failure of the three (or more) battlefield events, nearly any medieval conflict could be played out. I can't wait to use these rules in RotR!
Now that I've gotten my gushing fan adoration out of the way, to the topic at hand. This is a "prequel" vignette, to a story that opened with events similar to the fall of Constaninople (dominion aura absent in crusader camp and town, treachery from within helps the beseigers, streets run red with the blood of moors, jews, cathars, and catholics as the invaders run amok). This was primarily to give the pc's a reason to want to travel away from the beseiged town rather than share in the spoils, thus to accept the redcap's employment offer, and to stick with this new contract when the going gets tough in RotR.
But we can't move forward with RotR this week, as we're absent a key player, the knight who can get an audiance with the village priest and gain the respect of the pro-believe-the-ghosts-are-coming faction. He's a lecherous drunk of a knight, with a title, sword, and, horse, but no lands, and he's been released from his lord's mesnie, where he was a bacheler knight, ostensibly so he could fufil crusader vows, but really to avoid the scandal of leaving due to lack of sufficient support, or being kicked out for his bad habits (his region of origin, Gascony, uses the French system; again, thank you for LoM. Although I wondered, "failure to provide for a household voids his oath of fealty, allowing him to seek other employment" per page 30, but what about the lords response, or actions in anticipation? Can the granter of a noble title take it away as well?) So he's not the best candidate for "party ambasador," but given the alternatives, he's the best hope they've got.
The others are: an ex-slave axe-wielding mercenary slav who believes he's descended from vikings and mongols, an archer with a feral upbringing, and a skinchanging brawler (ahem, a "liger") with odd dress, "moorish" features (obstensibly a christian, actually heretically non-religious) and a covenant upbringing. For first time AM players, they managed to create an interesting group of grogs. Their instructions were to create free men who could fufil some role in an army laying a long seige. Based on what they gave me I decided that they had been attached to the baggage train, acting as guards and foragers, hunting, gathering, and strong-arming villagers to feed the crusaders.
So, unable to continue with RotR until all 4 players are together next week, I decided to give the 3 available folks an episode from their shared backstory of supporting the crusading army in the reconquest. Leafing through ToME for inspiration, I came upon tHD, and it seemed a good fit nearly as written.
An army in the field laying seige has a desperate need of supplies, and I had already narrated that the dastardly infidels had poisoned surrounding wells and burned fields before reteating to the safety of the walled town. So a major derailment risk of this adventure (that the group will simply write off the loss rather than risk offending the hospitaliers or the code) had already been removed. Even the simplest foodstuffs could be deemed irriplacable.
The next problem is -why would the hospitalier's take stuff from their fellow christian soldiers? I decided that the venetian Enrico owes a debt to the hospitaliers. At the same time, he received supplies bound for the reconquest army, but has not been paid, so he is loathe to release them. He can't simply give their supplies to the Hospitallers, as he doesn't want to lose future contracts, so he conspires with Brother Gilbert, the self-enriching and self-centered hospitaller.
Gilbert considers the reconquest a distracting side-show to the real fight in the Holy Land, jealous of the resources being diverted away from his faction. Enrico provides him with the location of the warehouse and arranges for his guards to be absent. Gilbert informs his brother-knights that the supplies are being smuggled to the moors. When the knights arrive, Enrico and company are arguing with the reconquest folks, who lack funds but still want their goods. The reconquerers drive off the guards, and in turn are beaten by the hospitallers, who take the goods. When word of this seizure reaches the reconquerers, a force is sent to the town to demand return of their goods. Iberian politics are complex, and Gilbert is able to convince his superiors that while they appear to be christians, they are allied with moors and not to be trusted or believed.
Enrico has paid his debt, Gilbert has impressed his superiors with his resourcefulness, and Fulk and Hermann are pleased to have new resources for the ongoing crusades in the holy land. The only unhappy party is the supply chief of the field army, who needs these supplies for his lord's own little crusade in Iberia.
The PC's are then assigned the task of recovering the goods, by any means necessary. Some of the scenario options (p84) are more likely than others. Visiting Enrico is most likely to result in simple quick resolution, if it occurs to them to look into him. Negotiation will likely fail - they don't have anyone the hospitallers would buy as a credible christian with pure motives. Stealth, of the mundane sort, might work, if the stuff is small enough, but might also get them killed. Blackmail probably won't come in, the play length is too short, and attack would be suicide.
Side note: in more generic fantasy settings, there is always a "town guard" that forms a police and defense force. Does anyone know what the situation was in a medieval town? What forces would they have, how would they be armed/equiped/dressed, would they actively patrol streets, what power would they have, etc? This isn't adressed in the adventure, and I don't have city and guild. The town has a bishop, mayor, and Lord, if that helps.
It doesn't really matter what the item is, its just a macgruffin, so I think you are right, that is a good place to insert a more fantastic element. I should mention that I will be using the outcome of this adventure to rationalize the seige outcome. If they succeed, that is what turned the tide. If they fail, that is why the seige took so long. If they meander and don't complete the adventure, the supplies simply arrived too late to be of any relevance.
Similarly, it would be excellent if the outcome of the PC's actions retroactively explains the infernal taint that crept into the beseiging army. It makes their victory bittersweet; I'm a cruel SG that way. Perhaps the item itself is infernal? Perhaps the PC's could be seduced into doing something sinful in town and carrying the taint back with them? Perhaps Enrico is really a demon, and he seduces the PC's by helping them steal back their stuff?
I liked your item ideas. This new system is still hard for me to work with when I get down to the fiddly bits of the 4 realms, translating all the options into a coherent final product can be daunting. Can anyone propose an item(s) that would fit this story? With rules description? I have access to the realms books. It would be great if the item could be something capable of eventually turning the tide of the seige, but not immediately. The storyline needs time for pc wound recovery if they get injured in this adventure.