Regardless of their final outcome, the byzantine procedures of Sippar’s judicial system commonly allow for a three-day respite between the trial and the execution of the verdict. This gives honorable folk a chance to settle their disputes, gather more evidence to support a losing case or make appeals, but it also offers the possibility to murder, silence, rob or blackmail a rival so that their claim is dropped. While this practice is far from uncommon, it stands in direct opposition to the judges and the divine justice they proclaim. Because of this, outsiders are often recruited to carry out the illicit deeds that are in demand, for without a voice in the city’s legal system they cannot bear witness against their employers.
If the adventurers seek such employment, roll on the charts below to generate a court-case, a client, a rival, their allies, the task at hand etc. Referees looking to get started quickly may choose to skip some of the charts, whereas those wanting a richer intrigue can roll multiple times to produce a complex web of past or present injustices, bonds and alliances. Regardless, you should note which persons and groupings come into play, marking them with a plus or minus sign depending on whether the adventurers have worked for or against them. This way, the adventurers’ actions will affect their future enterprises—for example when they seek employment anew and find that some of their new clients’ allies are people they have previously fought.
As clients are commonly from the higher social strata and have much to lose from being spotted recruiting strangers to do dirty work for them, all who can use intermediaries. This adds a layer of deniability, makes the transactions less eye-catching and makes it more likely that the client can remain anonymous for the adventurers. To determine the intermediary contacting the PCs, roll on the chart below.
- A pompous youngster, eager to impress
- An ambitious slave
- A loyal guard
- A charlatan advisor
- An elderly notary handling the family accounts
- A money-lender, sent against his will
- A tutor
- A noble woman in disguise
- A broker of illegal services
- A beggar
- A nun
- A street vendor
- An orphan messenger
- An astrologer
- A scribe
- A nurse
- A nervous nobleman
- A tavern girl
- A masked smuggler
- A minstrel
If needed, use the relations chart to determine the connection between characters. For example, you could use it to determine the relation between the intermediary and the client if the adventurers start investigating the former to learn more about the latter.
- Indebted to
- Former spouse
- Illegitimate child
- Blood relative
- Shared name
- Shares uncommon religious or political affiliation
- Secret benefactor (one side of the relation is not aware)
- Childhood friends
- Wartime comrades
- Is blackmailed by
- Coerced with violence
- Wishes to impress on
- Loyal to the same master
- shared offspring
- Parents know each other
- Concerned for the well-being of someone else in household (i.e. acting on behalf of a father to protect his children, rather than himself).
- complicated story: roll twice and combine.
Roll once to determine the client seeking the adventurers’ services and once for the rival. Note that if the adventurers were approached by an intermediary, the client is likely to be unknown to them—at least originally.
- A merchant prince
- An ageing crime lord
- The emissary of a foreign city
- The head eunuch of the Moon Temple
- A captain of the fire watch
- A high-ranking canal inspector
- A prominent notary from the wall of complaints
- An alchemist, concocting gold-balm and ointments for the temples
- The steward of the steam-bath
- A hostage queen, ensuring a truce
- A barû-priest with a penchant for wine
- A celebrated veteran hero
- A terrible and wealthy ogre
- Byblos, steward of the Portico
- The first courtesan of the temple
- The business-minded matriarch of house Zhavo
- A child-widow and heir to a large trade empire
- A fugitive court psychic living under false name
- A former explorer, employed as army cartographer and chronicler
- An ambitious noble eager to take his father’s place in the assembly
Allies are groups associated with the client or the rival and whom they can rely on for aid. Allies will give help according to their trade and position in society. In addition, combat-trained allies are able to immediately muster 3d6 fighters; all other groups are capable of rallying 2d6 fighters within a shorter time span, either from their own ranks, from the ranks of their sons and daughters or by using their resources to pay soldiers.
- A person of no slight notice: roll on the involved parties chart to determine which
- A powerful family, including 1d3+1 notable persons: roll on the involved parties chart to determine which
- A band of mercenaries: 1 Akkadians, 2 Amorites, 3 Hittites, 4 Reed-men, 5 locals, 6 Dur Kurigalzu murderers
- The cult of a foreign god: 1 Andarmalech, 2 Anamalech, 3 Pazuzu or 4 Ereshkhigal.
- A band of youngsters: 1 orphans, 2 noblemen’s bastards, 3 wealthy brats, 4 lawyer students, 5 temple hands, 6 apprentice masons
- An association of women: 1 prostitutes, 2 bath-house girls, 3 midwives, 4 dreamers of the Moon temple, 5 lamenters, 6 seamstresses, 7 dyers, 8 dentists, 9 brewers, 10 widows, 11 bakers, 12 pharmacists
- An association of men: 1 actors, 2 bards, 3 masseurs, 4 morticians, 5 orchardmen, 6 butchers, 7 stone masons, 8 wood cutters, 9 gem cutters, 10 potters, 11 painters, 12 shoemakers
- Bandits: 1 burglars, 2 cut-purses, 3 robbers, 4 counterfeiters, 5 assassins, 6 tomb robbers
- Temple guards from: 1 the Ziggurat of the Celestial Zenith, 2 the Moon temple, 3 the Merchants’ temple, 4 the Shrine of the vagrant Queen, 5 the Water Clock, 6 the temple of Enlil, 7 the Library of Light, 8 the Barû temple.
- A chapter of the sun Templars: 1 morning, 2 midday, 3 nighttide or 4 nadir
- Officials: 1 the Fire Watch, 2 Toll collectors, 3 tax collectors, 4 water carriers
- Foreigners: 1 Akkadians, 2 Amorites, 3 Hittites, 4 Reed-men.
Roll to determine what the adventurers are tasked with doing. Elaborate on the outcome to match the client, rival, and circumstances.
- Make the rival withdraw their claim
- Exact revenge (nature depending on case)
- Defend/protect the client’s life until the verdict has been executed.
- Assassinate the rival
- Find a witness to plead for the client’s case. Roll on the intermediary or client chart to determine who the witness is.
- Drive the rival off their land or take the rival’s wealth
- Steal and destroy all evidence in favor of the rival
- Retrieve evidence stolen by the rival
- Forge contract, seal or similar that supports the client’s case
- Fight off bandits sent by the rival and their allies to steal the client’s wealth
- Destroy the rival completely
- The client is not him/herself directly involved in the dispute. The PCs should oversee that the rival makes no trespasses against someone else: roll to determine whom.
- Silence, blackmail or kill the judges involved and frame the rival for it.
- Destroy all documentation of the case and kill the notary and the rival’s representatives that attended the hearings
- Persuade the rival’s allies to betray her.
- Destroy the rival’s allies to set an example.
- Shift blame from the client to a third party: roll to determine which.
- Find evidence of the rival’s involvement in a crime whose magnitude trumps the dispute involving the client.
- Free the client’s eldest child, who has been exchanged for the rival’s eldest as safety during the trial and is held hostage there.
- Help the client flee the city.
If the nature of the court-case becomes relevant, roll on the chart below to determine the accusation or area of contestation.
- Assassination of a prominent family member
- The legality of a wedding that merges the wealth of two houses
- Ownership of land
- Illegal taxation/confiscation of goods
- Unsanctioned practice of sorcery
- Fraud or impersonation
- Contract breaking
- An ancient sculpture establishing pedigree
- Two clay tablets, identical in all but a few words that changes their meaning
- A witness: roll on the intermediary chart
- Fragments of a shattered cylinder seal
- An electrum dagger, with the owner’s mark engraved on the hilt
- An heirloom that was considered lost for years
- A cache of foreign gold
- Two halves of an emerald brooch
- A silver key
- The grain-keepers’ records
- A body
- Blood-spattered clothes
- Two runaway slaves
- A broken chariot, palanquin or other vehicle
- A vial of tamarisk perfume
- A broken tooth, nail or lost tuft of hair
- A discrediting message, written on reed
- A sandal, shawl or other piece of clothing
- Imprints of six similar seals
- A charred bone
Complications and twists
To make the situation more complex, you may choose to add one or more complications from the chart below.
- The PCs are approached by both parties and must choose sides
- Both sides are innocent of the crime; instead it was orchestrated by a third party that stands to gain from the rivalry. Roll to determine whom.
- One of the clients’ allies is loyal to the rival party.
- The client has hired more adventurer-groups that the PCs, and they must compete with the others if they hope to get remunerated.
- To avoid paying them and keep the recompense for herself, the intermediary seeks to frame the PCs for any illegal actions they have done in her service.
- The rival is immensely powerful, having 1d6 additional allies.
- The rival has recruited a band of assassins to murder the client; if she dies, there will be no payment.
- The rival has recruited a band of ruffians to take counter-measures against the client. Roll twice on the “service” chart to determine what their plan is.
As these are desperate affairs, assume each character receives 1d100 shekels upon completion.