Lawrence Atkinson is the miller in Fletcher’s Perch. This means he is relatively affluent for the community and very well-known. Nearly everyone has business with the miller. His son, Toby, will take over the mill when Lawrence retires or passes on. Toby is also well-known and well-liked.
Recently, Lawrence has started to claim that Toby is not his son. He doesn’t know who is wearing his son’s face as a mask, but something must be. Toby talks with people about how he is very upset by his father’s behavior. Others in the community have tried to reason with Lawrence, but he is adamant: that is not his son.
According to Lawrence, this false Toby doesn’t sing in the mornings like Toby did. He doesn’t know old call-and-response inside jokes that Toby knew. His cleanliness is different, too. He can list more. For these reasons, he has kicked Toby out of the house. Toby is now staying at the Golden Horn Tavern and Inn.
Toby simply says his father needs help.
What’s Going On?
Lawrence is correct. His son has been replaced. Toby left one day to deliver flour to another town over where their mill was being repaired. When he returned, he started acting strangely. It was never something obvious or big, but rather a lot of little habits that changed or stopped or suddenly started that put Lawrence on edge until he reached the only conclusion he could: this was not his son.
Who replaced his son and why, though, is up to the GM.
The Indebted Deva
On his way back to Fletcher’s Perch, Toby witnessed a beautiful, silver winged man being attacked by what seemed a group of bugbears. Toby, with more bravery than intelligence, barged in with a spray of arrows. His intervention drew the attention of the pack who then swarmed him as well. The deva managed to kill the bugbears binding his wings, but not before the pack had torn Toby’s head from his body.
The deva buried Toby’s body and examined his cart and belongings to determine his origins so that the deva could let the family know of Toby’s bravery and death. Among Toby’s belongings, the deva found a journal in which Toby discussed how his mother’s death a few years ago still affected his father and how sometimes he thinks his father relies on him for a reason to go on living. Toby describes it as a burden he is afraid to address or shift because he loves his father, but he is also crumbling under the weight.
The deva decided to take Toby’s form and return to Fletcher’s Perch as him. He uses the journal as a guide for his behavior and speech. He knows that lying is wrong, but he believes it is for a good cause. He just needs to make sure that Toby’s father can survive without Toby and then he will reveal himself and move on.
Lawrence’s suspicions have thrown a rather large kink into that plan. On the one hand, the deva wonders if he should simply reveal the truth now. On the other hand, Lawrence has been drinking more and he talks about going to find his son wherever he’s imprisoned. He doesn’t think Toby is really dead and so the deva figures his work is still undone.
The Tired Oni
On his way back to Fletcher’s Perch, Toby encountered an oni who had traveled down from the mountains. Of course, he didn’t know it was an oni at the time. They traveled together for a day. The oni used charm person to learn as much as he could from Toby about his home and life. He did this to gauge whether or not Fletcher’s Perch would be a good town to set-up shop in for a while.
That night, on the outskirts of the farmland surrounding Fletcher’s Perch, the oni showed his true form and attacked Toby, devouring him. He then assumed Toby’s form and continued into the town. He had felt a minor impulse to go elsewhere, but that had been neutralized by traveling and talking with Toby. In Fletcher’s Perch, though, the oni noticed something very strange: he wasn’t hungry.
The town was ripe for eating, but he looked about and didn’t feel the stirring desire to abduct, destroy, and consume. So, for the first night, he didn’t attack anyone. Instead, he slept. He rested for the first time in ages. It’s been a few weeks now and he still does not feel the need to hunt. The town isn’t very exciting, but the open road and the constant hunger had been wearing as well. This, while a bit dull, is new. He has never had time like this to simply be.
That said, the oni isn’t suddenly a good guy. While some of his mistakes as Toby were accidental, he committed others on purpose purely to irritate Lawrence and make the man question his sanity. It’s just a bit of fun.
On his way back to Fletcher’s Perch, Toby stopped by a small pond for some water and rest. He slipped on a bit of mud and tumbled into the pond. The pond was not deep, but Toby did not stop sinking. From the waters emerged his reflection [stats]. The reflection wants to live his own life. He is a cruel and selfish being who enjoys causing pain to others out of mere curiosity. He slaughtered his horses and then returned to Fletcher’s Perch with a story of bandits on his lips.
As Toby’s reflection, he knows everything Toby knew. He purposefully makes little mistakes where only Lawrence could see as a way of slowly, psychologically tormenting Lawrence. Once he gets bored with driving the old man batty, he’ll kill him. In the meantime, he is enjoying other little jokes, such as spreading secrets and rumors and adding low quantities of poison to the flour people buy. It isn’t enough to kill them, just enough to cause them pain.
Killing fascinates the reflection, but doing it at a remove is boring. He has killed three people in town so far–two women and a man. He chose them because Toby found them pretty. He doesn’t know if Toby can see him acting in his stead, but he hopes so. He hopes Toby knows those people are dead because of him.
What Can the Players Do?
The players’ possible actions will naturally vary based on the explanation the GM chose.
The Indebted Deva
The deva’s primary concern is ensuring that Lawrence Atkinson survives the death of his son. Due to Toby’s journal and Lawrence’s anger and desperation over the deva taking Toby’s place, the deva is certain that Toby’s fears are true. Lawrence may not kill himself once he discovers Toby is dead, but he’ll still slowly wither away. The deva refuses to reveal the truth until he is certain Lawrence will be okay.
The players can try to reason with the deva about how humans handle grief and how prolonging the lie isn’t helping. Or, they can accept the deva’s premise and work to find ways to help Lawrence find something other than his son to live for. Alternatively, they can set up an even bigger lie in which Toby was recruited by adventurers and the deva, fulfilling a debt to the adventurers, took his place. The players can promise to try and track Toby down for Lawrence, even though they know Toby is dead.
This route is good for parties who enjoy role play or for whom the other options are either too challenging or not challenging enough.
The Tired Oni
The oni is enjoying a life without hunger. Oni work for other evil beings if promised magical artifacts and safe homes. Fletcher’s Perch is so far safe, as long as he remains as Toby and, he suspects, a powerful magical artifact may be nearby. Something must be stopping his hunger, after all. If not an artifact, then a powerful magic user. Either way, the oni wants to know what’s happening so that he can figure out how to turn it to his own profit.
Though laying low, the oni will fight if challenged. He’ll remain as Toby for as long as he can, only shifting if he plans to kill all witnesses. He has plans on eventually eating someone, but ‘eventually’ keeps feeling further away. His alignment may even be shifting toward neutral. While it may be tempting to let him be, Lawrence and Toby still deserve justice, don’t they?
If the Dewdrop Man’s protections fall, however, the oni’s hunger will return with a vengeance and he will slaughter and consume all who come in his path.
The players are confronted with an evil creature that is apparently changing for the better. Do they let him be or do they demand justice for his previous carnage? The players will also need to handle what to tell Lawrence about Toby and the oni. They can try to mediate an understanding between Lawrence and the oni.
While the players can approach this as a heavily social situation, they can also decide that the oni is a monster and a threat, even if he isn’t currently hurting anyone, and go to defeat him. Lawrence will mourn his son, but will have the closure of knowing he was right about the imposter and that his son’s killer is dead.
This is a good option for players whose characters are levels 5 through 8 or who enjoy role play.
The reflection is an irredeemable budding serial killer. The players may learn about the reflection by investigating Lawrence’s claims or investigating the recent deaths of a man and two women (choose any older child (late teens), young adult, or middle-aged people from the list of Who’s Who).
The players can confront and kill the reflection [stats] or bring it to justice in the town. The reflection can, however, move someone else into its demiplane and take their place, making it difficult to catch if it realizes it is being pursued. This is a good monster for players levels 1-4.
Killing the reflection only solves part of the problem, however. In this scenario, Toby is alive and stuck in the demiplane. The players can try to force the reflection to open a door to the demiplane, cast the spell themselves, or find someone to cast it for them. Toby can probably survive one to three months in the demiplane, but he has limited supplies with him and the demiplane does not have abundant gardens or food. He has water, at least. Toby can see through reflective surfaces near the reflection, but he cannot communicate through them.
This is a good option for lower level players or players who enjoy problem-solving. It also suggests a possible side quest: finding a wizard to cast demiplane to save Toby.