Halia Thornton in LMOP is an interesting NPC with great roleplay potential. I wrote up a scene where she offers Zhentarim membership to one of my PCs, which I hope proves useful for your Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure.
Halia is Phandalin’s cold, calculating Miner’s Exchange Guildmistress and Zhentarim agent.
Halia is a very attractive, raven haired, human woman dressed in a lace-up white peasant shirt, a red and gold hooded cape and tight leather breeches.
I asked the PC’s to picture a Gal Gadot-type, which got their attention. When she asked the PC’s to eliminate Glasstaff for 100 gp, the PC’s successfully determined she had ulterior motives through a DC 15 insight check, which added to her mystique.
Once Glasstaff was removed (he got away through a nice web/misty step combo) and the Redbrands scattered, the townspeople of Phandalin threw a celebration for the PC’s at the Stonehill Inn when they came down to breakfast the next morning. The NPC’s they’d met in town came by their table one after another with personal messages of gratitude.
When Halia came by they gave her Glasstaff’s mail and she questioned them on the battle and what they’d learned in Tresendar Manor. She paid them 100 gp and then I described that she gives a fairly long-winded speech of thanks and how the town will prosper with the newfound security.
Our PC Rogue’s personality qualified him as a potential Zhentarim agent, so I texted him at this point:
Halia is sneaking a message into this conversation using Thieves' cant, which only you pick up on. Her message: I have a proposition. Come to the Miner’s Exchange at noon to learn more. Come alone.
The Rogue wanted to hear her offer but didn’t trust her so he told the other PCs about her message. The PC’s were 3rd level, so the wizard cast invisibility and accompanied him to the Miner’s Exchange at noon. The other two PCs waited outside for any sign of trouble.
Inside the Miner’s Exchange, Halia is behind a counter waiting on a grizzled prospector. The miner drops some heavy copper ore out of a pack on to her scales, she adds weight to the other side to balance and then opens a drawer with a lockbox and pays him what looks like 2 gp, 6 sp and 7 cp. The prospector tips his hat and is on his way.
The PC Rogue and Wizard step in and as soon as the wizard crosses the threshold, the lockbox on the counter goes off in alarm, crying out “Invisible, Invisible, Invisible”. Halia hits it and it silences.
- <Halia sighs> One does not simply sneak into the Miner’s Exchange. What is your business here?
I then played out the conversation. It ended with:
- As I said, I have business to discuss with you. Come to the back. Your friend can wait here if he must. I promise not to hurt you. And I always keep my promises.
They walked to the back. At this point I broke off the scene and did the rest with just the Rogue in a one-on-one session.
There is a very simple and sparse office in the back room of the miner’s exchange. Halia goes behind the desk, pulls back a rug which reveals a secret trap door, which she opens and takes a ladder down into the darkness.
When the PC follows, she lights a lantern, revealing a large, luxurious room. There are colorful rugs, a plush purple velvet couch, beautiful paintings and tapestries on the walls, shelves of books, a writing desk, and an alchemy set which appears to be brewing a thick green viscous liquid. This is like nothing you would expect in Phandalin. There is one door on the east wall.
More conversation, these were some of her lines:
- I told you to come alone. You’re not very good at following instructions.
- I’m glad you came. You and your friends have proven useful to me in ridding the town of Iarno. But they seem to lack the moral… flexibility that you possess. Am I correct in that assessment?
- Then I’ll cut to the chase. I am an agent of a very powerful organization called the Zhentarim, also known as the Black Network. Have you heard of us?
- That’s alright, we prefer it that way. We operate in the shadows, answering only to our own moral code. And that code is that those with the power make the code. And as we gain more power, we intend to exert our influence across the entire Sword Coast for two purposes: unimaginable wealth and unlimited control. In short, we want to own this world, and we will stop at nothing to do it.
- I am telling you all of this because I would like to offer you membership into our family. The only ask I would have of you is that you remain ambitious, opportunistic, and absolutely loyal to me, your patron. You can take up any identity or personality that you like, and assume any semblance of a normal life while conducting Zhentarim business.
- Do you accept the Black Network’s offer?
The Rogue asked Halia a few questions at that point but jumped at the offer.
Upon his acceptance:
- Excellent. Then I bestow upon you the family’s initiate title of Fang. I, in turn, have the title of Viper. You will meet others of our order when you need to. But don’t worry, they are never far.
- For myself, I will continue to secure this part of the Sword Coast. It may be just a jerkwater village now, but once you secure the Forge of Spells we’ll have access to the riches of Wave Echo Cave. You will be rewarded handsomely when you control the forge.
- You are probably concerned about Harbin Wester. I am the one who has been paying him off. He doesn’t know it, he thought he was being bribed by Glasstaff. But I am the one who wanted him to keep the pressure off of the Redbrands. I was going to take over that operation. Not with the same brutality and distasteful methodology, of course, but with an even greater degree of control. It is unfortunate that you destroyed their organization. But no matter, owning Harbin should still prove useful to me.
- Before you go, I have a few special items for you
She pulls a Bag of holding out of a desk drawer. She reaches in and pulls out one gold piece and flips it to the Rogue.
- This will signal that you are a member of the black network to other members of the family.
It is a nondescript gold coin with the Zhentarim insignia of a dragon diving after a moon.
- And this is something I picked out just for you:
She gives the PC a Hat of Disguise
- With this hat, you can be anyone you want to be, any time you want.
Note: I gave out the hat because there is a distinct lack of Rogue-centric magic items in LMOP, and I knew the PC would be pumped in getting it. YMMV.
If asked, she will provide one Poison, Basic (vial) from the alchemy set.
- Now go, I will be in touch. And remember, the family is never far.
If the PC's try any "funny stuff" with Halia:
Halia is a level 7 Rogue (Assassin) with a Dagger of Venom and a Cape Of The Mountebank. She should not be easily defeated by the PCs at this level, and will retreat to this space from any location in Phandalin. There are traps in this room that should TPK a level 3-4 party nice and quick.
Both of the entrances to the room have “Arcane Lock” cast on them, with herself having the only permission to enter. The door to the east opens up to a 50' nondescript tunnel that leads to a ladder which takes you up into her house through another secret trap door. Her house has nothing remarkable in it.
If she is robbed in secret by the PC's, she is then nowhere to be found. If she is either robbed or killed, the next time the party sleeps indoors, the building they are in is set on fire. When they make their way out to escape the fire, three 3rd level Zhent rogues stealth snipe from nearby rooftops. The PCs have gained a powerful enemy in the Zhentarim and setting things right with them will be an adventure in itself.
Long write-up but hope it helps. Let me know how it goes if you try any of this, thanks!
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