To be perfectly honest, when Brendan sent me the PDF for Sertorius I gave it a quick glance, saw it was yet another 500 page fantasy roleplaying game, and threw the PDF metaphorically onto the stack of Things I Will Probably Never Get the Time to Look At(TM). But I’m always interested in good mystery scenarios and when I cracked open Beneath the Banshee Tree, it did exactly what good adventure scenarios are supposed to do: It got me really intrigued about this setting and this game.
I still haven’t really delved into Sertorius, but I have taken a slightly closer look: It’s a game where everyone plays a powerful sorcerer in a land where sorcerers are god-kings and potentates. As your power grows, you attract followers and slowly shift from a mortal to a divine existence. So, basically, Ars Magica if your characters were powerful Sumerian demigods instead of scholars hiding in the dark woods of the Europe.
Whether Sertorius sounds interesting to you or not, I recommend checking out Beneath the Banshee Tree: First, it’s free. Second, it could easily be adapted to a lot of different fantasy settings (while likely bringing with it a few unique stamps that will only serve to enhance the experience). Third, it’s really good.
Davis uses a very clever, randomized structure to drive a serial killer-esque investigative scenario in which even the PCs can become targets. Structurally, the adventure is clever because each additional crime scene brings additional clues that, generally, point towards the villain’s accomplices (providing a second layer of redundant investigation that makes sure the scenario remains robust and interesting no matter how it plays out).
Conceptually, however, Beneath the Banshee Tree is captivating: The “serial killer” isn’t actually a killer. (Most of the time, anyways.) Instead, Davis has created a fiendishly clever crime that’s uniquely fantastical and only possible in a land of wonder and magic. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil it: Check it out.
(Remember, it’s free. It also contains an entire fantasy city that you can easily grab and use in any number of nifty ways. Seriously, why are you still reading this when you should be reading that?)