Uncovering smuggled alcohol and weapons: How do I turn this into mission obstacles?

My players discovered that a large group of resourceful bandits, operating outside Copperwood, have been trading mead to mice in Ironwood for arrow- and spearheads. They need to bring back proof to their characters’ superiors of what’s going on there. (The alcohol’s not being taxed, and the bandits clearly are arming themselves for insurrection.) I thought the players would do the sleuthing on their turn, but we ended up having to spread this mission over two sessions. They’re camped outside Ironwood. What are some mission obstacles that I can throw at them to get them down to path to providing evidence?

Well, a confession is probably the best evidence they could get. Everything else would be circumstantial, no?

Even a written trade agreement wouldn’t necessarily prove anything. “Gin for these arrow heads that we are going to shoot into Copperwood’s arse…” That’s an unlikely find.

Just off the top of my head…

Have the patrol disguise themselves as joiners of the cause. Maybe they need more mice to fire those arrows and hold the spears. Course this works if only the guard remain inconspicuous, but then again, why not throw in a twist that has an enemy discover the newcomers true identities?

Capturing a scout or guard outside of the enemy encampment might be a good way to round up some information. And if the tactics used to gain that information tend to swing toward the inhumane, you may have cause for a PC vs PC conflict in the players turn. Or maybe even a PC vs NPC conflict if you’ve brought along a aid to your search.

Not unlike posing as a bandit, another tactic may be to go undercover as another buyer of ale. “I heard they’re handing out spirits for pointy things here. We would like to get in on the deal makings if you’d allow us sirs.” Don’t know if it’d work, you’d have to have the PC’s come up with a load of arrow points and spear stuff, or other sharp items, but it could be a simple crate or two filled with the real deal and the rest full of rocks for weight.

Or something totally against all reason, I hear that hedgehogs are prone to stampeding through a certain area if given enough gumption. (Hey, it’s fantasy.) Why not let loose a few of the critters using lore or hunter on the enemy camp and during the ensuing confusion gather some evidence.

Hope this helps. I’d really like to know what you choose (even if it isn’t one of mine); this sounds like a neat mission.

Thanks, guys. We had to delay the session until next week, but I think I’m going to go with a scout test to tail a suspicious mouse, and an argument conflict to interrogate him. I’d also let the patrol circle up someone instead of having to use scout; I believe one of the characters has some smithing in his background.

I’m used to this kind of stuff getting resolved in the Players’ Turn, so I’m interested to see how this goes.