After completing this one, I went to name it, and realized that “the Lord Mayor’s Brother” made it sound almost identical to the existing Lord Mayor’s Son encounter, which is completely different in content. So I made the mayor a woman. Honestly, I’m not super keen on this encounter, even though I like the potential roleplay scenes during the mayor’s interviews, everything around it feels kind of meh.
Merry Christmas, I guess.
Summary: The town’s young ruler wishes to unload responsibility for the domain onto someone else without allowing it to fall into the hands of her younger brother, whom she fears will tarnish the family reputation by aligning with anti-Imperial forces. The younger brother seeks to kill the ruler before she can give their family’s one tiny holding away.
Discovery: Upon entering the town, the party must make a subtlety check. If they are Imperial aligned and fail, or if they are Chaos aligned but pretending to be Imperial aligned and succeed, then they are contacted upon arrival by the Lady Mayor of the town, who would like to speak to them about the future of the town. Specifically, she would like to meet with them in the mayor’s mansion in the center of town.
The Lady Mayor has no intention of ceding the town to anyone who is renegade or Chaos aligned, so if the characters are not identified by her as Imperium aligned, the only way to get the town from her is to either overwhelm it (which works like any other town – kill all the PDF and the current leader and drop a squad of loyal mooks on the place to keep the locals in line) or else to discover she is looking for someone to take over the family business and go to her to attempt to persuade her one of the characters or their allies would be a good candidate. A Difficult(-10) Insight check will reveal rumors that have propagated from manor servants out to some of the townsfolk that the old Lady Mayor recently died, and the new Lady Mayor wants to get rid of her obligation and return to her home in Vestitas Nova, much to the displeasure of her younger brother, who had hoped to lead some military expedition into renegade territory and acquire a fiefdom of his own here on the frontier. The news of the old mayor’s death may also come up when speaking to other aristocrats, including in Grey Harbour, although rumors about the new one’s efforts to extract herself from the frontier are unlikely to come up.
Exploration: The Lady Mayor will explain the situation to anyone who meets with her in her mansion. She has a starting Disposition of 40 towards anyone who appears Imperial aligned (and 25 towards anyone not) and a submissive personality. She explains that she is looking for a loyal Highborn aristocrat of the Imperium to take over the town for her, as she only inherited it when her mother unexpectedly died, and she would now very much like to return to her home spire on Vestitas Nova to complete her education. Go around the table in any order having each character make one check using any of the skills. Anyone who fails is out. After every character has made one check, everyone who hasn’t yet failed one may try again for a second round, and likewise on the third. After three rounds, once everyone has failed, or once the characters decide they are done with the conversation, roll a Disposition check for the Lady Mayor. A successful Disposition check will convince her to hand the town over to a person of the characters’ choice, but only after she consults with the local Ecclesiarchy priest, whose advice she has always relied on.
If the Disposition check fails, the Lady Mayor will say the same, however the preacher is under no circumstances going to convince her to give the characters a second chance, so the characters soon afterwards receive a notice from a servant that the Lady Mayor thanks them for their time and must consider other candidates before coming to a decision. If ever asked about it again, she will claim she is still interviewing other candidates and has made no decision one way or the other, but the truth is she has decided against them. She may possibly be convinced to hold a second interview if the characters become famous for some great and pro-Imperial accomplishment (there are plenty of heretics, daemons, and renegades to destroy in the hexcrawl, which would certainly qualify if they are being public about it), but otherwise she is done speaking with them.
If the meeting took place in the morning, the Lady Mayor will consult with the priest in the afternoon, and if the afternoon, she will consult with him in the morning. Either way, she will meet with the characters again at the same time the next day, this time with the priest. The priest has an aggressive personality and a starting Disposition of 20. He dislikes the thought that anyone will replace the current mayor, as she relies on him for advice and her successor may not. Any attempts to Charm the priest by convincing him that they value his wisdom take a +10 bonus and grant +5*DoS Disposition if successful. The Lady Mayor’s earlier conversation with the preacher has lowered her Disposition towards the party by twenty points (from wherever it was at the end of her last conversation with them). This conversation proceeds the same as the one on the day before, however both the preacher and the Lady Mayor must be convinced by the end of three rounds. The characters must succeed on a Disposition check with both, at which point the Lady Mayor will retire to get the papers in order and invite the characters back the next day to see the results.
The Lady Mayor does not mention her brother unless asked about it. She will explain that yes, he is unhappy, as once his immediate family is unlanded he is unlikely to be able to acquire the firepower necessary to capture and hold a town from Renegade forces (unless he resorts to mercenaries, who are themselves usually renegades and thus not very likely to remain loyal when they could just shoot him and become the new warlords themselves), but his ambitions are not particularly her concern.
Confrontation: The Lady Mayor will meet the characters for the signing ceremony, a small affair witnessed only by the preacher, the mayor’s younger brother, and the local PDF sergeant. Characters automatically roll their choice of a Difficult(-10) Awareness or Challenging(+0) Insight check when drinks are served just after the signing. Anyone who has made a special note to keep an eye on the brother gets a +10 to the Awareness check, and anyone who has voiced aloud (even out of character) a suspicion that he will do something dastardly gets a +20 bonus to the Insight check. Anyone who succeeds on either notices that the brother is quick on the drinks, but also very careful about what drink he selects from the tray. Anyone who made the Awareness check specifically also notices that there is a particular chip in the glass of the drink that the brother has selected.
Players are pretty likely to figure out that the glasses are poisoned almost immediately, but only because they have the benefit of knowing that the drinks wouldn’t get more than a one-line mention if they weren’t important, and the obvious thing to be important about the drinks is for them to be poisoned by the jealous heir to the throne they’re about to seize. Anyone who wants to claim that their character won’t drink should have a good reason. Making their check certainly qualifies, as does a fellow party member either somehow secretly signalling them not to drink (if they have some kind of secret language set up in advance) or else just shouting “don’t drink, it’s poisoned!” If no one alerts unaware party members to the dangers, then it’s possible that they will have some good reason not to drink anyway, however an answer like “I’m too suspicious” doesn’t cut it unless the character has been established as an absolute paranoiac who wouldn’t drink any wine prepared where they can’t see it. Twitch from the All Guardsmen Party would qualify. The others would not. Some characters might make an appeal to not drinking at all, for reasons of temperance or even just because they tend to embarrass themselves. That probably hasn’t come up in the game yet, and players have the right to make up new quirks for their characters pretty much whenever they want, but it’s worth stressing that if they’re going to add an aversion to alcohol so strong that they won’t even take a polite sip to celebrate the signing over of a fiefdom to one of their friends or allies (or even they, themselves), then they had better be willing to stick to that for the rest of the campaign.
In any case, if none of the characters who noticed something up choose to interrupt the drinks immediately after noticing, the Lady Mayor, preacher, and PDF sergeant will end up drinking some death juice for sure. Anyone who does so must make a Challenging(+0) Toughness check and takes six levels of fatigue, +1 for every degree of failure on the check and -1 for every two degrees of success. Given short notice, the brother had to resort to the cheap stuff, but even the baseline fatigue damage will make most people pass out, and anyone who botches the check is in serious danger of death (bear in mind, player characters can burn Fate to survive – this would admittedly be a pretty lame way to go were that not true).
The brother isn’t quite helpless in a fight, but even two characters still standing will have no difficulty bringing him down. If the drinking is interrupted entirely before anyone can be poisoned, the odds will be even more dire. Only if everyone goes under will he then slit the throats of all involved and rip up the signed agreement. Anyone who burns edge to survive (if it’s most of the party, and in this scenario it may well be, then clearly this guy sucks at slitting throats) will wake up in a shallow grave outside town a few hours later, having already been framed as the ones responsible for killing the mayor, the preacher, and the sergeant. The remaining PDF (a standard squad with chimera, sans sergeant – a random grunt has been promoted to take his place nominally, but does not have the stats to match) will be loyal to the new mayor unless confronted with overwhelming evidence that he was responsible for the sergeant’s death – they don’t really care about aristocratic politics, but they’re damn well angry at the bastard what killed sarge.
If the Lady Mayor, the preacher, and the sergeant are all killed, but at least one character walks out of the confrontation conscious, then the signed document transferring ownership is intact, which means if the character receiving the fiefdom is still alive, it belongs to them. If they were killed by the poison (or by a lucky shot from the brother in the confrontation afterwards), then the fiefdom is inherited by whoever their heir is. The player of a dead character (where did all your Fate get burned?) can declare whoever in particular they like as the inheritor of their stuff so long as they are Highborn, and the successor to an NPC is up to the GM. The Highborn have the right to declare any Highborn person they like to be their rightful heir, but the default is the oldest living child (and failing that, rely on English succession law to sort out who inherits what – you may have to invent a cousin or something if a minor NPC just bit it).
Rewards: The town in question is, of course, the main prize. Becoming ruler of the town is worth 1d10 Influence, and being close friends with the ruler of the town is worth 1d5. The town can be levied for 2 Influence to automatically succeed on a requisition check, and can provide anything that’s common or cheaper, any solid projectile weapon or service that’s average or cheaper and any medical care, low-tech weapon, or basic armour that’s scarce or cheaper.