This hex encounter has a proper, full-fledged three clues style mystery. Except I couldn’t figure out a third clue in time to keep my schedule from slipping any further, so instead it’s a two clues mystery with a couple of mulligans thrown in.
Summary: A band of renegades in town have been chafing under the growing Imperial control for years. Now they plan to make their displeasure known by detonating bombs that will destroy the mayor’s mansion, the PDF headquarters, and the local Arbites precinct, all in one night.
Discovery: The day the characters arrive (or the morning after, if they arrive in the evening), a bomb is detonated in the town’s main square, wounding many. That should get their attention.
Exploration: The debris at the bomb site can be analyzed with a successful Challenging(+0) Tech-Use check. If successfully analyzed, it’s clearly come from an Imperial munitions plant, like the one in town, rather than being some kind of improvised device. A Difficult(-10) Inquiry check into the surrounding townspeople will lead them to point their finger to the owner of the local inn, who was once a member of the Red Hearts, a band of mercenaries who took jobs from various warlords before the Imperium moved into the area and knocked bottom out of the mercenary market. He’s never rabble roused or anything before, and the Imperium’s expansion and subsequent dissolution of the Red Hearts is decades old, but he’s got a reason to dislike the Imperium and past experience with demolitions.
The local munitions plant sits at the edge of the river, pumping its byproducts into the flow. The manager is cooperative with anyone who appears Imperium aligned (a subtlety check may be required if the characters are not overtly working for some non-Inquisition entity), but knows nothing. None of his workers have been all that suspicious, the inventory reports are all in order, and the floor is watched whenever in operation by a pair of PDF guards, so a worker trying to grab a tank shell to make into a bomb would undoubtedly be noticed. They’re not exactly small.
A Challenging(+0) Inquiry or Interrogation check on the munitions plant workers will lead them to point to the innkeeper who once worked for the Red Hearts, and a Difficult(-10) Inquiry or Interrogation check (or in other words, two degrees of success on the Challenging(+0) check) will reveal that one of the workers saw one of the two PDF lifting several shells out of the delivery truck and into a duffel bag. Double-checking with the manager will reveal that all of the paperwork for the day is in order, but those two PDF are the only ones who need to sign off on that paperwork to make it official.
The Red Hearts innkeeper is one of the conspirators. The bomb workshop is in his cellar. The characters may find it just by exploring the place, but the bombs themselves are already gone. Under a Difficult(-10) Interrogation check, he will reveal that his co-conspirators are a pair of PDF, both sons of one of the other former Red Hearts in the town. An Ordinary(+10) Awareness check while searching the cellar turns up notes on bomb construction that refer to tank shells manufactured at the munitions plant.
There are three more bombs in the city. The first to go off is at the Arbites precinct about two hours after the first, killing both judges in the town (unless the players have convinced one or both of them to leave, perhaps to help with the investigation). The second will go off at the PDF headquarters about two hours after that. The third will go off at the Lord Mayor’s manor within fifteen minutes of the one that detonated at the PDF headquarters. All of the bombs are made using tank shells produced at the local munitions plant, and at each new crime scene the players have another chance to interrogate witnesses, who will point them to the ex-mercenary innkeeper if they haven’t received that lead already.
Confrontation: The bombers are holed up in the PDF headquarters with a bomb to be manually detonated in a duffel bag. About two hours after the detonation of the bomb at the Arbites precinct, they’ll set the bomb’s timer to about five minutes and head to the motor pool, which they know is the only room fully outside the bomb’s blast radius. When the PDF bomb goes off, the Lord Mayor instructs all surviving PDF to come to his manor. This is exactly what the two bombers are counting on, and they take the opportunity to plant their third bomb in mayor’s manor and set it to go off in ten minutes, then take up their posts on the perimeter. After the bomb goes off, they join what few PDF remain in scouring the ruins for the culprits, but they’ve made their statement.
If confronted at any time, it takes only an Ordinary(+10) Scrutiny check to determine that the PDF are lying about not knowing anything about the bombs. Any attempt to search their mysterious bag (which contains both the PDF and mayor’s bomb up until right before they’re planted) results in the two becoming hostile and trying to fight their way out. If at least one of the brothers dies, the other will take a full action to detonate the bomb. When detonated, the bomb deals 5d10+5 damage with Penetration 5 to anyone within one meter of it, and 1d10+1 less with one less Penetration less for each meter further away, down to 1d10+1 with Penetration 1 at five meters away.
If the characters wish to help the bombers, it takes a Hard(-20) Charm check to convince them that they’re Chaos or renegades who want to help them explode the Imperium. This check gets a +20 bonus if the characters have attacked or killed an Imperial agent where the bombers can see it. There’s not much the characters need to do to help the bombers out, as their plot to kill the mayor and most of the rest of the town’s forces will succeed by default.
Rewards: If the mayor’s bomb goes off successfully and thus kills the mayor, the power vacuum can be filled by anyone Highborn, whether in the party or one of their allies. Being installed as ruler of the town is worth 1d10 Influence, and being a direct associate with the newly installed ruler is worth 1d5. The town is generally helpful from now on, and all characters get a +10 bonus to Influence checks made for goods or services from the town, and can reduce their Influence by 2 to automatically succeed on an Influence check for any goods or services the town can provide by using a favor from their friend and/or puppet the Lord Mayor to levy the town. The town can provide anything that’s common or cheaper, any solid projectile weapon or service that’s average or cheaper, and any medical care, drugs or consumables, low-tech weapon, or basic armour that’s scarce or cheaper.
Tank shells taken from the town munitions plant can be used to make bombs with a Difficult(-10) Tech Use check. If the check fails by five or more degrees of failure, the shell explodes in the crafter’s face, dealing damage just as though the bomb had detonated normally. If successfully crafted, the bomb can be set with a timer as a full round action to go off in any amount of time from 24 hours to immediately. When the timer counts down to zero, the bomb will detonate.
The innkeeper and the two bombers are also happy to continue their bombing campaign against the Imperium, or engage in other guerilla tactics, and will help anyone who persuades them that they are trustworthy anti-Imperium agents.