The Murder at the Mansion

Summary: The local mayor throws a small party. If the characters are at all well known, they are invited. During the party, the mayor is murdered, and there are a half-dozen potential suspects – word of this murder quickly gets out to the rest of the town, giving the characters reason to snoop around if they aren’t already. Characters will want to find the culprit to either bring them to justice or help them abscond.

Discovery: The party will be announced throughout the town on the day the characters arrive. If they’re at all notable and appear to be Imperium aligned, the characters will receive invitations as soon as the mayor finds out they’re in town (which may require a subtlety check).

Exploration: There are four main guests at the party, plus the host, his daughter, and the maid. Lord Mayor Boddy greets the characters with enthusiasm when they first arrive, will briefly discuss the state of the Cardinal’s efforts to reclaim the region for the light of the Emperor, and then leave to mingle with the other guests. These other guests are:

Lady Scarlet, the Lord Mayor’s vivacious and ambitious daughter, who is happy to discuss politics and expresses a restrained disappointment in her father’s inaction despite how close the village is posted to heretical territory.

Sergeant Sandy, the leader of the local PDF, who is eager for a fight and dislikes the defensive approach taken by the Lord Mayor.

Father Viridian, the town priest, who has ties to the smuggling operation running up and down the Grey River, a significant obscura addiction, and a keen interest to make sure that the Lord Mayor doesn’t find out about either.

Lady Azure, an aristocratic rival of the Lord Mayor’s who was de facto exiled after being on the wrong end of scandal back in Grey Harbor and attempted to take control of the town when the Imperium first asserted itself here to rebuild herself, but was thwarted when her rivals employed Lord Mayor Boddy to take over instead.

Sir Indigo, a minor noble who fancies himself an adventurer and has been using the town as a base of operations for exploratory ventures into the jungle. He has been petitioning the Lord Mayor for investment for some time now, sure that he can discover lost riches with a bit more funding for his expeditions, but the Lord Mayor has refused more than a token donation to the cause.

Also omnipresent is Mademoiselle Blanc, whose title may sound fancy, but it really just means “miss,” and is the manor’s maid, ensuring that everyone’s wine glass is kept topped off. She expresses nothing but admiration for all the guests, but an Ordinary(+10) Scrutiny check reveals she harbors spite for her employer.

Unless the characters stay glued to the Lord Mayor for the duration of the night, he shall eventually be murdered. Most specifically, after the characters have had a chance to interact with each of the six potential culprits, Lord Boddy’s body is discovered. Everyone present has a plausible motivation and, honestly, pretty much anyone is willing to do it given the right opportunity, but only one of them in particular happens to be the actual perpetrator of the crime. Anyone the characters were speaking to at the time the deed was done is immediately exonerated, however the guests don’t tend to congregate in groups of more than two unless absolutely necessary, so unless the characters have gone out of their way to keep all but one in the same place, there should be at least four potential culprits. If the characters split up to talk to several, they are most likely to eventually meet up to exchange information, and if they do, that is when the murderer will strike. If the characters manage to keep all six potential culprits (or Lord Boddy himself) within view all night, and if they are not doing so from stealth, then the murderer will never strike for lack of opportunity. If the characters are being sneaky about it, the murderer (whomever it is) will strangle Lord Boddy, or club him with a wrench, or some such thing.

Outside of anyone within direct line of sight of the characters being innocent, the characters will need to determine who was where at the time of death. For the most part, this is going to be accomplished by making lots of Interrogate and Scrutiny checks, almost always against a difficulty of Challenging(+0), with the exact details heavily dependent upon where the characters were when the murder took place and who was nearby. However, regardless of details of the deed, there will be three general vectors for clues (possibly in addition to wacky things players come up with).

First, every suspect claims to have been in a different room from Lord Boddy when the deed was done, but many of them are lying. Father Viridian buys obscura from Sir Indigo, and neither of them will admit to being alone with one another for fear of going down with the other if they’re caught (i.e. if Sir Indigo is caught smuggling, Father Viridian doesn’t want his obscura habit traced to him, and vice-versa). Lady Scarlet and Sergeant Sandy are carrying on an affair, and as Sandy is common born, this is a scandal they will not admit to, so they, too, will not admit to being in a room alone together. Mademoiselle Blanc likes to feel like she’s better informed and that her life is more exciting than it is, and will thus pretend to have been present but unseen at virtually any conversation, but not to the murder, as she fears consequences for that one. Only Lady Azure will be perfectly honest about her location, unless, of course, she is responsible.

If one of the two scandalous pairs actually did commit the murder, however, their behavior reverses, and they will claim to have been with one another even if they were actually alone. That is, Father Viridian will claim to have been with Sir Indigo at the time of the murder if Sir Indigo was actually responsible and vice-versa, in order to discourage investigation into Sir Indigo that might reveal Father Viridian’s indiscretions, and vice-versa, and likewise with Scarlet and Sandy.

Second, each suspect carries a specific murder weapon, and Lord Boddy was killed with one of them specifically. A Challenging(+0) Medicae check on the body will reveal exactly what object did the deed, at which point pinning who has the murder weapon will reveal who was the killer. Certain murder weapons are more obvious than others even on a failed check (for example, on a failed check the wounds of a bayonet and a machete look fairly similar, but certainly won’t be confused with a hand flamer). Sir Indigo has a machete, Sergeant Sandy used her bayonet, Father Viridian would’ve lit Lord Boddy up with his hand flamer, Lady Azure has a needle gun loaded with deadly poison, Lady Scarlet would’ve poisoned her father’s drink, and Mademoiselle Blanc would have opportunistically bludgeoned him to death with a heavy candelabra taken from the wall.

Sir Indigo’s machete and Sergeant Sandy’s autogun (with attached bayonet) are immediately obvious (though also easily confused with one another if the check is failed), but the other four weapons are not brazenly carried, and the suspects will have to be searched to discover them. Complicating matters, everyone carries these weapons around (except Mademoiselle Blanc, whose weapon is improvised) regardless of whether they actually used them on Boddy, however Lady Azure’s needle gun will be fully loaded if she is not the killer but missing one shot if she is (she will claim to have used it on a ruffian in town who threatened her and not yet got around to reloading it), Lady Scarlet’s vial of poison will be empty if she is the killer (she will claim the vial must have been planted on her), and Father Viridian’s fuel tank for his flamer will be full if he is innocent but partly depleted if he is guilty (he will claim that he doesn’t usually fill it up all the way, as it’s faster and easier to just fill it up mostly and he rarely needs to use it). If Sandy or Indigo is the killer, an Ordinary(+10) Awareness test will reveal a trail of blood leading from the scene of the crime to the kitchen, where the murder weapon was washed of blood.

Third, the suspects can be interrogated directly, and if the characters hit a Very Hard(-30) Interrogation check while questioning the guilty party, they’ll break down and confess. Hitting the same difficulty on a non-guilty party will lead them to confessing anything else they’re hiding (i.e. Father Viridian’s drug habit, Lady Scarlet’s affair, Lady Azure’s general contempt for Lord Boddy in spite of her innocence), and will hopefully narrow down the list of suspects to just the ones who didn’t crack.

Confrontation: Through direct gathering of evidence, process of elimination via ruling out everyone else through evidence, or process of elimination via murdering all suspects just to be sure, the characters will eventually confront the murderer, who will attempt to fight back once the characters attempt to actually arrest them for the crime (but not for merely interrogating them, which might lead to their being detained without a fight before they realize they’ve been convicted). Outnumbered badly, they’re unlikely to actually win. Sandy and Scarlet may enjoy one another’s company, but they won’t actually die for one another (though if one is covering for the other, they may end up both fighting to the death just because they’ll both be executed for their involvement anyway).

The characters may also wish to use the evidence against them as blackmail material to help secure the services, particularly if the culprit is Lady Scarlet, who is set to inherit, or Lady Azure, who will take over should Scarlet suffer an unfortunate accident similar to her father’s. None of the culprits are willing to make an open alliance with Chaos, but all of them are willing to look the other way at some blatant heresy so long as any kind of fig leaf justification for why it’s not actually heresy is offered.

Rewards: The primary reward is the town. Lady Scarlet won’t vassalize herself to the characters unless blackmailed (unless overwhelmed with military force like any other town), but the characters can always claim Scarlet was involved whether or not she was and kill her (and Azure) anyway. If Scarlet and Azure are both killed, any Highborn character can seize the town (and Sir Indigo can also be installed as ruler if the characters choose).

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.

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