Monday, January 1, 2018

Monday Recap: Bloody Murder

When will the madness end?!?
The holidays are over! Hooray! January is shaping up to be a month full of D&D, and my group is getting back into the swing of gaming. I even had a chance to play in another session of Tomb of Annihilation, which means I've officially played a D&D character more than once!

But as for this game, I ran my first murder mystery / crime investigation game this weekend. It was definitely a work in progress. I have to get better at thinking about my clues from the player's perspective - I don't think the players could have put the puzzle together by the end of it, and I had to push them along a couple times. However, the characters were hilarious, and we had a great time.

Up until nearly everybody died, of course.

Monday Recap: Bloody Murder

Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Megan: Taejong Bora-ji, High Elf Inquisitor Rogue, teaching at the Battlemage Institute and providing consulting on investigatory matters
Makayla: Seere Utoren, High Elf Samurai, looking for honor, teaching at the Battlemage Institute in Auraglow
Will: Old Green Shepherd, Wood Elf Druid (Circle of the Shepherd), an old elf who forgets where he is every once in a while, helps people in and around Auraglow
Shannon: Tasrin Coldiron, Dwarf War Cleric of Ulaa, a dedicated student of the Battlemage Institute hoping to gain honor in battle
John: Dorn the Burnt, High Elf Sorcerer, young for an elf, taken in by Seere and Bora-ji but still very temperamental

(I've been limiting the games in Garlancia from having elves, so of course as soon as I allow elves in a game I get four of them)

This story began with Bora-ji being called in to investigate a murder - the strange death of Nemo Parsons, rising star at the Battlemage Institute. She assembled a team of people at the Institute that she trusted, and also Dorn. However, Old Green Shepherd took quite a while to arrive, and completely missed most of the crime scene analysis.

The investigators found the body of Nemo Parsons, still freshly dead, in the cemetery just outside Auraglow. He had a large bite taken out of his neck, like a wolf but larger. Tasrin made a note of the wound for future reference. Bora-ji inspected the rest of the body (wearing gloves and a mystery-solving hat), and found a mysterious key. Seere discovered wolf tracks that seemed to go up to the body and vanish. Tasrin also discovered an empty scabbard on Nemo's belt.

They discussed the scene with the local officers from the city guard: Constable Watson and Cadet Duncan. Watson told them the key likely belonged to Nemo's home or his office at the Battlemage Institute. The group thanked the constable and left as he and his men began to bury the body.

They met up with Old Green Shepherd and decided to investigate Nemo's home. It appeared to be abandoned, but they heard clattering noise coming from inside. Dorn decided to rush in, stumbling upon a young, beautiful women in fine dress who was currently shoving gold and jewelry into a handbag.

Who me? No, not suspicious at all...
She introduced herself as Sonia Jacobs, lover of the late Nemo Parsons. News had traveled fast, and she hadn't wasted a moment in dismissing the servants and collecting her "claim" to Nemo's possessions. The group was mostly in favor of bringing her to the constable for her actions, except Dorn. He was in favor of going on a date with her later this week.

Sonia claimed that she had enough money and connections to avoid jail time, and besides, she was probably mentioned in a will somewhere and deserved her spoils. Bora-ji and Tasrin talked her down a bit, and managed to get some information from her about Nemo. Nemo loved to go to fancy parties, and had often taken Sonia to a kink club called Club Monarch, though it wasn't really her style.

The group convinced Sonia they would look for Nemo's will, and she put back the stolen goods. They spent a few hours searching the house, but couldn't find much else. Old Green Shepherd asked if they could stop by the cemetery again, and questioned some crows who might have seen the murder happen.

The crows had experienced an odd loss of time and a strange fog. They had no leads, but that in itself was a lead. Seere made a mental note to look into it when she got the chance. Meanwhile, they went to Nemo's office.

Nemo's Office at the Battlemage Institute was filled with jumbles of papers, stacks of books, and clutter covering the floor. They spent a decent amount of time digging through it, finally discovering Nemo's personal journal. Though it was coded in a simple cipher, Tasrin was able to figure it out and read what Nemo had been up to the night he was murdered.

According to the journal, he had been at Club Monarch. With two leads pointing there, the investigators decided to head in that direction. Dorn complained about lack of sleep, and Seere berated him for even considering it. Elves don't need sleep, and Dorn was wasting his life doing it. Dorn, who had been raised among non-elves, was convinced it was totally natural to sleep, and defended his choice to do so. This wasn't the first time they had argued over this topic.

They arrived at Club Monarch, and Dorn convinced the bouncer that they were cool enough to go in. Inside, Seere and Dorn beelined for the bar, while the others hunted down the most gossipy regular in the place: a well-dressed transvestite lady named Sally.

Sally was hesitant to speak about Nemo at first, since apparently he had been known to bring unsavory sorts into the club. However, she was very interested in talking to Tasrin, and slowly began to give more information. Nemo had been here last night, and he had been quite drunk. Perhaps too drunk, Sally noted. He was hanging out with a newcomer, a thin, black-haired man named Gideon Redsmith. They had left together, and Sally had seen it as somewhat suspicious.

After regrouping, the party headed back to the Battlemage Institute. Along the way, they encountered two mysterious figures in a dark alleyway, who proceeded to attack them! One matched the description of Gideon Redsmith, the other was totally hooded.

Geeze, take a bath
Tasrin used her Holy Symbol to rebuke the Undead and cause them to flee. The one who looked like Gideon started to run off, but Seere grabbed ahold of him and kept him from escaping. The hooded one grabbed Dorn and made to pin him to the ground, revealing long fangs that began to lower towards Dorn's neck. However, Old Green Shepherd cast the powerful Moonbeam spell and the hooded creature recoiled in pain.

While Seere held Gideon in place, Bora-ji and Tasrin wailed on the hooded figure, forcing him to drop Dorn and lose more ground. Finally, Shepherd's Moonbeam finished the job, and the figure collapsed into dust.

The group tied up Gideon, and then tied him up even tighter after he tried to escape and nearly got away. By that point it was nearly dawn, so they decided to head back to the Constable's office and get some rest. Dorn had been using his magic to read Gideon's thoughts, so they felt like they had a good grasp on what was going on.

While Dorn took his nap, the others prepared their investigations for the day. They figured out where Gideon Redsmith lived, and once everyone was ready they headed into the slums to look into it.

The front door was locked, but Bora-ji quickly popped it open. Inside, they were greeted with cobwebs and dust. They followed a pair of footprints to a hidden chamber below the bedroom, which contained a pair of coffins, now empty. It became apparent that Gideon and his accomplice in the hood were vampiric in nature.

(In retrospect, it was at this point that I should have delved into D&D vampire lore a bit more. I didn't realize my players weren't familiar with it, and they assumed there would be more information coming. Gotta think from the player's perspective!)

Elsewhere in the house, the party found a sword that fit with the scabbard, a bill of transport that would have sent the sword to Garton and back, and a pine needle - which Old Green Shepherd pointed out must have come from the manor of Humphrey Stempleburgess. The group decided to go there next.

Humphrey was happy to welcome the investigators, but didn't provide much in the way of information. He said Nemo had been bragging about the Battlemage Institute taking down the Royal Academy at one of his parties, though. Aside from a mysteriously bruised pine tree, the group didn't find out much else.

On their way out, they ran into a young boy who delivered a letter to them - an invitation from Ophelia Landon, Headmistress of the Royal Academy, for the party to visit her and discuss some matters.

They still had time before the meeting, however, so the group went back to the Battlemage Institute to find more information. Seere conducted some research on fog-sleep spells, while the others re-investigated Nemo's Office. Bora-ji found another diary, this one containing odd new methods of battle magic that would indeed put the Battlemage Institute on equal footing with the prestigious Royal Academy. However, a couple key pages were torn out - the description of how this challenge to the Royal Academy's authority would take place.

Some people add milk to thicken the omelette - this, of course, is a mistake
They went back to Constable Watson, who had been recording all of their evidence in his notebook. After hearing about the second diary, he believed that Ophelia Landon or someone at the Royal Academy was behind the murder, which they had carried out via Gideon Redsmith. The group was hesitant, but he insisted he be brought along to this meeting so he could make an arrest if necessary.

They went to the Royal Academy and were escorted to Ophelia's office. She was waiting for them, sitting in her high-backed chair among her dark furniture, behind a massive desk lit by candelabra.

She questioned the group about what they knew, and they questioned right back. She produced the missing pages of the diary but refused to say where she had obtained them from, prompting more suspicion. Dorn tried to read her mind and learned she felt like she didn't need the group's help. He asked her why she had brought them here.

She asked them again what they had learned, and they refused to say. However, in the process, they confirmed they knew more than they were letting on. Ophelia smiled, the lights went out, and she vanished.

In the ensuing battle, only Seere and Old Green Shepherd made it out alive, by busting through a window and onto the campus grounds below. Their companion's fates were unknown. Seere had grabbed the second diary, however. They heard footsteps behind them: Gideon, escaped from jail, and Nemo, a freshly-raised vampire spawn. They ran, until they were out of the city.

Meanwhile, Cadet Duncan hid in the corner of the prison, missed by Gideon during his escape. He clutched all the evidence tightly to his chest, hoping to be saved.

We've not seen the last of her...
I stopped the game there. As I noted, the players were caught off-guard by the inclusion of Ophelia as a vampire. Although it was apparent that they wouldn't have been able to beat her, I think things would have worked out better if they had known her status ahead of time. Then at least they could have walked in knowing what was about to happen.

For my first mystery, I don't think it was terrible, but I have a long way to go. Hopefully I'll get another shot at running a mystery soon, but in the meantime I'm going to be getting back into the groove of my other campaigns. Should be a productive January!

Thanks for reading!

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