Dec 4, 2022


This week I read:

Roleplaying Games

Cartographic Curiosities

This week I had a special 1-on-1 session because all but one player was away and, coincidentally, that player managed to get their character separated from the rest of the party (by many miles) due to, uh, seeing a ball of magic in the air above a stone circle, putting a ladder next to one of the stones, climbing up it, and leaping into the magic. Which then flung them many miles north, to an island next to a ruined fairy castle. Then they were detained by the druids who guard that castle to ensure its masters or their helpers never return.

The druids ended up concluding that the player was probably too honest to be a scumbag fairy-sympathiser, and let them go: with strings attached.

You see, the player may not be a fairy-sympathiser, but the party had encountered this race of druids before. They’d trespassed twice on druid lands, and killed one of the druids trying to remove them (admittedly, the druid was being somewhat forceful). So the player agreed to do an unspecified number of tasks for the druids, to prove that they’re actually all stand up guys and the whole thing was really just a big misunderstanding.

Druid Quest 1: bring them a guy who has been paying fairy-gold for information on the movements of the druids. What’s going to be done with him? Don’t ask, they wouldn’t tell you anyway. But did you know how useful a soul is? Well…

So the player was dropped off in the nearest town, told to get going, and they did: they travelled back to the rest of the party as fast as they could, carefully avoiding adventure along the way since they’re a lone, squishy, magic-user. In total, they were gone for 5 days.

It was a very convenient coincidence that the player who could make it was the player whose character was away from the others. Next session will begin by skipping back in time to the rest of the party, to see what they were up to in those few days.

We’ll metagame a little to ensure the party is still in town (or has left and come back to town) on the day the missing character returns.

Sylea Rising

We kicked off the first adventure this week, which is Murder on Arcturus Station.

This is a great scenario, it’s a murder mystery but the module doesn’t tell you who the killer is: instead it gives you 10 suspects, their motives, their alibis, and a few possible sequences of events for each (one for if they’re innocent, the others for if they’re the murderer).

It covers how the murderer will maintain their alibi if it conflicts with the murder (eg, maybe they’ll break a clock during the murder, and manually set it to a time they were seen in public at).

It also gives a list of ways each suspect, or the murderer, might alter their behaviour (maybe a suspect works out who the murderer is and helps cover for them).

There’s a lot!

Unfotunately, there’s also a lot of prep.

First, I had to relocate the adventure to my map. It’s supposed to be set in Arcturus in the Solomani Rim (as the name would suggest), but my game isn’t in the Solomani Rim, it’s in pre-Third-Imperium Lishun! So I moved it to Kir, and had to also relocate a few other planets mentioned.

Next, I picked out 8 suspects, decided which of those was the murderer and how they did it, and rolled for character relationships:

  • Ringiil Urshukaan: the victim. A mining executive people love to hate.
  • Katarin Xuan: the murderer. Urshukaan’s mistress who he was planning to cast aside and abandon, penniless. Also, Urshukaan beats her.
  • Moshe Srinivasan: Katarin’s ex-fiance. Blames Urshukaan for stealing her away, and can’t forgive him for hurting her.
  • Sharik Urshukaan: Urshukaan’s estranged wife. They never divorced, so she stands to inherit all his wealth.
  • Martin Lukargik: Urshukaan’s personal assistant. Urshukaan has been denying him promotions for years.
  • Oojan M’Banke: leader of the Independent Belter’s Association. Urshukaan has been blackmailing him to sabotage a vote.
  • Bortai Narayanam: a union organiser in Urshukaan’s company. He’s threatened to have her family killed if she doesn’t stop her unionisation efforts.
  • Eayukheal: Urshukaan’s hired muscle. An alien from a culture which values honour above all, unwisely made an impossible promise and failed, dishonouring himself. Urshukaan’s been blackmailing him, with threats of making his dishonour public, into doing his dirty work ever since.
  • Chaijin Davis: the rebel. Son of a rebel leader Urshukaan had executed when he was in the army before retiring and becoming a mining executive.

Katarin will lie that she saw Eayukheal approaching Urshukaan’s rooms around the time of the murder. Moshe is very uncooperative, since he doesn’t want to risk saying something which will incriminate Katarin. Sharik is under an assumed name and is secretive about her reasons for being on the station. Martin is a racist who believes Eayukheal did it, despite no evidence. Oojan and Bortai were overheard a few hours before the murder talking about “our common problem”. Eayukheal refuses to tell anyone what he was doing on the night of the murder, and has been demanding access to Urshukaan’s files (so he can delete the blackmail material). Chaijin is incredibly cooperative because he knows he’s an obvious fall guy if the police want to get this over with quickly.

I also picked out the three “incidents” the players would witness prior to the murder:

  • Moshe yelling and demanding to see Urshukaan, saying “I’ll kill him for what he did to her, that rat bastard!”
  • A grim-faced Bortai Narayanam being shown in to see Urshukaan just as the players are leaving.
  • Urshukaan telling Eayukheal “I own you”.

Finally, I spent a few evenings putting together a very detailed timeline of what all the suspects were doing before, during, and after the murder, and making sure that each suspect had at least 2 ways the players could learn about them and at least 3 clues suggesting their innocence (or guilt).

This took a lot of effort, I think a worked example in the module would have really helped here. But it’s definitely paid off.

In the session the players:

  • Shot Urshukaan themselves since he refused to pay them for a job, making them suspect #1 (I don’t even need the lazy corrupt police officer NPC at this point…).
  • Examined the body and managed to determine the nature and time of death.
  • Searched Urshukaan’s rooms and found some, but not all, of the clues there.
  • Interviewed a few of the suspects (not Katarin yet) and started to put together a timeline of events.

They’ve managed to rule out some of the more obvious suspects who had water-tight alibis (as intended), and Eayukheal is giving them a hard time with how suspicious he seems (also as intended).

Despite the timeline, I still had to improvise some things they asked about (door access logs for Eayukheal’s stateroom) and I messed up one clue (door access logs for Katarin’s stateroom), but I was able to come up with an alternative clue to correct that mistake before it caused a problem.

Next session the players plan to interview Katarin, put some more pressure on Sharik and Eayukheal, and keep piecing together a timeline of events.

I’m fairly confident they’ll get there in the end—once you start digging there are a bunch of clues incriminating Katarin (for example, she’ll lie about seeing Eayukheal approaching Urshukaan’s suite, which can be falsified by the testimony a security guard who Eayukheal was beating up in a different room at the time)—but I suppose I should start to prepare for what happens if they don’t.

Just in case.

Advent of Code

It’s December, which means it’s once again time to write silly optimised Haskell solutions for Advent of Code!

I wonder how far I’ll get before getting bored this year.