Example: The Murder of Peter Giannien
In Issue 4, we introduced our new irregular series: Generic Adventure Modules. In each of these, we give you a framework for a scenario to use in a roleplaying game.
Our first Generic Adventure Module is We Found A Body, a murder mystery framework. Here’s an example of a scenario built within it.
Last night, the mansion of the Giannien family played host to an important birthday party for its owner. Peter Giannien is a fabulously wealthy man, whose riches have been obtained through a variety of fair and foul means. There’s a whisper of scandal about the family going back three or four generations — plenty for an eager journalist to get their hands on.
After saying goodbye to a couple of hundred guests, Mr Giannien retired for the night. At least, that’s what everyone thought.
|You may decide to connect the Giannien family to a wider campaign. Some of the characters could have met the players before, or the family might have been implicated in some sort of petty crime.|
Player characters are at the mansion for a variety of reasons. They might be guests from the party staying over, mansion staff under the employ of the Giannien family, or someone turning up that morning with some urgent news. If this adventure is being used as an introductory module then this is an opportunity to bring the player characters together as a group.
Non Player Characters
You have been associated with the Giannen family for a long time. They have funded your political career and bankrolled you in two elections. You are now on the verge of real political power, but are aware that your ambitions could be jeopardised by your association with the family.
You came to this house yesterday to discuss the matter with Peter Giannien. You ended up having an argument in the garden, which was overheard by several people. Character 6 was one of them.
|The Cook||Used to work in a cafe across from where you live and you recommended them for the position of cook at the manor.|
|The Servant||Nice person. You think you get on well.|
|The Doctor||Never met.|
|The Fixer||Shady individual. Peter introduced you once and when you got in a spot of bother you think it was The Fixer who sorted it out. Could be capable of anything.|
|The Relative||That little sponger has lived off of Peter for years. Has no idea what the real world is like.|
You have worked for the Giannien household for ten years. You have seen evidence of their ‘work’ against rival families. You have lied for them, covered up contract killings, and other sordid crimes.
You were called out to examine the body of Peter Giannien early this afternoon. It was plain Peter was poisoned by an ingested substance, the identity of which you could not determine at the time.
You know that you have compromised your professional ethics many times over the years. That makes you a target for blackmail. You would be able to do serious damage to the family.
|The Cook||New to the post. Clearly not that good or very bright. You’ve been checking the food carefully as some day soon, you’ll be treating someone who’s eaten those meals. If Peter was poisoned, it could have been by accident.|
|The Servant||Very helpful person. Always polite and prepared to do a little extra to help.|
|The Politician||Known by reputation. It’s surprising to see them at the mansion during the party and in the aftermath.|
|The Fixer||A thug you are quite scared of. You have performed several ‘no questions asked’ first aid treatments for this individual. These included patching up gunshot wounds.|
|The Relative||Lovely child, now an adult. You’ve always got on.|
You have worked here for five years. You were on good terms with Peter Giannien until you caught him naked with a strange woman a few weeks back. After that, Peter threatened you very carefully — implying that, should you open your mouth about what you saw, you would be dead.
For the most part, these people have no idea how stupid and rude they are. You serve them with a smile, secretly hating everything about their privileged lives. These people have no idea what a real day’s work is like.
You helped prepare dinner today as the Cook is utterly incompetent. You also served Peter a glass of red wine, which you prepared yourself.
You know business of the Giannien family is not entirely legal.
|The Cook||Definitely not a cook. Can’t cook anything properly and has no idea how to behave in a place like this. Doesn’t talk either. Clearly hiding something.|
|The Doctor||A privileged and lazy idiot. You smile nicely and then spit in the tea.|
|The Politician||Corrupt as they come and always begging for money from Peter.|
|The Fixer||Seems to stay here a lot, but is very evasive. You don’t know how this individual is employed by the family.|
|The Relative||Can be lovely, can be a demon child. Generally the latter unless they want something.|
Your mother and father died when you were young. People say it was a car accident. Uncle Peter has been good to you though. You grew up without having to want or wait for anything. No-one ever said no to you, which might have meant that you got used to having anything you ever wanted.
At school, you found people wanted to be close to you because of the family name. You didn’t really have to work hard and so left as soon as you were allowed. You started up some small businesses, because that’s what the Giannien family does: run businesses. They didn’t do so well, and secretly you know why. You don’t really want to work hard at anything in your life.
Now you’re twenty-one and Uncle Peter is dead. He was everything to you, literally. You loved him for his money. In the aftermath of what happened you’re panicking, trying to work out how you’re going to live without his help. You have no idea what he will have done with his will, but you have credit card bills to pay and all sorts of other people wanting money from you. Uncle Peter always dealt with that sort of thing.
People have told you the family business has a dark side. You don’t believe them.
|The Cook||New to the house. Very quiet. When you got angry the other day, there was no response — just a blank look. Very strange.|
|The Doctor||Known you for years. Always very nice and patient.|
|The Politician||Seems nice enough, but slimy too. Sometimes looks at you in a weird way, as if you are an object to be owned.|
|The Fixer||Works with Uncle Peter. You’re not sure about the specifics, but always seemed to be loyal and looking after things when needed.|
|The Servant||Can be your best friend, can be as dumb as a door. Really doesn’t get how your world works and what’s important around here.|
Mister Giannien is dead. Somehow, you failed. For twenty years you’ve been looking after him, taking care of the dangerous stuff. The two of you knew how to make things work, where to threaten, where to hurt and where to smile and offer a handshake.
Peter Giannien led a pack of wolves. You stood beside him, keeping them in line. Now, without their packleader, the wolves are in danger of slipping the leash. You need to act fast to keep things together. Who knows — maybe this is the day you become the alpha?
Someone killed Mister Giannien. Payback is owed and that payback needs to be delivered swiftly and decisively, so long as it serves your interests. As soon as you have an idea who did this, you’re going to give them the same treatment. A life for a life.
|The Cook||Joined the house recently. Was vetted when employed, but you didn’t look into the report. Might be worth revisiting, just to check.|
|The Doctor||Nice enough. Can be nervous and knows a bit too much about what goes on around here. A few well placed threats might be needed to ensure compliance.|
|The Politician||Part of Mister Giannien’s plans for expansion. Could have been playing a double game? Maybe. A bit overconfident, may need taking down.|
|The Relative||Innocent little schemer. Doesn’t know what was going on around here, totally self-centred. Worth staying in the good books, just in case they get something in the will.|
|The Servant||Knows a bit too much. Never been someone you trust.|
Life can be strange sometimes. You used to be pretty well off — not stupidly rich like the Giannien family, but doing well for yourself, running a chain of restaurants all along the coast.
Then the Giannien family came for their cut and after you refused to pay them, they broke you. One by one the restaurants closed as the family discouraged people from eating at them. In the end you went bust and had to start again.
You turned to cooking because its been part of your life forever. You like being in a kitchen, but you were never a cook. You were pretending to be a cook when the politician, who visits the cafe you worked in, suggested there was a vacancy at the mansion. You didn’t want to apply, but something made you and now you’re here. One step away from the people who took away your life.
Then, Peter Giannien was murdered.
There will be an investigation. They will find out all about you and your past. You’re terrified.
|The Fixer||Dangerous individual who definitely doesn’t remember you from the old days. Best to avoid all contact.|
|The Doctor||Nice enough, polite but picky with meals. Friendly but distant. Has two sugars in coffee and one in tea.|
|The Politician||Something of a friend. Or at least, things seemed that way. Could the mention of the job and everything have been some kind of elaborate plot? Perhaps you’re being set up and framed as the murderer… You wouldn’t put it past him to plan something like that.|
|The Relative||A harpy born into riches and with no clue what life is like in the real world.|
|The Servant||Has been polite and helpful, but you get the sense you’re being judged.|
As Gamesmaster it’s up to you who committed the crime. There’s enough in these sample non-player character backgrounds to kick things off and see where it goes. You might choose to make it one of these characters, another character you’ve brought in, or even one of the players. Alternatively, there might be no actual murderer — it could have been faked, or a suicide. It’s up to you, but there should definitely be enough here to get things started and get the players investigating.
These should arrive to add a sense of urgency and a set of rules to proceedings. Generally, the authorities are one step behind, but you can also use them to jump to all sorts of incorrect conclusions.
In this scenario, the authorities are very aware of the reputation of Peter Giannien and the Giannien family as a criminal organisation. You might choose to bring in police officers who are in the pay of the Fixer and Peter Giannien, or a particularly embittered detective who has been investigating them for years and believes Peter Giannien got what he deserved.
You may elect to use the authorities to lock down the house, keeping all suspects in the same location. Finding a way to achieve this is a good idea as it helps build the atmosphere and means there are less opportunities for people to escape.
These are in no particular order:
|The Discovery||The body is discovered.|
|The Meeting||Word spreads and people gather in a large room to be told what has happened. Characters are introduced to each other. The investigation begins.|
|Conversations and Interviews||The player characters spend time with the non-player characters in smaller groups, trying to find out who might have committed the crime.|
|The False Accusation||Something is revealed and it leads to an accusation and a conflict between characters.|
|The Failed Murder||One of the player characters is attacked by someone who may or may not have been the person who killed Peter Giannien.|
|The Second Murder||Another character dies. Was it the same perpetrator?|
|The Authorities Arrive||The introduction of the police, an investigator or some other security services, who take charge of the formal inquiry.|
|Conflict of interest||Tempers come to the boil. Secrets are revealed, leading to an altercation between some of the characters.|
|The Vital Clue||A key piece of evidence is found. This could be materials used to make the poison, some object Peter Giannien was wearing, or discarded objects that the murderer had to have used, etc.|
|The Reveal||People are gathered together and the player characters reveal who they believe committed the crime.|