Sunday, December 4, 2011

Write up for Show 003: "Bread-Crumb Trail" Based Gaming or Lair of the Goblin Warlord Part 2

If you get the chance listen to the Grim Darkness Podcast #3.  This write up is a companion piece to the podcast.  Furthermore the supplemental podcast for episode 003 was recorded while writing this update.

It discusses pitfalls of the investigation sort of game as well as how to write one.

Using Jim's "Columbo" method of writing this sort of adventure I have worked out the "crime" in reverse.

For those of you unfamiliar with Detective Columbo's "just one more thing" investigation style where he ties all of his clues together then here is a short clip from youtube:

Peter Falk versus Rip Torn in "Columbo" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZiv8vkxMac

Columbo going in for "the kill" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB8xo9Mv ... re=related

The "Crime" in reverse from The Lair of the Goblin Warlord:

Goblins start raiding travelers and farms.

Goblins go hungry from loss of their food source, the giant yellow throated catfish.

Constable MacGruder orders workmen to drain Snell's Swamp so that it may be cleared for more farmland in this prosperous area. The Constable plans on eliminating the Goblins and taking their land so that he can sell this "free" land at a pure profit.

Constable MacGruder registers the deed to Snell's Swamp with the regional land office in the city of Townover.

Constable MacGruder steals the deed to Snell's Swamp.

Vincent is buried in the cemetery at Watford.

Constable MacGruder falsifies weapon assault charges versus Vincent and sees that he is hanged.

Constable MacGruder discovers the legal and proper deed to Snell's Swamp in the personal effects of Vincent.

Constable MacGruder arrests Vincent Von Snell, the nephew of Victor Snell, for public drunkenness. Victor Snell was an original settler in the Watford area who left shortly before making claim to the lands that are now Snell's Swamp. Victor was a peat cutter who gave up trying to make a living in the swamp that was occupied by Goblin fishermen and moved to Townover.

Vincent Von Snell travels to Watford to investigate his new fortune.

Victor Snell dies of old age and his solicitors forward his will and his deed to Snell's Swamp to his nephew Vincent Von Snell.

Writing the crime in reverse actually makes writing it simpler. I Knew the plot by heart from the first step of the process down to step three because I have ran this plot before several years ago.

About Writing the Crime in Reverse:

In the middle of step three I didn't have a motivation or a person who was behind it all. Reviewing my list of local NPC's made it easy to come up with a motive of greed and the greediest person in Watford is Constable MacGruder. That fit well.

In steps four through eleven I worked out the chain of events that would give MacGruder what he needed for legal claim to the land. Now that we have the "crime" lets flip it into proper chronological order and get to work on the clues.

What these clues will reveal is that Constable MacGruder is a ruthless and evil guy. He probably shouldn't be in charge of the policing of Watford. How the adventurers go about finding this and what they do to resolve this is totally up to them by using the clues provided and an investigation of their choosing.

The Crimes and Clues of Constable MacGruder:

The crimes of Constable MacGruder in chronological order with the appropriate clues for the adventurers to find:

Victor Snell dies of old age and his solicitors forward his will and deed to Snell's Swamp to his nephew Vincent Von Snell.
Clues will be hard to come by as Victor lived in Townover which is, oddly enough, one town over from Watford. Townover is a proper walled city.
Victor's solicitors are Perquode, MacIlhayneigh and Hoke, public solicitors. They have a copy of the original deed and Victors will.
Victor's solicitors also have copies of their correspondence with Vincent and a receipt for his collection of the deed to Snell's Swamp.
Victor became a shop keeper in Townover and sold his townhouse to cover any and all debt and for internment costs.
Victor is buried in a small crypt in Townover Memorial Gardens. While a dead end clue here in a fantasy game people could talk to a passed spirit.
Gertrude Hamfist remembers Victor Snell from when she was a young woman. She can recall that he was a peat cutter who left Watford. She also recalls that he is the reason the swamp's name is Snell's Swamp. She is unsure if it was because he found it or owned it.
Wendal Watford, a second generation Watford, recalls Snell as a nice man who helped frame and raise the inn but later left Watford.
Constable MacGruder will openly know NOTHING about Snell or Von Snell. He knows Snell by reading the deed and will.

Vincent Von Snell travels to Watford to investigate his new fortune.
Vincent stayed in the best room at the Tattered Trout. Innkeeper Watford recalls him as being boastful and being a large tipper.
Gertrude recalls Vincent's coming to Watford. She fixed a shoe on his horse and sharpened his sword.
MacGruder recalls Vincent's coming to Watford and will express that it is a shame that such a fine man would sell his inheritance to raise cash to impress the locals and then do something so bloody foolish as to get in a drunken duel with his Deputy Crash Ferguson.
Crash Ferguson will recall Vincent and lie that he was assaulted in one of the few alleys in Watford by Vincent and that his left arm was crippled in the fight. In truth his left arm was crippled by MacGruder who was a bit over zealous in making reports of an assault look convincing.

Constable MacGruder arrests Vincent Von Snell for public drunkeness, discovers the deed and sees that Vincent is hanged. He is buried in a mass livestock grave.
This is an actual fact.
While registering Vincent's personal effects MacGruder finds the deed to Snell's Swamp.
MacGruder arranges the framed assault charges and hangs Vincent the next morning.
Vincent's personal effects and money is confiscated to pay for his burial. MacGruder sees to both.
Vincent is buried in a mass grave with two mules and the carcass of a pig. Magical and supernatural types may find a way to question Vincent.
Watford is upset because of the lack of notice on the hanging. A hanging brings in big business. He thinks MacGruder has eyes on someday getting the Tattered Trout from him by foul means. Watford is probably correct on that assumption.
Gertrude Hamfist thinks that something shady may have gone on regarding Vincent. Usually MacGruder holds prisoners and waits for the next market day to hang them. The money he stood to make on just pick pocket warrants alone makes Gertrude wonder what was on MacGruder's mind.
MacGruder will not state any specifics relating to Vincent. He hangs a lot of people and is a very busy man. If pressed he will state what a shame it was for that vagrant to cripple a perfectly good Deputy. There were no services for Vincent. He was buried with livestock. MacGruder pocketed the burial expenses and Vincent's personal effects. He often wears a fine pair of Vincent's shoes even though they are too tight. They are expensive and that is all that matters to MacGruder.

MacGruder steals the deed to Snell's Swamp and registers it in the regional land office in Townover.
There are records including a copy of the bill of sale from Von Snell to MacGruder in the land office. Von Snell's signature is an "X" which is often the signature of illiterates. Von Snell was no illiterate. The witness to the sale was Crash Ferguson. He signed with an X as well. He is illiterate.
The Captain of Merganzer's guard recalls Macgruder being absent from his duties during a market day. The Captain filled in as constable that day and no pick pocketing warrants were issued. He finds it odd that MacGruder would miss on two opportunities for warrants. The abrupt hanging and the missed market day.

MacGruder hires workmen to drain the swamp so that he can sell it at a pure profit.
All NPC's know of the workmen. It has been a small boom in the local economy.
Watford provides tents in his side yard because the crew needs more room than the inn will hold.
Hamfist repairs their tools and weapons and finds it odd that MacGruder is interested in something outside of Watford.
MacGruder thinks you should mind your own bloody business.
Merganzer's Captain has noticed an increase in calls to help MacGruder with arresting Drunken Workers.
Merganzer has his "nose in his books" and cannot be bothered.

Goblins go hungry from loss of their food source, the giant yellow throated catfish.
The deep pools of the swamp that are necessary for spawning new generations of giant yellow throated catfish are pretty much all that is left of the water in Snell's Swamp.
Goblin women-folk do their best to keep the large females in the spawning pools alive since they no longer have the shallows to swim about in and feed on smaller fish.
The male catfish population has taken a very large hit and are near extinction.
Watford Goblins are a matriarchal society and the females do all of the important work but let the cannibalistic Goblin-men hunt and make war to keep them away from the tasty young Goblins.
The male Goblins in the Watford area are extinct and have all recently been defeated at the battle of Watford Bridge.
The remaining Goblins in residence are all starving.
The remaining Goblins in residence are all female, more slight of build and more prone to magic, children, and the old and crippled and infirm.
There is evidence of the work crews tools about the edges of the swamp and a broken wagon with MacGruder Land Management Company painted on the side.

The Goblin Caves
The goblin caves are populated, as noted before, by only the small children, the unfit, the infirm and the female population.
The leader of the Watford area Goblins is Auntie Griselda. She is a caster of no small skill and a fine builder of traps.
The entrance and area about the cave is rife with crude but clever traps.
Auntie Griselda will prefer to negotiate than come to blows. But once the fight is on she and the remainder of the village will scrap.
Anyone playing on the "good" side of an alignment system should see that they are starving and that no one is left but the women-folk,elders and children. If this leads to standard "lets kill them and take all their stuff" shame on them.

New NPC's

Goblin Female
Smaller than the Goblin men and more wiry.
Meaner than mean if cornered. Literally fighting for their life and the life of their tribe and culture.
Has the ability for minor offensive spells and spells that aid in stealth and evasion.
Has the ability to cast an illumination spell that explains "swamp lights" in the swamps at night.
Priority of defense is to note intruders and tell the village, impede progress to the village, ensure the safety of the children and the old, fight to the death if cornered.

Auntie Griselda
Larger than some Goblin men.
She is an elder and hasn't eaten in days.
She has the ability for moderate offensive spells and perhaps one large damage offensive spell. Also same spells and types as typical female.
Is the animist/shaman leader of the Watford Goblins.
The religion and way of life of the Watford Goblins is directly tied to the well being of the large female giant yellow throated catfish.
She will negotiate in all candor and honesty with adventurers with the goal of them leaving the goblins alone.
She will explain the raids were not due to piracy or wealth but for mere survival under sociological and ecological pressure from the swamp draining project.
If nothing else she will attempt to buy time for the children, elders and remaining females to escape if things look threatening.
She will also be more than willing to organize the remaining goblins to cut peat for the farmers to use as fuel and fertilizer.

Crash Ferguson
A thug who is the deputy of Constable MacGruder.
Conspires with MacGruder on all of his plans.
Is the "weakest link" in MacGruder's local crime syndicate.
Has a crippled left arm.
Is not very bright.
Kills joyfully and has an animal cunning to make up for his lack of intellect.

The Adventurers don't have to grab all of the clues to make this a fun and challenging game session. Just a few of them should be more than enough to put them on the trail of Constable MacGruder. Then it is up to the cooperation of the adventurers and the game master to come up with a suitable resolution based upon what the players find.

This should keep you busy for the next week or so!!

Have fun,

--MCL