Friday, 29 July 2016

The Magonium Mine Murders: Plot text

So, here's a question: how much background do you want in a plot? I find that a lot of scenarios provide very detailed background, not all of which is immediately relevant. This can lead to scenarios being overlong, which can make them fun to read but tough to use. This is a phenomenon we've seen before: scenarios are often written to be enjoyable to read, which is fine, but when you're not sure about something and you're trying to look it up at the table that can be a pain.

This salt mine map is the inspiration for the Magonium mine. 
Now, if you think you might want to play The Magonium Mine Murders at some point, there may be some spoilers here, so I'm going to put this next section below a cut.

Here's what I've got in my draft at the moment. This basically explains what's been going on when the PCs arrive, without any clue or character details. What do you guys think? Is it too much? Too little?


Magonium, a rare mineral with magical properties, is vital to the kingdom’s war effort against its barbarian neighbours. Increased demand has turned a small magonium mining complex in the Halbek valley into a bustling boomtown.

Several strange things are going on in the Halbek valley. Some of these happenings are related to one another, but not all.

Effects of the mining boom

The sudden increase in magonium production brought on by the war has poured money into the pockets of the miners, who are about as responsible with it as you might expect. The locals resent having their village turned into a drunken boomtown, but the mine business is worth too much for them to do anything without some serious provocation.

The increased mine activity is also pouring toxic magonium runoff into the north branch of the Halbek itself. At normal levels, the ill effects are very hard to see, but the higher concentration of magonium in the water is causing mutation and aggressive behaviour not only among the local wildlife but among humans like Sirine and her gang of bandits. Orvant the Blind is aware of this and might try to recruit the PCs to help him solve the problem.

Prisoners of war from the barbarian kingdom have been brought to the mine camp to do the dangerous work of magonium processing. Unknown to the overworked camp guards, one of the slaves is a powerful chief, Ildico. She plans revolt.

The combined effect of conscription and the demand for mine workers means local security forces are stretched to the limit.

Deaths in the mine

As the mine went deeper and deeper in pursuit of fresh veins of magonium, it encroached on the territory of a tribe of subterranean Mole Men, led by their shaman, Galza. Using the Voice of the Stone, he has summoned earth elementals to attack the mine, causing a number of apparently accidental deaths. Among the victims of these incidents was Natan Pentic, of whom more anon.

The miners are increasingly alarmed by these suspicious deaths, which Bellows is unable to explain.

The counterfeit scheme

As workers in a vital war industry, magonium miners are exempt from conscription, much to the irritation of everyone else. The military issue them with exemption tokens, small magical talismans which confirm their status. Administrator Alba had a small supply of these.

One of the miners, Natan Pentic, owned the Duplication Engine, a magical device capable of creating realistic copies of small objects. He joined forces with camp alchemist Rogin Hyland to create counterfeit exemption tokens. Hyland took the original tokens from Alba’s office and used camp supplies to power Pentic’s device. The pair then made contact with crooked fight promoter Schenck, who used his criminal contacts to sell the first batch. They received a substantial advance on their second batch. All was going well until Pentic was killed, quite coincidentally, by the Mole Men, who took the Engine to show to Galza.

With nothing to show the mob and no money to repay them with, Schenck began a rigged prizefighting racket in the village, into which he might try to rope PCs.

Meanwhile, Alba had noticed some discrepancies in Hyland’s records. Realising that she was getting close to his conspiracy, Hyland killed her and immediately began looking for someone to frame. The PCs might make good candidates; meanwhile, Alba’s hapless assistant Bellows needs someone to help him find the killer.

Other methods of involving PCs:

  • The west branch of the Halbek divides the domains of two lords, each of whom has appointed a sheriff to enforce the law. Gerrick runs things north of the river, while Lovint Kroth is the law south of it. Each works hard to keep the other out of their domain, making it hard for them to solve cases. Either might hire a likely group of bounty hunters to help them catch Alba’s killer or the bandits (in Gerrick’s case) or the gambling ring (for Kroth).
  • The miners are increasingly restive, owing to the series of deaths in the mine. If Bellows meets a group of people used to going into danger underground, he might try to get them to get to the bottom of the incidents.
  • The Honoured Society (that is to say, the thieves’ guild) needs some people to collect their money from Schenck. If he proves recalcitrant, Iggsy may try to recruit some additional muscle.

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