City of Mist Case: The Silver Key

I got a chance to introduce some new friends to City of Mist last month and wrote up an adventure specifically for them. We all met playing Lovecraftian RPGs so I peppered it with Dreamlands references that should hopefully continue into later cases. I’m all done with it now so you can use it in your own home campaigns!

A petty thief has been robbing from the fat cats of the City but she stole something that could mean doom for everyone unless the investigators can get it back.

Backstory

Jaqueline Brown lives in the Industrial District, a poor girl from a poor family just scraping by. She has big dreams and a desire to make it big, but she also loves cutting corners and isn’t above stealing when she has the opportunity. That’s how Jackie got fired from her job at the supermarket down the street: she had a chance to steal some money from the register so she pocketed a wad. She forgot about the cameras, though, but luckily enough her boss only fired her.

On her way out, Jackie grabbed some groceries including a can of beans which she dropped on her way out the door. She found out the next day that the beans had grown into a three-foot-wide beanstalk that extended up into the clouds, and she also found out that she could make it crumble to dust with a touch. Seeing another shortcut to making it big, Jackie started using other beans to grow other beanstalks to raid the penthouses of the super-rich. It’s been working too but last night she took something she shouldn’t have. She stole into the apartment of Hannah Acker, a debutante and hobby antiquarian, and took enough jewelry to fill a satchel as well as a nice-looking silver key. Unfortunately, the key was on loan from her scholar friend Richard Wainwright who needs it back to close a magical door in the basement of the university (actually the Ultimate Gate that leads to an alien danger that could destroy the City). If he doesn’t get it back before tomorrow night things will get very bad very quickly.

Depth 0: The Hook

The case starts when the Player Character’s friend Professor Wainwright comes to them in desperate need. He knows they aren’t professional investigators or anything but they know a little of what really goes on in the City and that’s what he needs here. He explains what he knows already and asks for their help.

  • He lent an important artifact, a mystical key, to his friend Hannah Acker but her apartment was broken into and someone stole it. He needs it back before tomorrow night or… well, he just really needs it back.
  • Hannah has been out of town for a week and she’s due back this afternoon. Wainwright knows for a fact that she flew out so he’s certain this is just the sort of petty burglary it looks like. He’s stumped as to how the thief got in, though.
  • The less they know about the key itself the better. If they press, the professor will tell them that the key seals up a door that keeps horrible things from coming into the City. He needs to reseal the door every fortnight and that time is coming up tomorrow night. 
“Sandton Gate” by idontwanna on DeviantArt

Depth 1: Where It Happened

The building where the key was stolen from is the obvious place to start.

Scene of the Crime

Hannah Acker’s penthouse is breathtaking. It has opulent decorations and a rich, minimalist design that speaks of great privilege and resources. It’s also filled with different occult relics that Acker has collected over the years, mostly items of Greek or Kabbalah design locked in glass cases. Her bedroom is also richly appointed with a large bed and a jewelry box which has been emptied. The eye-catching centerpiece to the apartment, though, is the large living room with its fireplace and wide balcony overlooking the river.

  • The glass cases are locked and it doesn’t even look like the burglary tried to pick the locks.
  • There are expensive-looking paintings on the wall as well but they don’t look like they were touched.
  • There are no broken windows or damaged locks leading into the apartment.
  • The sliding door to the balcony is unlocked and has been opened since it rained three days ago.
  • There are scuff marks on the railing of the balcony.

The Alley Outside

“Dark Alley Mugging” by rasherusuzie on Deviant Art

This is where Jackie created the beanstalk she used to get up to Hannah Acker’s apartment. Now all that’s left are a few small clues to show that she was there.

  • There’s a coating of dust over several boxes. It looks organic, like crushed leaves.
  • The first of the building’s balconies starts on the fifteenth floor or so.
  • There are no signs of anyone climbing up the side of the building, raising a ladder, or anything like that.
  • In the dirt directly under Hannah Acker’s balcony there’s a small husk that looks like the outer layer of a lima bean.

After poking around for a few minutes, the investigators are beset by a group of four ruffians from the Rippers. They think these folks will be easy pickings, especially with their bestial powers, but if bested they will offer a few clues.

  • “Oh man, the Doc’s not gonna like this…”
  • “You wanna sell something from a place like this, you gotta see Senka in the river streets.”
  • “Whoever it was, you tell us and we’ll tell the Doc. Nobody steals on our turf ‘cept us.”

Depth 2: Finding the Thief

Check In with Wainwright

Richard Wainwright is willing to use his visions to find the thief if the investigators have tokens he can use. The dust is one good token and the lima bean husk is another. The investigators can suggest questions he can try to answer but by default the ones that they will get answered are…

  • What is the name of the thief? Jacqueline Brown.
  • How did she get into the apartment? A beanstalk reaching into the sky.

From there, some more investigation will find the address of the Browns’ house and send them on their way.

Low-Life Fence

“Wren” by nickroblesart on Deviant Art

The fence that Jacqueline goes to, in fact the fence that many petty criminals operating Downtown work with, is Senka Ljubica. She’s a talented fence, having learned the black market trade back home in Serbia, but she’s also the Rift of Mephistopheles and that makes Senka truly dangerous. She’s got many different goods in her back storeroom but her true stock and trade is in favors. Senka has a real talent for creating bargains that leave the other party feeling good until the consequences of the deal sink in.

When the investigators enter her dimly lit shop, they will see Senka sitting placidly behind her cluttered desk. She offers a smile and asks what she can do in her establishment. Questions about fencing good will be met with feigned silence since she runs a registered pawnshop business. As soon as they prove that they aren’t cops, though, she’ll see what they want from her. She won’t talk about customers’ business but if the investigators have clues she’s willing to trade for more. She can provide Jackie’s address (but won’t give her name), tell what the bean husk is from, and even tell them more about the key’s nature if they don’t trust Wainwright or haven’t pressed him. What she asks for in return, though, might make the investigators pause. Here are a few examples of what Senka might ask for…

  • Doing a service with their Rift powers.
  • “Go to O’Sullivan’s on Brecker Street… I’m no longer welcome there… and pick up a package from the big man in the corner booth. Bring it back here to me.”
  • “I don’t collect souls or anything, but I do love secrets. If you have a juicy one I’ll trade you.”
  • “Keep this black coin on you for a week, then bring it back to me.”
  • “I’m not in need of something now, but I’ll take a future favor. Sign your name in this ledger and I’ll call on you when I need something.”

All of these can be hooks for future cases.

Of course, there’s always the hard way. If the investigators take a more violent path with Senka then they’ll find her tougher than she looks. She’ll try to get them out of the shop quickly but if that doesn’t work she’ll bolt into her back storeroom and lock the door behind her (deadbolt-3). Busting into that room will give Senka some more options in combat but there’s also not an easy exit so they can potentially trap her (given enough opportunity she can crawl through the narrow windows near the ceiling). They can also potentially steal things from the storeroom and it’s anyone’s guess what strange items and relics Senka might have on her shelves. Of course, stealing from Mephistopheles is not recommended.

Depth 3: Get It Back

“Lyla Park” by Paul Larized on Deviant Art

Jackie’s house is in the Industrial District, a grimy brick shotgun-style place in a row with others. There’s a chain link fence running around the house and neighbors right nextdoor so there’s not much room. It’s got a heavy front door and a single window facing the street. There’s also a small backyard with a few storm windows looking out onto it and a tiny vegetable garden as well as a broke-down motorcycle that Jackie loves and is trying to fix up. How this scene goes down depends on how the investigators approach.

  • Knocking on the front door will bring Jackie’s long-suffering and judgemental mother. She assumes the investigators are from the city and doesn’t want anything to do with them. If they say they’re here for Jackie she gets even angrier and will shout back to her daughter that she’s going to kick her out on the street after this. When Jackie hears this she’ll run out the back and this will turn into a footrace.
  • Sneaking in the back can work a lot better and potentially let the investigators catch Jackie unawares. If they can grab her and restrain her before she gets a bean and activates it then they can get her to reveal the location of the key (which she hasn’t sold yet) and get it back to Wainwright. Of course, even if they grab Jackie then there’s still her mother who will meet intruders with her baseball bat (beaten-up-2).

NPCs

Richard Wainwright (Randolph Carter)★★★

Fool 3 | Scare 4

  • Inquisitive: As a hard move, the MC will ask you one question. You must reply with a straight answer or a solid lead. Wainwright knows your answer, even if your character didn’t speak it.
  • On the Ball: When Richard Wainwright enters the scene, give her alert-1.
  • Researcher: Richard Wainwright offers someone his academic expertise.
  • Use his faculty pass.
  • Get into trouble from asking around about serious topics.
  • Protection from Evil: When Wainwright takes a status from a source that is inherently evil or dark, reduce the tier of the status by 2.
  • Bless or enchant someone to protect them from evil (protected-2).
  • Banish the forces of evil or darkness (banish-3).
  • Visions of Beyond: With a token from someone, Wainwright can sleep on the matter and gets clues equal to the tokens provided (as if he rolled 10+ on an Investigate with Power equal to the number of tokens).

The Rippers (Doctor Moureau’s Creations)★★★

Hurt or Subdue 2 | Rally 3 | Threaten 2

  • Collective: This collective has several members and a size factor of 2.
  • Home Turf: When the Rippers enter the scene in the Downtown area or when they enter the Downtown area, give them home-advantage-1. If the Rippers lose this status and are in their home turf, the MC can renew it as a soft move after one player makes a move without it.
  • Rally the Locals: When the Rippers are in the Downtown area and the rally spectrum is maxed out, increase its size factor by one (to a maximum of 3).
  • When on their home turf, rally the local population to join them (rally-2).
  • Threaten someone with violence (threatened-2) or make real on their threats (broken-bones-3 or gunshot-wound-3)
  • Mob an intruder or victim.
  • Wild Nature: When a Ripper takes a physical harm or subdual status, reduce the tier of the status by 1.
  • Acute Senses: When a Ripper enters the scene, give it alert-2.
  • Claw, bite, or maul: The Ripper’s all have different abilities but they all hurt (wounded-3).

Senka Ljubica (Mephistopheles)★★★

Bribe 4 | Hurt or Subdue 4 | Threaten 5

  • Sneaky Bitch: When Senka enters the scene, give her sneaky-2. If the Smuggler loses this status, the MC can renew it as a hard move.
  • Open a drawer and pull out something useful such as a gun (gunshot-wound-3) or a charm (protection-3).
  • Use her cluttered storeroom to block or evade pursuers (blocked-3 or outrun-3).
  • Even if captured, gain a bargaining chip for her release (Deny them Something They Want).
  • Get away (Deny them Something They Want).
  • Deceitful: When you spend a Clue to ask a question about Senka, the MC can choose to give answers that are fuzzy, incomplete, or part-true part-false (as in the 7-9 option of Investigate).
  • Convince someone to take a course of action (convinced-3).
  • Take an illusory or false appearance (give itself a story tag).

Jaqueline “Jackie” Brown (Jack and the Beanstalk)★★★

Jackie’s stats can be found in the MC Toolkit (or the older core rulebook) via the index.

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